What’s in Your Mouth?

October 2nd, 2015

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What's in Your Mouth?

What’s in Your Mouth?

Most chronic diseases including autoimmune diseases are rooted in inflammation, so I’m always looking for the sources of that inflammation when I treat my patients. I’ve found that inflammation is often caused by five major environmental factors: our diets, a leaky gut, stress, toxins, and infections.

I was inspired to write my book The Autoimmune Solution to help others get to the root of their own health problems by examining and eliminating each of these risk factors. Changing the diet and healing the gut are big first steps, but the gut isn’t the only place where persistent infections and toxins such as heavy metals can easily enter the bloodstream. There’s another major point of potential exposure: the mouth.

We tend to see human anatomy in terms of separate systems, with dental health as somehow distinct from the rest of the body. The truth is, there is no wall separating your mouth from the rest of you–infections and toxins in the mouth affect your health as a whole! So, what’s in your mouth?


Root Canals

A root canal is a common procedure in which a tooth’s nerve is killed, but the tooth itself is not removed. The dead tissue becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, and the immune system is powerless to halt the growing infection. In particular, bacteria cling to the periodontal ligament, a hard to reach area of the tooth that is very difficult to flush out manually, and because the tooth no longer has a blood supply, neither immune cells nor antibiotics can reach the decaying tissue. The ongoing infection leads to inflammation which stresses the immune system.



Most of us have had our wisdom teeth removed, and cavitations are a common complication. They can occur in the jaw after a tooth extraction, when gum tissue grows over the hollow area and bacteria begin to propagate.  Bacteria within a cavitation again create inflammation and agitate the immune system.


Bridges and Retainers

Any kind of dental work that remains in your mouth permanently could pose a potential risk to your health and be irritating to your immune system. Just as so many people with autoimmunity and other chronic health conditions have sensitivities to certain foods, they may also have sensitivities to specific materials used in dentistry. Bridges and retainers for example, are usually made with stainless steel that contains nickel, a known allergen which can also activate the immune system.


Amalgam Fillings

Amalgam fillings are made with a mixture of copper, silver, and mercury. Mercury is incredibly toxic, and exposure to mercury has vast health consequences, including neurological symptoms, muscle weakness, and impaired vision. Dental amalgams emit mercury vapor, that can leach into your bloodstream. In fact, mercury fillings aren’t only harmful to dental patients, but handling them is even dangerous for dentists themselves.

If you’re unsure of whether or not you have amalgam fillings, just open your mouth and look: do you have fillings that look metallic? Of course, some people are more susceptible to the effects of heavy metals. If you know that your body has a difficult time excreting toxins, for example if you have an MTHFR mutation, it’s vital that you have them removed safely to reduce your toxic burden.


Porcelain Crowns

A crown can actually exacerbate the effects of mercury when placed over a tooth with an amalgam filling. It can create an electric current that interferes with your own body’s natural electric current, which can create bizarre and uncomfortable auditory and sensory symptoms for those who are sensitive.



In general, gold fillings are preferable to amalgam fillings. But when gold is combined with other metals in your mouth, it too can create an electric current in your body. I have seen patients who complained of buzzing and ringing in their ears, only to find those symptoms resolved when their metal dental work was taken out.


A Functional Medicine Approach to Dentistry

Conventional doctors divide the body into distinct organ systems, and they rely on treating symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of a disease. Functional medicine doctors like me are working to address the problems with the conventional medicine approach, and our counterparts in the world of dentistry are called “biological dentists.” A biological dentist is looking at the whole picture–the health of your entire body.

In biological dentistry, an emphasis is placed on only using materials which are compatible with the patient’s body. Each person is different when it comes to what materials they can tolerate and how well they get rid of toxins like mercury. In my clinic, I run tests to see which foods my patients are reactive to; a biological dentist may test your blood to find out which materials are incompatible with you, most often with Clifford Materials Reactivity Testing (CMRT).

If you have fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or another chronic condition, your immune system is already in overdrive, and incompatible materials in your mouth or infections could be stressing your body even more. If you have amalgam fillings or other dental work, or suspect that you have an infection, make sure a biological dentist is correcting the problem for you. They are trained in the safe removal of previous dental work. A conventional dentist might be able to remove your fillings, but they could endanger you or themselves more by not taking the necessary precautions or disposing of the material properly. Listen to my podcast with biological dentist Stuart Nunnally, DDS, for key questions you can ask your dentist, or check out my interview with him and 38 other autoimmune experts from The Autoimmune Summit.

Remember, what’s in your mouth does affect the rest of your body. If you haven’t achieved the level of health you want and deserve, it could be the missing piece of the puzzle for you. If you’re interested in more in-depth information about this topic, I highly recommend the book Uninformed Consent: The Hidden Dangers in Dental Care by Hal Huggins, DDS, MS, and Thomas Levy, MD, JD.

To find a biological dentist, you can search for one in your area at www.IAOMT.com, The International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology.  


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  • Hil Down

    So glad to see you mentioned retainers. I have a child with mthfr so she doesn’t detox well. She needs braces. I googled to find out more about the plastics in retainers and in invisalign, and am now feeling very hesitant about braces. If braces only had to be on for a year, that’s one thing, but now dentists tend to recommend retainers for life. That seems like a lot of plastic exposure. And then there is the metal side of braces/retainers, which you mentioned. Thoughts on the plastics?

    • That’s a good point–that is a lot of plastic exposure! I would find a biological dentist because they are going to be more familiar with other materials that could be used instead.

      • Ali

        Check out ALF orthodonture! It’s pretty new- removable, and usually all metal. It’s wonderful because it works with cranial rhythms and not against them!


  • Jason B Jones

    Dr. Amy, I really appreciate this post. I have suffered with “amalgam illness and had mine removed a few years ago. Recovering is/was quite the process. Now I am able to help others navigate the process. So much better to not put them in from the beginning. Thanks for all you are doing.

    • I am considering having my amalgams removed. How does one decide if it is necessary or not?

      • Jason B Jones

        Maria, there are tests that allow you to see if you are specifically sensitive to the metals in the amalgams. However, based on the fact that amalgams are 50% mercury and leech into our systems daily. If I had to do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat.

      • If you have any time of chronic health problem, autoimmune or otherwise, I’d say your immune system is already stressed enough. Mercury is toxic for everyone, so it really has no upside. There are better, safer options!

    • You’re welcome!! I’m so glad you are doing better, and it’s amazing that you’re able to help others 🙂

      • Jason B Jones

        Thanks Dr. Amy. I really love what you are doing. Thanks for all of the great content and I loved the AutoImmune Summit. Blessings and Merry Christmas!

  • Renee Sambataro Belz

    Dr. Amy, Thank you for taking the time to share this valuable information. I work for a Biological Dentist and it’s been so eye opening to see the harm that conventional dentistry can cause on the body and overall health. We need more people like you to spread the word!

  • Lori

    My 17 year old daughter has MS and is seeing a holistic dentist who does not use amalgam fillings but will be getting her wisdom teeth out in Jan. by an oral surgeon. What can I do to prevent any type of bacterial buildup in the healing – She is having all four removed, two are impacted.

    • Kathy W.

      Lori, specifically because your daughter has MS, I strongly recommend that you contact Huggins Applied Healing at 866-948-4638. Through the advice of the staff there, I underwent successful revision of a mouthful of dental issues, and have recovered better health than when I was a teen. They will be able to advise you on a dentist would be best to perform these procedures in the best way to maximize her healing potential.

      • I too can vouch for sourcing a knowledgeable dentist through the Huggins organization.

    • It’s tricky when your immune system is already malfunctioning, but I would involve your daughter’s holistic dentist in the process as much as possible to guide you. You can’t sterilize the mouth completely, but you can take care of the rest of the body (with diet, sleep, stress reduction, etc) to maximize healing.

    • nadine

      hi lori. i just want to mention that i have ms, was dg. at 23 and have no fillings. i’m 36 now and still don’t have any fillings! i know everyone is different. that being said, around her age i had 4 wisdom teeth removed and never thought about that related to ms. hmmmm….

    • Lori

      I appreciate all the response to my question about my daughters upcoming oral surgery! I am researching Huggins Applied Healing and it’s very interesting, I need, thank you for the info. Thanks everyone!

  • Amy, thanks for mentioning root canals and bridges. I have moderate immune dysfunction and a root canal since I was 10; I recently took the extreme step of having the root canal tooth pulled and replaced with a bridge made of materials I tested non-allergic to. I did my research, and I’d recommend anyone with a root canal look into it.

    • You’re welcome, Adam! So glad you were able to find some relief by having that done 🙂

    • jenelle

      Hi Adam, I also had root canals when I was about that age; car accident. I’m curious to what you were experiencing that lead you to have them removed? and how to you feel now? Is your health noticeably better? I’m asking bc I have some gut issues, but still testing negative for hashi’s, and other immune markers are normal. As I learn more about the inflammation response and the connection to the mouth I wonder if that is it and what things to rule out before heading down the dental path.

      • Glad to answer. I’m 31 now. It’s hard to look back in memory and recognize symptoms, but I’ve had various immune and digestion problems since around ages 8-14, including athsma, severe cat and dog allergies, acne from eating certain foods, many digestive/gut intolerances particularly gluten, and many food allergies particularly shellfish. I haven’t been able to figure out whether the problems correlate with getting the root canal. The asthma faded but the food issues became worse.

        It’s a pain to live with and I couldn’t think of other likely causes. I spend maybe 100 hours investigating, and it seemed a root canal might be able to cause that, although the evidence was not absolute. I decided I agreed it was possible and worth trying.

        There has been no significant change in my health since getting the root canal pulled. So maybe it had no effect. However, it’s also possible the effect is minor; my food allergies and intolerances got slowly worse over about 15 years, so potentially healing is slow or it just slowed things getting worse. Despite not feeling any different, I still think I made the right choice, based on the science I studied.

        If you start researching root canals you’ll find some books, but like I said the evidence is uncertain, so you’d really have to research for yourself. I’m not going to recommend offhand that anyone gets their tooth pulled 😛

        • jenelle

          thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me and sharing your experience. I am encouraged by your story.

  • Erin Holt

    Would a “holistic dentist” be considered the same as “biological dentist?” Trying to find one in my area.

  • JAYE R

    Hi Dr. Amy, What about full dentures? How might they affect my auto immune conditions? Recently, I found round raised spots on my tongue towards the back of it. Thanks.

    • I would imagine that they could also be made from material that you are sensitive to. A biological dentist would be able to test you to see which materials are compatible with your body and most importantly, find a material that doesn’t irritate your immune system!

      • JAYE R

        Thanks for your response. This is something I will need to look into.

  • Kathleen Bernardi

    Hi Dr. Myers,
    I watched your Autoimmune Summit and purchased the package as well to share with family and friends! It was absolutely fantastic and it gave me hope that there
    are mainstream medical doctors who get this thing!
    I have a son who has Crohn’s, a daughter-in-law who has Lupus, a nephew who has Psoriasis and a niece who has Hashimoto’s!
    Additionally, as a Registered Dental Hygienist, I see clients every day who are developing a plethora of autoimmune diseases and I keep asking myself…WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON…DOESN’T ANYONE CARE?
    Since leaving main stream dentistry 7 years ago with health issues, I have come to believe, through extensive research, that many dental procedures and materials may be having profound effects on our overall health and wellbeing, including my own.
    It is a complicated puzzle to piece together what has contributed to a disease and I thank you for including the mouth with the rest of the body!

    • Thank you Kathleen, I’m so glad you enjoyed the summit! It’s so true, it’s definitely a health hazard not only for patients but for dentists themselves.

  • Debra

    I would like to learn more about the bacteria surviving and thriving in root canals and on the periodontal ligament. Where can I find more about that? If the only solution is ridding my mouth of these things, I will end up being toothless… too young in my opinion!

    • Try searching the IAOMT library: http://library.iaomt.org/

      They have great reference articles!

      • Debra

        Thanks, I check it out.

    • Marianne

      Debra, I discovered a great website called OraWellness that sells natural products that kill bacteria in the mouth, especially bacteria that cause periodontal disease. I also love Dr. Mark Breiner’s discussion of holistic dentistry in the book by the same name, Whole Body Dentistry… His son is a naturopath so there is that help. Good luck! I am working with a naturopath to help my mouth as well and so far so good. Losing teeth is not an option, chewing is way too important!

      • Debra

        Thanks. My problem is not gingivitis, my gums are great…. I have just had root canals in practically all my teeth, finally one removed, implant, and 2 apioectomies (however you spell that)… still chronic infection in upper left quadrant and about once a year it flares and has formed cysts. No autoimmune, but I have had breast cancer…. left side… hmmmm.

  • Hi Again,
    Could you also please alert people to the dangers of water fluoridation. I do believe, that because it is a halide, it is displacing whatever iodine we are lucky enough to get, and that it is a major contributing factor to the Hypothyroidism epidemic! Additionally, recent studies prove that systemic fluoride has no benefit to teeth!

  • george

    why no responses from Amy?

    • Hi George, I run a practicing clinic and am currently seeing patients. I can’t always respond right away, but I try to do it as quickly as possible!! 🙂

  • Kathleen G.

    Thank you for this post! I have had many amalgam fillings since childhood and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my early 40’s (I am almost 60). In the last 15 years, I have had 4 crowns, 1 bridge, and 1 implant (due to having 2 teeth completely break and have to be extracted). I have not had a root canal yet, but that is probably next. I have been going to the same conventional dentist for 20 years and he just laughs when I tell him about the research on mercury in fillings and the harm of fluoride. He says that fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and the mercury in fillings is miniscule and proven non-hazardous. I don’t know if my thyroid diagnosis or my osteopenia could be due to my mouth but I would like to be sure if it is and of what to do about it. I have an appointment next week for a cleaning, but I really like my hygienist, she is great.

    • jenelle

      time to look for a new dentist 🙂

  • jenelle

    Dr Amy, thank you once again for your support, brilliance and wisdom. I hope you get the word out on this and the other truth busters you have in your wheel house. best of luck with the book release and New Year!

  • Dr. Myers, do you have any information on the safety of plastic nighttime mouth guards?

  • Josie Burridge

    Hi Amy, Thank you so much for the autoimmune summit (I got a lot out of what I saw, which wasn’t much sadly). When I watched your intro video about your journey, I burst into tears as I have Graves Disease too! I have just relapsed for the 3rd time. I am yet to go on to any medications this time around (last 2 times I took Carbimazole) as I have stopped going to my endo and started with a complimentary GP who has taken me off Gluten and now Dairy and I am also taking some supplements (for pyroluria and adrenal fatigue). Only prob is that my levels are still rising and I’m losing weight and my heart rate is high (I’ve started taking a beta blocker once a day) etc. I’m generally feeling pretty awful. My Endo had said if I relapse again I’d have to have RAI. I really don’t want to go down that path. I also have amalgam in my teeth…

    How long do I continue trying all this before taking carbimazole again (or TT or RAI)?
    Thanks for some advice,
    Josie from Australia 🙂


    Would tonsilloliths or tonsil stones be considered a hidden infection? I am 50 and have had this problem since I was about 16 years old. I have always had enlarged lymph nodes in my neck and wondered if this was also related

  • youputwhatinmymouth

    What a great article. Glad to see you bringing awareness to the things dentists put in our mouths which can greatly effect our overall health. I’m also glad to see you list mercury fillings (and advocate their safe removal). I had to chuckle at the title of the article as the name of our film on dental mercury is YOU PUT WHAT IN MY MOUTH ? We are the first to visually demonstrate the enormous levels of mercury generated during the placement, polishing and removal of mercury fillings which are up to hundreds of times higher than levels at which people are evacuated from buildings.

  • Jan

    Thank you so much for this article Amy. I had a root canal done a year ago and about 4 months ago I noticed a swollen lymph node on my right side of my neck. Same side as the root canal. Any reason for concern.

  • Kathy

    I have Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid in my mouth. I have had it a little over one year. I have had 3 courses of Prednisone without much success. I started the Paleo Auto Immune Protocol Diet about 1.5 months ago just a few days into my most most recent course of Prednisone. My oral surgeon and my Primary Care doctor will not treat me for this. I am going to a skin specialist. Have you had success with any other patients with this auto immune disease?