Once upon a time in dentistry, the idea that oral health and whole body health were connected was something that a lot of folks mostly scoffed at (if they thought about it at all).
Now it seems not a week goes by without some new research illuminating or confirming the mouth-body relationship.
Scientists are consistently finding oral bacteria at locations far from the mouth. The list of conditions linked with periodontal disease only grows longer: heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease…. There seems to be new awareness of how oral infection can spread to the brain, in which case a toothache can turn out to be deadly. There’s a growing appreciation for the fact that things like exercise, sleep, stress, and such have key roles to play in oral, as well as systemic health.
It’s been wonderful to see this evolution. Yet it’s not exactly new. Research on the perio-heart health connection, for instance, reaches back to at least the 1960s. Only recently have more dentists begun to listen and realize that what they may have once called “fringe” science was only fringe because they weren’t paying attention to what that science had to teach.
Yet this “new” understanding of the mouth-body connection is only partial. It focuses exclusively on physical organs, organisms, and systems. Yet this isn’t all there is to a living body.
We are also energy – from the zap and zing of neurons firing in our brain to the electric pulses of our heart to the subtle energy or “qi” (chi) that courses along our body’s meridian system.
First mapped by ancient practitioners of what we today call Traditional Chinese Medicine, the meridian system is to energy what your circulatory system is to blood. Subtle energy constantly flows through it – at least when you’re healthy. And just as circulation is one way in which your organs and tissues are all connected to each other, the meridian system connects them energetically.
The system is made up of 12 major meridians. These run through your body, branching out to reach all aspects of your physical self. (This video by energy medicine expert Donna Eden will show you how to trace them. The clip is a little old, but the info is timeless.) So multiple organs share each meridian.
For instance, your upper right wisdom tooth (tooth #1) shares the same meridian as the heart and duodenum, the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, the inner ear and maxillary sinus, shoulder, elbow, ulnar hand, plantar foot, toes, sacro-iliac joint, and musculature of the trunk and extremities (upper and lower).
When there’s a blockage or disturbance on any given meridian – due to infection, say, or injury – we may expect to see problems in other organs on and aspects of that meridian. So, for example, if tooth #7 has a root canal, there may be related kidney or pineal gland problems, since those organs are on the same meridian. Or there may be issues with the coccyx (tailbone), sacrum, or feet.
You can explore more of these tooth-organ relationships with our interactive tooth chart. Just click the image below to jump to the app.
Bear in mind that these tooth-organ relationships aren’t fortunetellers. That is, just because you have a problem with a certain tooth – an abscess, say, or a root canal – it doesn’t mean you’re fated to have problems with any or all of its associated structures.
For every one of us is unique. You have your own health history, current health habits, attitude, constitution, psychology, and more. All these work together to create a particular health outcome, ultimately guided by the state of your extracellular matrix or “biological terrain.”
This is why you’ve always got to look at the big picture – and why it’s crucial to find a biological dentist you can work with to discover, map, and follow a sensible path to healing.