21st Century Dentist
by Boyd Martin

Richard Hansen, DMD I spoke to Dr. Hansen shortly after New Year's on his cell phone. He was visiting a park near his office on a beautiful Southern California day. "I made a New Year's resolution that this year I would get at least 30 minutes of sunshine a day to keep my pineal gland properly regulated." Some of the latest medical findings seem to indicate that a long-term lack of natural light, can be a contributory factor to a wide range of diseases and medical conditions [INFO]. But besides championing the latest general medical findings, Hansen continues to forge ahead with his own campaign to revolutionize dentistry.

"It's my belief that almost all adult dentistry that is performed is working on teeth that dentists have drilled early on in life," declares Dr. Hansen. "Because the drill produces a lot of trauma and inflammation within the tissue, that sets the stage for damage and inflammation, and that leads to crowns, and bigger and bigger fillings and restorations. So, if we never did that on people, most of adult dentistry might disappear." [INFO] The concept of preventative dentistry seems like an oxymoron in Dr. Hansen's view, since the main "disease" he finds his practice treating is dentistry itself.

Hansen has found it necessary to become a whole body clinic, many times just to get a client to the point where they are strong enough to withstand even the gentlest of dental approaches. "Every patient that comes in is so uniquely different," says Hansen. "Many times we have to work on inflammation reduction throughout the entire body. If they've got a heavy load of heavy metals and they're fragile and shutdown, then the amount of work we do has to be very minimal, and we have to do a lot of re-opening of the detoxification pathways in their body, making sure their clearing systems are all working adequately."

Hansen employs a wide range of holistic approaches in his practice, including enzyme therapies, oxygen therapies, and the use of low-level lasers to open up the lymphatic and circulatory channels. In any case, an initial whole body assessment is vital. "We have been fortunate to have worked with many physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, ayurvedics and other advanced health care practitioners not only for this purpose, but for investigating and developing better methods of delivering advanced dental care--dental care that not only focuses on disease within the mouth but recognizes the integral role optimum oral health plays in the overall long-term health of the body."

This is heady stuff to the traditional "drill and cement" dentists still being churned out of dental schools across the country. There is a specific working model taught about how to do a dental practice, and once a financial investment has been made into this standard model, changing it is expensive. Usually, if change happens at all, it is merely in the materials being used. "Many people--as you go through schools and get brainwashed--come to a realization that some of these things are harmful to you," says Hansen. "Then they start changing first with the materials they use. So instead of amalgam, they might use composite resins. Even though they may be changing materials--usually from recognizing that mercury is bad--what they're doing is still the same thing taught in school: drilling teeth apart. There's a whole philosophical change that needs to occur in order to change the destructive paths dentistry has been on. And that's what isn't changing."

The most basic philosophical change needed in dentistry is how to treat a tooth. For example, in doing restorative repair with a dental handpiece--something as basic as how you hold it, how it feels on the tooth--all change. "It's a whole attitude change in respecting the living tissue that you're working on," insists Hansen.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. The tooth is a living tissue--not the inanimate object it has been considered traditionally to be. "They think they can do anything they want with teeth," says Hansen. "But it realy doesn't work that way."

With respect to such regulatory bodies as the American Dental Association, any of these kinds of fundamental changes happen slowly. Hansen points out that any changes made are almost exclusively the result of lawsuits, and that seems to be the modus operandi in changing policies. "In California we've got a little headstart on that," he says. "Even last week we had a settlement with the California Dental Association--a court order--that requires them all to warn their patients about the hazards of mercury. On the national level there has been legislation introduced in the House to ban mercury fillings, but it takes a long time to accomplish a major turn. You just have to chip away at them a little battle at a time."

Dr. Hansen testing electric charge in amalgams. Hansen spent much of the early 1990's researching current technologies that could be used in a kinder approach in dentistry. Much of this research was dedicated to lasers, where he developed such fields as Laser Applications for Preventing Root Canals, and Laser Assisted Dental Hygiene. He has developed and certified continuing education classes for professionals, written a book, The Key to Ultimate Health, and several papers.

Hansen's initial foray into professional release of his research findings and developments was in 1996 when he organized a conference in San Francisco. "That was a dismal failure," bemoaned Hansen. "I hardly got any to respond. Then two years ago I sent out 45,000 pieces of literature on these new techniques...and got 20 responses to it. So, that convinced me that I can't go directly to the dentists or I'm just going to be spinning my wheels. They're not changing."

So, although he finds himself pretty much alone in his own field, Hansen has taken to the media airwaves to educate and enlighten all the health-conscious who will listen. He currently is on the advisory board of the American Association for Health Freedom (Patch Adams is also on that board). Dr. Hansen is frequently consulted and quoted in many national magazine articles, and has appeared on numerous local and national television programs including Phil Donahue, NBC Extra, Good Morning America, The Discovery Channel, C/NET, Southland Today, and ABC, CBS, and NBC News.

Currently in production of a demonstration DVD of his techniques, his purpose is not just to teach dentists, but to educate all health care practitioners as well as the general public. Hansen sees going directly to the health-conscious public as the only way to create demand for advanced whole-body dental care, and believes that only when it looks to the dental profession that it is losing patients because of "old school" techniques will there be any investment in change.

For contact information, essays, and a booklist, visit Dr. Hansen's website, www.cdchealth.com.