Dr. David Villarreal’s “Holistic Dentistry:” Full of Holes?

Screenshot of the "BioDental Healing" website showing the "Meridian Tooth Chart".
Screenshot of the “BioDental Healing” website showing the “Meridian Tooth Chart”

I get a lot of e-mails from publicists offering suggestions for articles and interviews with their clients. I quickly delete most of them, but one recently caught my eye. It said that patients travel from as far as Europe and Africa to have California “holistic dentist” Dr. David Villarreal remove the old silver fillings that are damaging their health. He has removed 20,000 of them in his 30-year career; removing fillings accounts for 75% of his practice. It said your dental fillings could be killing you – and not just the mercury in your “silver” fillings. Dr. Villarreal says that filling materials that are not compatible with your particular body chemistry can suppress immune responses, leading to a host of illnesses from frequent colds to autoimmune diseases to far worse conditions. He performs a blood compatibility evaluation to pick the right material for your body. He picks the right composite to maintain optimum health and help heal the immune system.

He says amalgam fillings are 50% mercury, the most toxic non-radioactive element on earth, more toxic than lead, arsenic or cadmium. He says heavy metal poisoning has been linked to MS, ALS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus, Parkinson’s, arthritis and many other autoimmune diseases. He says most European countries banned mercury fillings almost 40 years ago.

I’d heard similar criticisms of amalgam fillings before, but what really caught my attention was the description of his filling removal process. He wears special protective gear including a gas mask, and uses a special suction system, an ionizer in the room, and a mercury separator to ensure none gets into water systems or oceans. He drapes the patient, provides protective eyewear, and uses extra protective covering in the patient’s mouth. In addition to all that, a naturopathic doctor is on hand to administer intravenous vitamin C in order to help pull the heavy metals out of the system so they can exit the body as waste. This offsets any possible negative health consequences or withdrawal symptoms that may arise from the extraction of the heavy metals from the system. He practices “ozone dentistry,” purifying and sterilizing the tooth so it can be filled with a more healthful alternative. He says his patients report back that they have seen significant overall health benefits and often the elimination of specific conditions that they didn’t perceive were related to their teeth at all.

More information from his website

I didn’t know of any scientific evidence that would support his beliefs and practice methods. I went to his website, BioDental Healing, hoping to find out more. I didn’t find even a shred of evidence there. But I did find a few other things.

I found that he is a disciple of the late Hal Huggins, a notorious crusader against mercury fillings and root canals who believed mercury amalgams were responsible for a wide variety of ills (from mononucleosis to leukemia) and made extravagant claims for his methods (he got wheelchair-bound MS patients up and walking by fixing their teeth!). Huggins lost his license for gross negligence and the use of unnecessary and unproven procedures.

I found that he provides nutritional counseling.

I found that his clinic offers acupressure massage and other massage therapies to “help heal the disharmonies between internal organs and blockage to the circulation of Chi, or energy, through meridians.”

I found that he is the founder and formulator of an all-natural whitening toothpaste and mouth rinse line, called Estrella (the Spanish word for star).

The Meridian Tooth Chart

And then I found something that almost made me fall out of my chair: the Meridian Tooth Chart on his website. It explains that every tooth is related to an acupuncture meridian, which is connected to other parts of the body through an “energy highway.” This connection “is so apparent that an experienced dentist can often assess your overall health and wellness by reviewing your dental condition. If a person has a weak internal organ, the condition of the associated meridian tooth could make it considerably more problematic.”

The chart has two interactive features:

Click on an organ, for example the pancreas, and you will learn that it is related to teeth 2,3,5,12,21,22,27, 28, and 29. The “organ” bile ducts is related to teeth 11 and 22.

Click on a tooth, say the right front incisor, and you will see that it is related to:

  • Specific organs: kidneys, bladder, urogenital
  • Glands: pineal and epididymis (Is the epididymis a gland?)
  • Spine and spinal cord segments: L2,3, S3,4,5, coccyx
  • Sense organs: frontal sinus (Are the sinuses sense organs?)
  • Musculature: lower extremities
  • Joints: foot, sacrum and coccyx, knee (posterior)
  • Other relationships: conceptual connections, mental dynamics, vitality, hormonal capacity, emotional disturbances, impotence, sterility, creative genetic world (what do you suppose that means?), fear, sadness, instability, kidney functions, anger, depression, and moodiness.

Incidentally, an article on the DentalWatch website highlights the absurdity of these meridian charts. The author found more than 50 different versions on the Internet.

How do they know?

I wondered how the developers of the Meridian Tooth Chart figured out all those relationships. I e-mailed the BioDental Healing website to inquire. And I also asked them to identify some of the “many European countries” that supposedly banned mercury fillings 40 years ago. My own understanding, from information I found on the Internet, is that they are still in use throughout Europe. A European commission only very recently recommended phasing them out and suggested that a ban would be one way to reduce total environmental mercury exposure. Subsequently two countries, Norway and Sweden, introduced legislation that would ban mercury fillings, but that was for environmental reasons rather than because of any danger to patients from fillings.

They answered my questions about meridians with a link to a PDF filled with discussions of “energy”, ancient Chinese wisdom, and the activities of Reinhard Voll, a German doctor and engineer known for his development of Electroacupunture of Voll (the basis of a number of bogus devices that I have written about previously). To the skeptical eye, it is self-explanatory. It doesn’t even mention teeth!

Regarding the banning of mercury amalgams, they sent two articles, one a press release, the second an article from the notoriously unreliable Mercola.com. These sources say mercury fillings were banned in three (not “most”) European countries in 2008 (not 40 years ago).

I kept trying to pin them down. They finally admitted the 40 year claim was wrong; they said they were checking with their publicist as to why that claim was released and would get it re-worded to “a few countries.” My requests for information about the meridian tooth chart were first answered by links to copies of the chart on other websites, and eventually they admitted that there was nothing “scientific” about the meridian tooth chart but denied that they had ever claimed there was. Their excuse:

Our office has been careful to state that it is an alternative point of view and it is not scientific nor do we aim that it is a diagnostic tool. I have overheard the dentist state that the chart is a concept based on traditional Chinese acupuncture points.


One undeniably true statement on the BioDental Healing website is “we practice a type of unconventional dentistry.” Conventional dentistry is conventional for a very good reason: scientific evidence is the best guide to reality. Quackwatch recommends “Stay Away from ‘Holistic’ and ‘Biological’ Dentists.” I do too. I’m not going to provide a detailed critique of Dr. Villarreal’s beliefs and practices, because I would have to bite my tongue into bloody shreds to talk about it without using words I might regret. I think BioDental’s own words speak volumes, and I will leave it to my readers to check out the evidence for themselves.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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