The mouth is one of the body’s most powerful instruments. Without it, we couldn’t survive. It is how we get our nutrition and satisfy our thirst.

It’s the means by which we communicate and articulate our thoughts and feelings–how we share ourselves with our friends, our neighbors and our communities. It is also a lighthouse for the human spirit. When we smile, we radiate light and impart our energy.

As a holistic dentist, I believe it is important to communicate with those entrusted to my care. My philosophy has always been one of empowering my patients with education. I know that when patients open their mouths, they are giving me their trust. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of building trust through active listening. I’ve come to realize that, in many ways, my patients are often their own best physicians. Listening gives me a deeper understanding and awareness of what they are truly experiencing. Then following through with a clinical examination gives me a much clearer picture of the best course of treatment. It is a two-way communication that creates the most favorable outcome.

I have been practicing holistic dentistry for more than 40 years. I never feel like I go to work. My work is who I am and what I do; it’s my passion, my hobby and my life. In some ways it’s remarkable that I made this career choice, given the confession I am about to make: growing up I hated going to the dentist. The dentist terrified me. To help get me through my appointments, my mother always promised that I could go to the toy store and pick out a game or puzzle if I would just sit quietly and let the dentist do his work. Luckily, I sailed through my teenage years without a single cavity.

Then, one day, a chance meeting on the bus while traveling to my home town of Peterborough, Ontario, proved fortuitous. I ran into an acquaintance from my neighborhood. We were the same age and both in undergraduate programs at university. He asked me what I was planning to study. At the time I had been thinking very seriously about medicine. He told me that he was going to study dentistry. He had just returned from an open house at the University of Toronto, where he discovered that dentists worked with laughing gas and that there were all kinds of toothbrushes–not just the kind we bought at the drugstore. I was riveted. Perhaps, if I could become a dentist, I could help other people overcome their fear of going to the dentist.

My fascination was further piqued in dental school with the first lecture on the mouth-body connection. Some of the pictures my professors used in their lectures were, quite frankly, shocking. I’d never seen an image on a large screen of a mouth pulled open so wide–showing not just the teeth, but the gum tissue and tongue. Sometimes the mouth was healthy. But often the pictures showed decay and various states of disease. Those images stayed with me. In fact, they became part of my lifelong quest to understand how the body mirrors itself in the mouth and vice versa.

I’ve always been committed to keeping up on the latest scientific advancements. I have continued my education each and every year through seminars and professional development. And I have always sought to share this knowledge with my patients.

I believe my approach to holistic dentistry is an approach that corresponds with many of the same values and principles found in the practice of yoga. Yoga is about expansion and opening ourselves up to a higher power. It is fundamentally about empowerment. Ultimately, I live to work with my patients rather than on them. I aim to give them an opportunity to participate in their treatment plan and healing.

Some would argue that the Golden Age of Dentistry has passed because we have now figured out how to help people preserve their teeth for over a lifetime. However, I believe we’re entering the most exciting period in dentistry yet. Not only have dentists’ responsibilities expanded as we take on a larger role in protecting our patients against the threat of serious illness, but technology such as Invisalign and laser dentistry, has given us the tools to create spectacular smiles. I believe that people ought to be able to keep their teeth until they are 120. But even if you live to be 80 or 90, wouldn’t it be great to say you had the best smile until the last day of your life? What other part of the body can we say is going to be the very best until the end?

In the spirit of empowerment, continuous education and imparting knowledge, I would like to share my passion and what I have learned in more than four decades of practising holistic dentistry. If you have an amazing smile, celebrate and treasure it. And if you have a friend or loved one who doesn’t, please share this book with them. That’s what friends and family do–support and celebrate each other through the journey and school of life. If this book empowers just one person, and helps them release their fear as I was able to do, then it has succeeded.