What Is This Thing Called “Functional Medicine”?

evolution rMany of us have come to know that much of medicine today is concerned with treating the symptoms of disease. Thousands of names have been created to label these disease entities along with their symptoms. And thousands of medicines have been developed to treat their individual symptoms. And then there are medicines to treat the side effects of other medicines. It is often a frustrating battle.

Is there another paradigm? Is there a way to identify why cells in our body function poorly? Is there a process to rectify the breakdown in communication between cells so healing could occur? Is there a science that treats the underlying causes, and not just the symptoms, of disease?

Yes! The science is called Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine looks for the cause of cellular miscommunication.

All disease starts with cellular inflammation. When the source of cellular inflammation is determined and addressed, then the various manifestations from cellular damage might begin a repair process throughout the body.

Let me be specific. Periodontal disease is a manifestation of inflammation around the gum margin, but this disease did not start with just plaque around the teeth. This inflammation has a much more complicated beginning.

When we eat certain harmful “foods”, the good bacteria in our gut become altered. Also these harmful food products weaken our gut lining, which is only one cell layer thick. This protective lining is the primary physical barrier that separates the outside world from our inner self. Bacterial byproducts and undigested proteins accumulating in our gut are able to leak into our blood. This portal to our blood system allows a vicious chain of events to occur, affecting our bodily functions. Now a host of degenerative diseases have a chance to simmer and develop over many years. Along with these changes, the bacteria in our mouths become more virulent, which can initiate gum disease.

By applying the concepts of Functional Medicine, we can begin to heal our gut, which begins a healing process for our mouths as well as the rest of our body. This thing called Functional Medicine is changing the way traditional medicine is practiced.



How should you clean your teeth?
Let me count the ways!

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS     Nutritional Periodontist
June 15, 2014 (updated January 17, 2020)  

evolution r

When I was a kid going to the dentist, my dentist always told me I had to brush harder. What did that mean? When my family moved to another city, my new dentist told me totally different things about brushing my teeth. Wasn’t there a right way, and wasn’t there a wrong way? Then, when I went to dental school, each faculty member had his special technique that contradicted his peers. How confusing!


The Purpose of Cleaning Your Teeth & How To Do It Right

Everybody knows that bacteria accumulate at the gum line, and unhealthy levels of bacteria can create chemicals that can cause tooth demineralization, tooth decay, and gum inflammation. There have been numerous commercial toothpastes and cleaning devices developed along with many cleaning techniques to help us remove this junk from around our teeth. Each claims superiority; what is an intelligent person to do?


Removing the amounts of unhealthy bacteria from around the tooth is the goal of flossing and brushing. The goal is not to kill all the bacteria in the mouth since much of the bacteria in the mouth are good bacteria. An effective method is to use (1) something to clean between the teeth and (2) a good toothbrush to clean the other surfaces of the teeth. Also, (3) don’t forget your tongue! Do these methods first thing in the morning and last thing at night.


1. Cleaning Between Your Teeth:

I floss between my teeth using dental floss. Think about sliding up and down a pole. That is how the floss wraps around the tooth and slides up and down to scrape away food particles that could get caught between the contacts of the teeth. Also, I always use a small brush that is designed to clean between teeth like a pipe cleaner (one brand is called TePe EasyPick®, another is GUM Soft Pick®). Imagine the small bristles of this tiny brush scrubbing the overgrown bacterial film away as it is pushed in and out between the teeth at the gum line. These small brushes are the best way to remove unhealthy plaque buildup at the base of the tooth and gum margin.


2. Brushing Your Teeth:

I like to use an electric toothbrush like the Sonicare® or the Oral B/Braun® because electric brushes are more efficient, and I am lazy. You do not need to use any toothpaste to brush your teeth effectively. Just brush with filtered water. However, if you want toothpaste, dip the bristles in a little coconut oil (I keep some which stays solid at room temperature in a small jar in my bathroom), and then dip these bristles into a little baking soda (I also keep some in a small jar in the bathroom). Then brush your teeth GENTLY, angling the bristles into the space where the gums meet the teeth on both the cheek side and the tongue side of all teeth. Brush horizontally but GENTLY.


I rarely use a mouthwash, because daily use of an antimicrobial mouthwash will kill bad bacteria as well as good bacteria. Killing good bacteria daily will compromise the health in your mouth and the rest of your body. If you want to use a mouthwash occasionally, use some coconut oil and swish it around for a minute or so. Then, spit it out (called Oil Pulling). If you use coconut oil as a mouthwash, be sure to spit it out into a napkin or paper towel and throw it in the trash. If you spit coconut oil into your sink, it could clog up the pipes!


3. Brushing Your Tongue:

Most of the odor-forming bacteria is located on the top and back areas of your tongue, closest to your throat. An effective way to remove this overgrown bacteria and food remnants causing odor is to use a teaspoon. Place the inverted teaspoon as far back as is comfortable on the upper side of your tongue. Then, gently glide the teaspoon forward, removing the bacterial film and microscopic food particles. Repeat this 2-3 times, and then wash off the teaspoon. Perform this tongue-cleaning method in the morning and then in the evening before bed.


Some “No-Nos”

  • Don’t floss aggressively under the gum tissue. You easily could cut the gum and create a wound. That wound might stay sore and heal like a cleft. Aggressive flossing under the gum also could cause gum recession.
  • A water-pick device can be dangerous. It could force food debris and bacteria deeper under the gum tissues if used on a moderate-to-high pressure setting. Also, the force of the water jet could tear gum tissue cells that are trying to heal inside the gum space.
  • If you drink very acid drinks, the minerals of the tooth could become “softened” until the acid in the mouth returns to normal. I suggest that you don’t brush your teeth right after drinking any acid drink. Research suggests that you wait at least an hour before brushing after drinking an acid drink. It would be a good idea to rinse your mouth with water to help remove the excess acid while your mouth regains its normal acid level.


That’s it – great way to remove unhealthy plaque and other harmful microbes from your mouth.


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What Would Happen If….?

evolution rImagine an animal in the wild – a cute, cuddly little thing. And let’s say this animal was living 200,000 years ago. In order for this animal to survive and thrive, it needed to chew its food to get the necessary nutrients into its body. As this animal was growing up, something was happening. Its teeth began to decay, and its gums started to bleed. Soon, this fury guy started to have pain when he chewed his food, and eventually his teeth started to get loose. Then his teeth began to rot and fall out. And this was happening not only to him but also to most of his brothers and sisters and their offspring. What do you think would happen over time to this animal species?

The answer is that this species would eventually die off because it could not survive without its teeth to chew the food to get the nutrients that were critical for life.

As a matter of fact, primal man and woman hardly ever had tooth decay or gum disease during the 2.5 million years of evolution. Our evolutionary ancestors ate a nutrient-dense diet and had healthy gut bacteria that allowed their teeth to stay healthy. Then things changed about 10,000 years ago.

As grains become a staple part of our diets, our overall health declined. Today, the Standard American Diet consists of refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, lots of sugar, and a variety of processed foods. However, not everybody eats this way.

There are people living today in isolated parts of the world as hunter-gatherers. They eat the food that their natural environments provide. They never have been exposed to the Standard American Diet, and they do not have tooth decay or various degenerative diseases that plague most of the world’s modern population. Unfortunately, when some of these people leave their native surroundings and start eating unhealthy diets in the “Western” world, their health begins to decline rapidly.

The solutions are learning and believing what nutrient-dense food and healthy gut bacteria are all about as well as yielding to the needs of our individual cells.


Does This Ever Happen To You?

evolution rDoes this ever happen to you? You go to a professional website thinking you will find helpful information, but you only find sales material? When I go online searching for medical websites, I hope to find useful information that is unbiased and non-commercial. Unfortunately, my success has been pitiful. Here is an example:


I heard of a book written by a well-know physician that was getting good reviews. I wanted to know more about this guy and what he stood for. So, I went to his website the other day to see what I could learn. This medical doctor promotes himself as helping people overcome their chronic diseases. Online, there was a questionnaire that he created and touted to be able to assess my overall health and medical risks. A report was to be generated based on my answers, and it was supposed to let me know how the doctor and his website might be able to help me. All I needed to do was to answer the questions and click “submit”. So, I did just that. It was a lengthy questionnaire taking over 15 minutes for me to complete. However, I must confess that I was somewhat dishonest. I filled it out with responses that I knew would be the responses of a young, healthy male. I was actually testing the doctor and the honesty of his website. Guess what happened?


As soon as I submitted my responses, I was immediately transferred to a page that summarized my overall health risks and made specific suggestions. Remember, I answered the questions as if I were a healthy, young male because I knew what those healthy responses should be. The summary report that I got in return advised me what I needed to do to become healthy. Don’t forget, I answered the questions like a healthy young guy.


As I jumped to the bottom line of my health assessment, it stated that I had to purchase a host of supplements peddled by the doctor on his website for a total cost to me of $112 per month to get healthy and stay healthy! No other suggestions were offered!


I was appalled. Have you ever had an experience like that?


I have lost all respect and credibility for this doctor. Unfortunately, he is one of many health professionals out there just trying to sell you something you do not need.


This will never happen to you on my website. I offer consultations for a fair fee just as if you were to sit down one-on-one with other quality-conscious, comprehensive health professionals. The blogs I write are from my heart. They are a compilation of my 35-plus years of private practice treating periodontal disease and from my further education in the world of ancestral nutrition and functional medicine. Any products I discuss are because I use them personally, and they work in my body.


These are my thoughts for today. I am happy I could share them with you. Until next week.


You can stop gum disease

evolution rThis is a mighty big statement that requires an explanation.


First, think about this question: If there were a species whose only means of getting nutrition was by chewing food, and if this species had rampant tooth and gum disease causing the loss of those precious teeth, what would happen to that species over thousands of years of evolution? The answer: This species would die off, because it couldn’t survive over time.
Now consider this fact: Primitive man and woman from Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods did not have gum disease or tooth decay. Why is that?


Let’s step back and consider animals in the wild. They don’t develop dental decay or gum disease or degenerative diseases like modern-day humans, and they don’t get fat like modern-day humans, either. They may lose a tooth in combat, and they do gain weight intentionally to prepare for the cold, winter months or hibernation, but they use this storage naturally and lose it naturally. They eat food in the wild when their bodies tell them they are hungry, and they stop eating when their bodies tell them they are full. But get this: When chimpanzees and other wild animals are raised in captivity, they do have dental problems; they do get fat; and they do develop chronic degenerative diseases if they are not fed their natural diets.


The differences between wild animals and us are that there are no fast foods or sugary drinks or frozen dinners with a gazillion additives and preservatives in the wild. Wild animals don’t eat meat that has been artificially fattened with hormones and antibiotics. And they don’t eat genetically modified foods that have never been tested for long-term effects on their bodies. Wild animals eat what their bodies have been designed to eat for thousands of years. In contrast, we eat what has been processed, refined, hybridized, and genetically modified over the last several decades. Our bodies are rebelling.


Primitive man and woman were hunters and gatherers. They ate the foods that their environments provided for them. They did not eat the processed, refined, hybridized, and genetically modified “foods” we stuff into our bodies every day.


Today, over 95 percent of all gum disease and tooth decay is caused by harmful bacteria in our mouths. And harmful bacteria in our mouths are created by harmful bacteria in our gut. And harmful bacteria in our gut are increased by certain foods we eat—specifically dense carbohydrates and refined sugars—those highly processed, refined, hybridized, and genetically modified “foods” of modern-day lifestyles.


Current medical evidence suggests that many modern-day diseases, including gum disease, may have their root cause from the unhealthy bacteria in our gut. If we can transform the harmful bacteria in our gut into friendly bacteria, then many of our modern-day diseases might be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. Wow! What a powerful possibility!


What do you think might happen to gum disease if we actually address the nutritional causes of the disease, and then treat it with the most cutting-edge method that is becoming the standard of care in dentistry today?


Here is what you could do: You could make healthier choices with your meals by eliminating the bad foods, specifically grains and grain products, as well as processed foods containing high fructose corn syrup and other refined sugars. In addition, you could include fermented foods like sauerkraut
and yogurt and kefir daily, which may help repopulate the good bacteria in your gut and replace the bad bacteria. Of course, this will take time. It won’t happen in just a few weeks. So be patient.


Along with improving the nutritional balance in your body, the source of major gum problems could be treated with the PerioLase® Laser, which kills the bacteria causing this disease without harming healthy cells and without using a scalpel or sutures. It also helps grow new bone.


Laser treatment results in better outcomes with less discomfort and quicker recovery times than traditional surgical methods. The laser treatment is called LANAP® (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure).


So here’s the bottom line. You can stop gum disease by:

  • Making healthier food choices
  • Repopulating the friendly bacteria in your gut by eating a variety of fermented foods
  • Eliminating unhealthy mouth bacteria through the use of evidence-based, patient-friendly treatment
  • Repairing any damage that has already been done in your mouth with necessary dental treatment
  • Maintaining a healthy body through healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle, incorporating effective exercise, proper sleep, and stress reduction.


(This article originally appeared in CH2)


Nutrition is at the Core of Gum Health

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS o Nutritional Periodontist
April 12, 2014



evolution rPossibly, you may have never had a dentist or even a medical doctor talk with you about nutrition, as I will on our first appointment. Nutrition is at the core of everything your body does for you. From health to sickness, from energy to lethargy, from happiness to depression – the necessary nutrients your cells receive or do not receive affect everything about you. If only one cell in your body is deprived, it slowly affects the rest of you.


By making improvements on a cellular level, you can eventually make improvements in dental and gum health, along with your overall health and well-being. It starts with the decision to change your lifestyle to improve your health.


As a periodontist, I will help you understand how evolutionary nutrition affects your gum health. My goal is to improve your nutrition so that I can effectively treat your gum disease. Today’s cutting-edge technology for the treatment of gum disease is Laser Periodontal Treatment™. The treatment is called LANAP® (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure), which does not require cutting with a scalpel or stitches. Patients are getting better clinical results than traditional gum surgery, along with bone growth and practically no discomfort.


By giving your body the nutrition it needs and ridding it of the destructive bacteria causing gum disease, you and I can help create a stable foundation so that you can maintain a healthy mouth for the rest of your life. This stable foundation will become the healthy platform upon which your mouth and smile can be restored.


(This article originally appeared in Hilton Head Monthly Magazine)



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