My Journey to Holistic Healing
I’m Going to Be a Doctor
Ever since I could talk, I was proudly telling people that I was going to be a doctor when I grew up! Of course, that was what my parents drilled into me. I still remember the antiseptic-smelling office and the white coat of the pediatrician who gave me painful shots, put his cold stethoscope on my chest and prescribed nasty tasting medicine. In my view, I didn’t see what was so terrific about an office full of screaming sick kids and worried moms. But grown-ups seemed to revere doctors. My pediatrician made house calls and drove up in a Jaguar convertible. They were impressed by that too. I somehow reasoned from an early age that I was going to be a doctor and respected for what I could do.
From the age of 11, my father had me working in the hospital where he was a physical therapist. It was an uncomfortable place for me to spend my days during summer vacation. The odors were foreign and offensive. Sick patients made me feel ill-at-ease. The people working there didn’t seem very happy, and it felt kind of like a prison to me. But I worked in various departments every summer (admissions, pharmacy, transport) until I graduated high school. When I went to college, I just continued on the path to being a pre-med major because there were things about understanding the human body that I was always fascinated with.
Not My Chosen Profession
Growing up, I would look for hours at the human body plastic overlays in the World Book Encyclopedia. I was intrigued with the anatomy and physiology, of the marvelous things the body could do. When I would become a doctor, I would gain the knowledge of this most esteemed profession and perform miracle cures for the bodies that were sick. There was no question of where I was headed.
But two years into college, I decided that four years of college was enough education for me and I switched my major to nursing.
In case I ever decided to go back to school to become a physician, I thought that a degree in nursing would be a good stepping stone. I wanted to be where the action was and upon getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, I sought work in intensive care where I got my most influential education. The frustrating hospital policies, damaging human errors, and the life and death decisions we faced daily took a toll on me. After two years of working as a nurse, I was now ready to go to graduate school, but it would not be medical school. I reasoned that becoming a dentist would be a good path with my healthcare knowledge and I could have more normalcy in my life.
A Dentist Seeing Through a Medical Lens
What I learned and experienced as a nurse gave me a very different perspective than my dental school classmates and teachers. I knew firsthand about health and body systems and couldn’t understand the complete separation of medicine and dentistry. It was as if the mouth was not even a part of the human body. The medical students learned nothing about dentistry and the dental students could only service the mouth. I realized something was amiss because I knew that dentistry did affect overall health.
Confusion in Contradiction
We can all agree that mercury is a known poison. Now here I found myself in the unventilated dental clinic with hundreds of dental students squeezing the mercury out of amalgam with bare hands and drilling out old amalgam fillings with no masks. As a nurse working in the hospital, we were not permitted to go into a room where someone dropped a thermometer until Hazmats came to clean up the mercury. What was the difference? It seemed to me that we were being exposed to way more mercury than what was in a thermometer. When I asked my dental professors about this, I was emphatically told, “Don’t go there!” I was really puzzled and not satisfied with the answer, but you tend to believe that if it was really harmful, then the school wouldn’t put students and faculty at risk. The toxicity and handling of elemental mercury was not a subject that was ever discussed. We were taught that amalgam has been safely used for 150 years and that the mercury gets locked into the filling. End of story.
Unexplained Ailments Out of the Blue
I was in my early twenties and never had any health problems until I started working in the dental school clinic when I first experienced heart arrhythmias, headaches, digestive problems, menstrual irregularities, a chronic cough, and panic attacks. Blood tests were negative. EKGs showed no abnormalities. Physicians allotted my symptoms to stress. I thought that intensive care was a lot more stressful than dental school and I was otherwise enjoying life. I had no interest in taking the prescribed medications with risky side effects. My complaints were apparently not life-threatening and as so many people do with chronic ailments, you just deal with it.
Transitions in Personal and Professional Life
I met the love of my life, a senior student, when I was a freshman in dental school. Vinny and I were married when I was a junior. When I graduated we set up two dental practices, and each worked dental jobs in other practices to make ends meet.
Because of my background as an intensive care nurse, I wasn’t afraid to treat patients who had heart attacks, strokes, and kidney transplants. Our practice became known for treating the dental needs of medically compromised patients. There were a few forward-thinking doctors who felt that removing toxic materials from the body would have a positive effect on the immune system. So along with having their patients with chronic health conditions change their diet, give up smoking, and wean them off medications, they referred them to us for removal of their mercury containing amalgams.
Crossing to the Other Side
My experience with patients as well as with my own health gave me an understanding and insight into the present healthcare system and alternatives for healing. When I discovered that holistic health organizations existed, my whole way of seeing and living life changed. How do you measure the impact of gaining knowledge, not only for your patients, but for yourself too? It seemed that with each passing day I was acquiring new skills, changing habits, and shifting my philosophy of healthcare. For those alternative practices I never learned about in school, I saw tremendous value. Care from chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, nutritionists, energy workers, body workers, functional medicine and integrative physicians and so many more spiritual teachers through the years gave me and my patients a path to heal. Detoxification and rebalancing started for me decades ago and continues as a lifelong process.
Show Me the Studies
Regardless that we were protecting ourselves with masks and gloves, we were drilling out hundreds of amalgams each week. Our dental assistants and front desk people, all women, suffered from migraines, irritable bowel, infertility, depression, and cancer. It amazes me that no studies have ever been performed on mercury levels in dental offices and health effects from chronic mercury exposure.
I was now pregnant and I didn’t know if I was exposing the fetus to the aerosol of mercury from drilling out so many amalgams. I contacted my Dental Association to send me the studies they have done or collected that showed the safety of mercury exposure to dental personnel from the drilling out and placement of dental amalgam. Topping my list was knowing the safety for the fetus from mercury exposure in each trimester of pregnancy and the amount of mercury that passed through breast milk. They said that they would get back to me. They never did. I had to find the answers myself.
Doing My Own Research
Information was not easy to find before the days of the Internet. Medical and Dental School Libraries had no clinical studies available about chronic mercury exposure to dentists and staff. There were some toxicology journals that did have a few articles from acute exposure from mercury spills and from eating fish. I had read, It’s All in Your Head by Dr. Hal Huggins, a mercury poisoned dentist and I wanted to see more scientific research. Through the Freedom of Information Act I requested a copy of the Toxicological Profile of Mercury prepared by science experts in the US Government Department of Commerce. It was like I was struck by a bolt of lightning! My symptoms finally had a recognized source. But why weren’t we protected with the same regulations as other industries who worked with mercury?
Leaving the Practice of Dentistry – A Mixed Blessing
My husband and I practiced Holistic Dentistry for decades treating and helping thousands of chronically and critically ill patients. We wrote articles, gave lectures, and had an educational website regarding the connections of oral health to the whole body. But when the State Board of Dentistry had an action (no patient complaint) against us for our website containing False, Deceptive, and Misleading Advertising, we knew we must be making an impact. At the same time, our malpractice carrier had gone bankrupt and we were not able to, doing the work that we did, obtain new malpractice insurance from another company. Without this protection, we had to close our practice of 25 years in 2003.
On the positive side, leaving the toxic dental environment very likely saved my life. Still, I didn’t give up my fight to keep other people healthy. Along with Consumers for Dental Choice, I gave testimony to Philadelphia Department of Health to give patients informed consent about mercury in amalgam fillings and helped to write a patient brochure that was used in all dental offices in Philadelphia.
Whereas other dentists were afraid to speak up, I testified twice in front of the FDA to reclassify amalgam as a schedule II device and give clear labeling of the hazards and protection for dental employees. You can view Dr. Andrea Brockman giving testimony to the FDA regarding mercury in dental fillings on this 3 minute YouTube link below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7P9umWiwJc
Back to Our Roots
Following my career as a practicing dentist, I had to reinvent myself. How could we continue to help patients? We may have left our profession, but the knowledge inside has never left. While it was nice to know that we could reinvent ourselves, we longed to be holistic health educators again and help people live long and vibrant lives, hence this website. We are blessed with coming from loving families and producing our three amazing, now grown, sons. We are most proud of them and consider raising them to be the most important thing we have done.