That work is extremely important. But it’s only a small part of the story.
Price was the ADA’s section research chair from 1914 to 1923. Years before he began the research for which he’s most well-known, his work focused largely on dental infections.
In 1923, Price published Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic , and two years after that, Dental Infections and the Degenerative Diseases. In this landmark work, he showed that root canal teeth – dead, infected yet clinically asymptomatic teeth – could be used to spread neurotoxin-producing microbes. He did this by watching what happened after he sewed a human root canal tooth under the skin of a rabbit’s abdomen. Within a few weeks, the rabbit died of a heart attack.
Price repeated this process with nearly 100 rabbits, using the same tooth each time. Every single rabbit died of a heart attack.
For root canal teeth are still diseased teeth. And the microbes infecting them affect the body as a whole. When they do, the tooth sites are called dental foci – sites of infection or other toxic burden that cause problems beyond the mouth. Conditions that have been linked with dental foci include MS, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue (CFS), autoimmune disorders and cancer.
Price understood full well that dental conditions can only be fully understood within the context of a person’s whole physical being. Indeed, one can’t practice dentistry without an appreciation of its potential to affect the whole body. As he wrote in Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic,
Dental diagnosis is so intricate and involved that it requires a greater knowledge of the human body, its structures and diseases, and of the various means for understanding the normality and abnormality of the same than any specialty of the healing arts; and probably no specialty finds such great opportunity for doing injury to humanity, or for extending human life, as does the highest application of intelligence in this field. A competent diagnostician of the local and systemic expressions of dental infection must be familiar with the clinical and structural pathology required for a general medical diagnosis, and in addition, be completely familiar with dental anatomy, dental pathology, and dental operative procedures. (emphasis added)
That is, a dentist should have both a physician’s understanding of anatomy and physiology AND a specialized knowledge of the teeth and oral structures. Just as an ophthalmologist is a physician who specializes in eye health and a dermatologist is a physician who specializes in skin, Price approached teeth as a dental physician.
This was a radical concept back in the 1920 – and is still somewhat radical today. Dentists continue to be trained mainly as “mouth mechanics,” treating the mouth as somehow unattached to the rest of the body. Those who move beyond this narrow concept do so out of their own interest, concerns and values, which lead them to further education in biological dental medicine, holistic/natural healing and other fields. Unfortunately, this kind of dentist remains in the minority.
Thus, Price’s call for “a new type of practitioner” still rings true nearly a century since he made it:
They will be neither a physician nor a dentist, nor both in a sense that they will be a combination of the two as they exist today….I can see the necessity for a new type of practitioner; we could not develop them today in any institution, available for teaching that now exists. There must be developed both a new foundation of combined special medical and dental science, and a new method of application.
Since first being introduced to the work of Dr. Price in the late 1970s, this is exactly the kind of dentist Dr. Verigin has striven to become – and the kind of care we provide to patients who respect the integrity of body, mind and spirit; who understand well that unless their mouth is healthy, they cannot be healthy.