Community Spotlight: A Dentist That Considers the Whole Body

By Sandra Yeyati, editor NA Austin

Originally published in Natural Awakenings Austin, 2013

Joan Sefcik DDSJoan Sefcik, DDS, decided to be a dentist in seventh grade, when a retainer straightened her teeth and she could smile again.

“I always liked to do artistic things and work with my hands, and it seemed like a good profession,” she says. Her dentist, Dr. George Parma, was a family friend. He offered encouragement when she expressed an interest in his profession, inviting her to watch him work with patients.

By the time she graduated high school, Sefcik was highly motivated. “When I went to college, I took everything I could as fast as I could to get into dental school early. I was the youngest student in my class,” she says. After graduating in 1985 from the University of Texas Health Science Center, in San Antonio, Sefcik practiced conventional dentistry for nine years in dental practices in Dallas, Arlington and Galveston. She branched out on her own in 1994, opening her office in Austin, where she practiced conventional dentistry the first two years.

In 1996, another influential figure entered the picture. Dr. Bob Hoffman, who was performing chelation therapy, a highly controversial procedure in those days, encouraged Sefcik to look into mercury toxicity. After being tested, she was surprised to see how mercury-toxic she was. Sefcik soon learned that even dentists that do not perform mercury removals are in danger. “Just working with patients who have mercury fillings is toxic to them. They’re drilling on old mercury fillings, and once you drill on them, it turns into a vapor and you’re inhaling it. The average dentist has a thousand times more mercury in their pituitary gland than the average person. That’s scary.”

So began the transformation of Sefcik’s dental practice and a dedication to holistic methods that continues to this day. “Mercury is not bound in our filling like they used to tell us,” she says. “The vapors are very toxic. Every time you swallow, you’re getting a little bit in your system, and it inflames your stomach. Now we know inflammation is the root cause of almost all disease.”

These days, Sefcik looks at the whole picture when treating her patients. “Holistic, or biological, dentistry starts from the principle that the mouth reflects what’s going on in the body and the body reflects what’s going on in the mouth,” she says. Her approach is to clean the patient’s mouth as much as possible so that it doesn’t affect the rest of the body. This includes the removal of bad metals like mercury, nickel and titanium, and the elimination of infections from old extractions or root canals. “Once these items are addressed, the body can begin to heal,” she says.

The most rewarding aspect of Sefcik’s practice is when patients heal from illnesses after she has cleaned up their mouths. “We’ve had some amazing recoveries,” she says. After Sefcik removed large mercury fillings from one particularly memorable patient, the woman exclaimed, “I can see again, I can see again!”

Sefcik explains, “That’s a galvanic reaction. The mercury that I took out was electrically short-circuiting the nerve to her eye.” According to Sefcik, these heavy metals have a wide array of effects on people. She sees patients that are not well with autoimmune issues, multiple sclerosis, cancer and diabetes gradually improve after the metals have been removed.

Although mercury removal is a risky procedure, Sefcik and her assistants attempt to protect everyone as much as possible. “We cover the patients and put them on oxygen. We run air cleaners. My assistant and I both wear special masks to avoid being exposed as well, and we treat our patients with charcoal after the procedures.”

There is no official training for this in dental school. A holistic specialty is not recognized, so dentists must rely on organizations like the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM), the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology and the Holistic Dental Association to learn about the latest developments and practices. Sefcik is very involved in such organizations. Next year, she will begin a two-year term as president of the IABDM and plans to focus on getting younger dentists to come to the meetings, so that they can learn about the holistic view of things.

Ultimately, Sefcik believes in continuing education. “I’m always learning new things. I use homeopathics and different modalities in the office. We use ozone and essential oils. I’m always educating myself in those areas and in nutrition. That’s ongoing for me.”