Hating the dentist is as embedded in American folklore and media as having a glass of wine at 5 p.m. or eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. "I heard an ad on the radio once that said refinancing your mortgage shouldn't be as painful as a root canal," Daniel W. McNeil, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and dental practice at West Virginia University, said in 2016. Simply put, having adverse feelings toward oral healthcare is just what you do.
We don't share the same dismissive, negative attitudes about the rest of our physical health, though. The newly booming wellness industry is a reflection of millennial consumers taking their health into their own hands, drifting away from traditional medicine and approaching their healthcare more holistically. A recent study found that millennials are more likely to look to alternative medicine as opposed to advice from their primary care doctor to maintain their health. However, the same skepticism, attention, and care don't seem to apply to dentistry. You never hear about people finding oral health gurus. Somehow, folks completely separate their approach to oral health from the rest of their well-being.
This is precisely the disconnect that Grace Vershinina, a Beverly Hills dentist with degrees from UPenn and UCLA, is aiming to solve. Because many common dental procedures that most people undergo without thinking twice (like cavity fillings) might actually be negatively impacting our overall health. Vershinina is the owner of Beverly Hills BioDental & Facial Aesthetics, a chicly designed dentist office one block from Rodeo Drive which offers futuristic services including crowns, veneers, white fillings, implants, and laser teeth whitening—all of which use high-tech, minimally invasive techniques and materials, like digital teeth impressions instead of messy molds, and ceramic implants instead of titanium.
Having a mouth full of metal implants and amalgam cavity fillings is totally customary in most U.S. dental offices (goodness knows my own mouth is full of amalgam), and most of us never think much about it. But according to Vershinina, the materials most often used for dental restorations are toxic. In fact, they are "one of the major causes of skyrocketing numbers of chronic diseases and chronic fatigue syndrome," she says.
Here's how Vershinina explains it: Saliva is an electrolyte that directly interacts with the metal in your mouth. "Usually, a few days after insertion into the mouth, metal components can be detected everywhere in the body," she says. "These metals can bind to proteins, enzymes, and cell membranes and block their function. They can trigger different types of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and more." At her office, Vershinina offers the rare service of replacing metal restorations with biocompatible materials, like ceramic crowns and implants. "Our patients feel more energized [after the replacements]," she explains. "They don't feel fatigued anymore. … [They feel like] they're getting their health back."
I visited Beverly Hills BioDental in person to learn more about Vershinina's unique approach to dentistry. Before anything else, I was struck by the look of her office. BioDental's pristine white interiors look like something out of Scandinavia or Switzerland, which, incidentally, is where Vershinina cut her teeth in the world of oral wellness, so to speak. "In Switzerland, for many years doctors have been bringing awareness to the correlation between human health and existing amalgam, metal restorations, questionable root canal treated teeth, titanium implant, etc.," she explained to me. "That's why we founded Beverly Hills BioDental in 2018—to bring awareness and help our patients to get their health, energy, and beauty back."
Vershinina says the U.S. is years behind Europe when it comes to oral healthcare, and while the information she shared might come as a shock to most Americans, in Switzerland, it's common knowledge. Slowly, the U.S. is catching up, but just like the wellness industry at large, it starts with individuals taking their health into their own hands. Vershinina told me that about a year ago, Yolanda Hadid was one of the first public figures she saw bring awareness to dental health and chronic disease by posting on her Instagram page about a trip to Switzerland during which she removed all her mercury amalgams and metal-based crowns and replaced bad root canals with ceramic implants, advising followers to choose their dental care wisely and educate themselves about what goes in our bodies.