World-Class Holistic Dentistry, Tucson Style: Medicine Wheel



Steven Swidler and the Medicine Wheel Dental Office

When we go to the dentist, we expect a friendly staff, the latest in technology and something to ease the pain we might experience. What we don’t expect is a serene setting in the desert, plus the opportunity to go to yoga, get a massage or to take a course on mindfulness. Dr. Steven Swidler, DDS is not the typical dentist, and offers all of this and more at Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center.

Founder of Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center, Swidler is well known as a teacher, presenter and author in holistic dentistry. He creates a calming and healing environment at his facility, which is nestled in the Tucson Mountains. Swidler is passionate about personalized individual care and his goal is to treat his patients in the most healthy, caring, holistic way possible. “Good health requires not only good oral health, but also balancing many other related factors,” he emphasizes.

Swidler has an affinity for art, as well as science. “I remember in college being perplexed, because I loved biology as well as arts and crafts,” he recalls. Reluctant to go into a field where a person’s life hangs in the balance, he rejected the idea of medical school and instead chose dentistry as a career with a satisfying blend of science and art.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois and was a graduate of the University of Illinois Dental School in Chicago in 1972. After two years of clinical and private practice in Chicago, Swidler relocated to Tucson in 1974. Here, he entered a deeply committed educational direction to become a pioneer in holistic and integrative approaches.

Swidler’s practice encompasses a wide variety of services, including preventative dental treatment and education; general and cosmetic dentistry (veneers, shaping, bonding, tooth colored fillings); the latest in biocompatible dental materials (with blood tests available to test for and individual’s sensitivity to specific materials); safe protocols for mercury amalgams (silver fillings) removal; natural treatments to avoid root canals; noninvasive laser/periodontal gum treatment; ozone for its pain relief and antibacterial and antiviral properties; his signature non-surgical TMJ programs to relieve headaches, neck aches, jaw, knee, shoulder, hip and back pain; as well as craniosacral therapy, massage, yoga, acupuncture and more.

Practice Philosophy

As an oral health doctor, Swidler takes into account that total health is greater than the sum of its parts, and he seeks to address patients’ health accordingly. He is a pioneer in holistic dentistry, which is focused on the highest standard of patient care, with an emphasis on total body wellness. In sync with his integrative approach, Dr. Andrew Weil is an esteemed patient of Swidler.

Emphasizing the use of biocompatible dental materials, Swidler employs a fantastic team which offers an integrative approach and an array of treatments such as: craniosacral therapy, massage, physical therapy, visceral release work, identifying body use and misuse patterns, yoga, acupuncture and more. His team is dedicated to creating relief, freedom from suffering and the opportunity for wellness by choosing to be present with intelligent, supportive and compassionate care.

Safe Mercury Filling Removal

Most people do not realize that their “silver” fillings are 50 percent mercury—the most toxic nonradioactive neurotoxin commonly known today. Swidler emphasizes that replacing failing silver amalgam fillings must be done with specific protocols to avoid patient and practitioner exposure. Swidler reiterates there is plenty of information out there on the controversies behind these types of fillings, and cautions that unsafe removal of them can release toxic mercury vapor and debris.

To accomplish safe removal, his patients breathe oxygen during the procedure to avoid the mercury vapor exposure in front of the mouth. He utilizes specific hazmat-type removal protocols, and Swidler and his assistant use mercury vapor masks during the procedure. The patient uses a chelating rinse and vitamin C prior to starting. The mouth is then draped and protected from removal grindings and toxic fragments. “Everything is done to protect the patient and to minimize everyone’s risk of exposure,” adds Swidler.

Root Canal Prevention

A root canal tooth is a dead tooth. Nowhere else in medicine do we leave a dead part in the body. Within a tooth are thousands of microtubules along the root surfaces which can harbor bacteria and viruses. Born out of his commitment to safe, natural treatments, Swidler developed a procedure that is comprised of all-natural ingredients, based on herbs and antioxidants that are used with traditional dental materials. This procedure can be used if the tooth has not died and is still responsive to anesthetic.

“We have been able to save [keep alive] a huge percentage of teeth treated that even had exposed nerves, by using this innovative approach clinically for over 20 years. No one has been able to keep more teeth alive—especially with very deep decay or nerve exposures,” says Swidler. “When we can’t save a tooth, we then discuss the options, which include a root canal, and our patients make this decision based on what route they want to take. We are about choice.” 

TMJ and Jaw Dysfunction

According to Swidler, the position of the jaw and bite are foundational to stabilizing body alignment, and therefore body function. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) symptoms include jaw pain, neck pain, clicking/popping of the jaw, clenching, grinding and more. TMJ problems can also affect breathing and the supply of oxygen to the body.

Swidler has combined dentistry with cranial osteopathy to free the movement of the 29 cranial bones—a paradigm shift in the understanding and treatment of TMJ—and align the body/jaw. He can stabilize the condition by using appliances and other treatments to adjust the jaw and bite. “The jaw joint position is like adjusting the tuner on a radio. To be right on the station is essential for good signaling, instead of experiencing a lot of static being a station off,” explains Swidler.

Swidler also says that the jaw, cranial base and pelvis are actually physiologically connected. “The proper alignment of the jaw can actually level uneven hips,” he says. The clinical studies and published papers Swidler has conducted or reviewed, reveal that repositioning the jaw levels uneven hips in 80 to 90 percent of the 2,000-plus patients he has evaluated. With holistic dental, integrative treatments and self-care, he has been able to reduce or eliminate pain and restrictions in the jaw and body at a high rate.

Bodywork and Wellness

Medicine Wheel offers a wellness center for its patients. The Southwest Zen vibes and spacious, peaceful ambiance of the wellness center make it a perfect place for mindfulness, work and play.

The famous Percussion Table, invented by Swidler, is a percussive device based on the concept of the original Percussion Hammer as taught by Dr. Robert Fulford, D.O. Feeling like you are lying down on an old-time train when it is turned on, Swidler’s table is nicknamed the “Re-Orient Express” because it unwinds and releases old injury patterns at a rate never previously achieved.

Craniosacral therapy and fascial release work are also available to ease tensions deep in the body to relieve tissue pulls, pain and dysfunction, compensations and to improve whole-body health and performance. Using a soft touch, the practitioner releases restrictions in the tissues that surround the central nervous system and that connect throughout the body. Any distortions or compensations can limit full function and range of motion.

Dental Hygiene

Dentistry plays a huge role in our overall health. For instance, periodontal disease can cause neurological problems and even heart infections because of bacteria in the mouth. Today, this is common knowledge that should not be ignored.

“You don’t have to floss all your teeth—just the ones you want to keep,” Swidler quips. He suggests regularly seeing a dental professional and having a solid homecare regimen. He likes the Hydro Floss, plus dental floss and a Sonicare DiamondClean electric toothbrush. Swidler also recommends and has available to his patients refreshing fluoride-free natural whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes, which use essential oils with other natural ingredients to keep teeth clean.

This overview provides a look into Swidler’s unique approach to dentistry and a glimpse into his philosophy of life. If you’re looking for a holistic, Zen dentist—a “Zentist with a whole-body approach”—then now is the time to take the next step and contact him for a consultation.

Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center is located at 4650 W. Jojoba Dr., in Tucson. Connect with Dr. Steven Swidler at 520-743-7101 or MedicineWheelDental.com. See ad, back cover.

Suzie Agrillo is a freelance writer in Tucson and a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings Magazine. She focuses her writing on the arts, inspirational people and the human connection.

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