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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Reinventing the Wheel

Jan 01, 2013 07:19PM ● By Jon D’Auria

Dr. Steven Swidler

Dr. Steven Swidler and his team break the mold of traditional dentistry with remarkable innovations in holistic care and a diverse new wellness center. 

Although the acronym DDS that follows his name stands for doctor of dental surgery, Dr. Steven Swidler, of Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center, in Tucson, is not your typical dentist. While he began his practice as a traditional dentist 40 years ago, the evolution and advancements in his field led him down the less-traveled road of holistic dentistry. After changing his course of study, Swidler has become one of the most well-known holistic/biologic dentists in the country. His innovations and inventions are considered cutting-edge developments in the field. His research on how to keep a tooth alive and the subsequent development of a breakthrough root canal alternative, along with his special mercury-filling removal process and his patented “percussion table”, are all examples of his commitment to the overall health of the patient, rather than just their teeth.

“Holistic dentistry takes into account that there is so much more than the tooth or the tooth problem. The whole body can be affected,” explains Swidler. “There’s a whole circuitry that aligns each tooth with a specific region of our bodies, and it’s truly amazing what we may be overlooking if this understanding is not taken into account. For instance, we consider the individual’s body alignment long before we get into crowns, bridges or other permanent restorations. We’re used to a healthcare system that is really an illness care system, turning people to drugs and surgeries first. That’s just not our practice.”

Walking into Northwest Tucson’s Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center feels more like entering a resort than it does a traditional dental office. The gorgeous desert plains rise into the dramatic mountains of the west, and the barren dirt road that leads to the property seems to populate more creatures than cars or human traffic. Numerous staff members greet patients when they pass through the adobe walls of the main complex. The comfortable and serene interior is drastically different from the usual dental facility. Hot herbal tea or spring water are offered, and state-of-the-art massage chairs invite patients to relax as they pass time in this Southwest Zen setting, located in the wellness center. The atmosphere is not specific to dental only, which was exactly the intention from the beginning.

“Our goal is to make our clients comfortable in their dental experience, and that comes down to all of the little details–from the environment here to the care of our staff and most importantly, to the treatment and service we provide our patients, says Swidler. “We strive toward high-level wellness, which means that a person is running on all cylinders. Depending on the individual, it is not uncommon for us to look at how you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to get an idea of your overall state. If I can figure out where the person is on that spectrum and truly listen to them, then I can treat them as a whole. We work with a client’s doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists or other members of their healthcare team to strive toward their highest good. While dental is a critical piece to the puzzle of overall wellness, for us it’s not just about teeth and gums.

Swidler and his staff use cleaner and more bio-compatible alternatives whenever possible to replace certain standard methods of dentistry that may have a negative impact on health. For example, silver fillings in many people’s mouths are comprised of 50 percent mercury, or roughly the same amount found in a thermometer. Mercury is odorless and vaporizes at room temperature, so this virtually undetectable substance can easily enter the bloodstream when inhaled. Swidler and the dentists at Medicine Wheel offer a very specific method of removing such fillings and replacing them with a non-toxic alternative.

After a breakthrough discovery in 1997, Swidler has been able to provide a potential alternative to the often-dreaded root canal endured by many patients with a non-surgical option where teeth are kept alive. “I was in Japan and I came across this amazing material that contained 70 natural antioxidants that was being used for medicine,” explains Swidler. “After I returned home, a patient came to me and told me her tooth was killing her, but that she didn’t want a root canal. I thought about this material and I cleaned her tooth out, applied this all-natural substance, and it stopped the bleeding, which does not typically happen. Then I put a base and a filling on the tooth, gave her numbers for an oral surgeon and a root canal specialist. I told her to see one of them the next day and call me to let me know how it went.

I didn’t hear from her the next day, so I called her that afternoon. I asked where she went. She told me, “Nowhere,” because it was no longer hurting her. I was so amazed. It’s a food-grade substance and there are no negative side effects from it. It’s as close to “liquid light” as anything I’ve ever found. While very specific circumstances must be in place for this process to be an option, when we use this proprietary method with a tooth during the early stages of a problem, we save over 70 percent of those teeth. Other dental processes only save 1 to 2 percent of teeth in the same condition.

In addition to a total dental health approach, Swidler has expanded Medicine Wheel by adding a wellness center offering natural, holistic treatments that go beyond the typical scope of dentistry. Patients can experience a wide range of services, including Cranial Sacral Therapy, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, hot stone massage, Rosen method bodywork, foot reflexology, acupuncture, moxibustion, acupressure, auricular therapy, aromatherapy, Gua Sha, therapeutic yoga flow and yin yoga classes, healthy cooking classes and eating demonstrations, nutritional consulting and coaching, IntenSati workouts and Swidler’s own percussion table.

“Secretly, I was always waiting for someone to build a wonderful healing center that I could practice dentistry at like other state of-the-art healing and wellness centers overseas, but it never really happened,” says Swidler. “Over time, I’ve worked with many specialists who have had an interest in a facility that merges a lot of different practices together under one roof. The practitioners have to have all the right gifts and a good heart. This peaceful environment allows a person to relax and opens them up to new possibilities within the dental and healthcare fields.

Swidler’s patented percussion table, which has taken well over 10 years to fully develop, is drawing a lot of attention and excitement from doctors and practitioners that want to use this breakthrough technology. The table utilizes vibrational therapy to unwind soft tissue strain patterns and injuries and promote body alignment, and can alter a patient’s physiology.

“If you picture each injury in your body as a twist on a telephone cord, we typically use treatments that take that cord and manually uncurl it with force. The percussion table takes the phone cord and just dangles it effortlessly to uncurl it,” explains Swidler. “It uses frequency and amplitude to take those injuries out of the body faster than anything else that I have seen. It helps alleviate chronic pain by balancing the body as a whole. The percussion table feels like you’re lying down in a sleeper car of an old-time train. If the therapist who puts you on the table feels a tight muscle or impacted area of your body, they’ll tune the frequency and amplitude until that area’s restrictions melt away. The connective tissue injuries start unwinding all over the body and our therapist is able to do much more effective bodywork as they are dealing with much more of the core issues at hand.

While holistic treatments, natural lifestyles and alternative medicines are growing increasingly popular, Swidler remains an innovator and inspiration in his field. With a deeply spiritual outlook on his life and personal practices and a warm, grounded demeanor, he strives to help others through education and support around healthy lifestyle decisions. He and his team of professionals take pride in co-creating a higher level of health, one check-up at a time.

“This is my 40th year of dentistry, but every day is still something new to me,” says Swidler. “When my wife passed away, what saved me was being able to go in with a patient and be entirely present with them. I put all of my focus and intention into each patient. Every relationship is a two-way street. I’m not here to be put on a pedestal, I’m here to help you and in doing so, you help me. I’m going to treat every patient like one of my kids, my friend or parent, and give them the highest care and as much of my energy as possible.”

Medicine Wheel Dental and Wellness Center is located at 4650 W. Jojoba Dr. For more information, call 520-743-7101 or visit