Ongoing Conclusion

There is only one way to get good at anything. You surround yourself with the bad motherfuckers who are doing exactly what you do and force yourself to keep up and inspire each other. Joe Rogan

Today is Waitangi Day, a national Public Holiday here in New Zealand. On the main road through Canterbury a 17 kilometre convoy of protestors, some may call them dissidents, head north, similar processions are occuring around the country as I write. They are supported by many as they pass under bridges, this is, it appears, is in support of the “Canadian Trucker” convoy many miles and an ocean away. It is also a protest against the current COVID management policies of the government in New Zealand. Life here in New Zealand appears to lag behind the progress of the countries COVID 19 deeply affected nearly two years ago. When I say “progress” I mean the current approach they are charting now rather than the success ( or apparent lack of it ) in reducing its initial impact back then. Ironically it seems that New Zealand is now doing the inverse of that. The clarion call of Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is still one of the creeping frequencies of vaccines, predominantly of the Pfizer variety, to which this country appears dominated by and wedded too. The mandated vaccinations policies for the healthcare sector have seen some medical and dental professionals leave or be made redundant for not abiding with these authoritarian policies. Much of the population, I believe, are unwilling participants, unable to be as uncompliant for a variety of reasons, mainly financial, I suspect, including me presently. HOWEVER, what I can do is vote with my feet and get out of Dodge to coin a phrase. Since my last post, whilst reflecting on the present professional journey I am undertaking, it has become clear to me that this is the right thing to do through the experiences of the last two years. I will focus on the record in this essay, the reasons for this decision to depart. New Zealanders are obsessed with “stuff” and their properties. The acquisition of wealth runs deep here. There is innate racism, which I’ve experienced personally on occasion and bigotry that divides this country. “Woke” justice warriors and petty post-modernism are as endemic as Omicron will soon need to be.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington.

Despite this, I’d like to look at what I think I have achieved since my return to New Zealand in September 2019, a few months before the official arrival of the pandemic to these shores. The messages I gleamed for that odyssey was of tangential and specific relevance. Mycology and mushroom cultivation were fruit-bearing destinations. Travelling into territories around apiculture, community gardening, and therapeutic uses of CBD and THC were also productive. These connections were researched, tested, evaluated, reflected upon, and applied into my personal and, in part, practice life. They still belong there. Some of these explorative journeys are still ongoing, being tested, new knowledge and understanding attained. The purpose of wholedentalhealth.com was to highlight these.

One of the most fascinating lessons I’ve absorbed about life is that the struggle is good. Joe Rogan

In a nutshell, how have I changed in these sub three years professionally? Firstly, due to my ageing frame, I am a little slower in my process, with the idea of beginning slightly later and finishing earlier being utilised. This ultimately means I work for four and half days a week, but I hope to make myself more productive. The thirty-minute standard appointment of the UK has only a partial, personally directed presence. Forty-five minutes is the standard. I wonder if it will remain in the UK? Perhaps this will be the norm with post patient fallow time ? I am now far more client-centric, meaning being interested in the whole person, their concerns, expectations and hopes regarding their present oral health status and where they want the appointment(s) to take them. This robust process sets the scene and theme(s) of the moment(s). It reveals how their previous experiences have altered their perception of what to expect. Pain and discomfort are the obvious primary concerns. Reassurance is critical, adapting treatment techniques essential. Most of my clients have a left-field attitude to the dental mainstream narrative. It manifests in the contentious fluoride debate, greater knowledge of their health and well-being, be it breathing, nutrition or cleaning aids and methods. They also bear witness to the growing understanding of self-directed citizen scientist research. The best appointments appear to have more meaningful discourse and the physically ( not chemically ) managed healthy mouth.

The population is made up of four types of people. A small number hunt witches. A large number go along with the hunt. A large number are silent. A tiny number oppose it. The final group, as if by magic, become witches. Bret Weinstein

The main thread of discussion is always about the mouth’s environment, its constituent parts, the hard and soft structures, the ecology that thrives or struggles within it, and the pressures exerted upon it, both positive and negative. Adaptation is the centrepiece of knowledge creation for the motivated client to listen. Some aren’t, which is fair enough. I always take the simple route to evolve the environment into enhanced oral health. Sustaining it follows, with the theme always being a trilogy of care and support. Being from diverse supportive or benign bacterial flora influences the mouth ECOLOGICALLY. Whatever works, the CLIENT plays a crucial role in ENVIRONMENTAL protection. Their breathing, dietary and hygiene behaviours are the key to switching off unnecessary IMMUNOLOGICAL responses, inflammation and pathology. Seeing things in a more whole ( naturally mediated ) perspective and less industrial ( mouthwashes and rinses ) interventions aligns totally with my ecological approach to practice. When I compare how I operate clinically, I am surprised that others see this as fringe, left field even, in nature ( ironically ). This I celebrate, as I see it in my empirical research and observational experiences with mycology and apiculture. Again, the irony is not lost here. I feel we have lost a deep and essential connection, naturally reflected intraorally, something very explicit, intimate even, and connected to us.

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunlight. Thoreau

The beekeeping sojourn is already documented in this publication, but here are a few thoughts resulting from that ongoing process. The apiculturist is at the tender mercies of the weather, the seasons and the bees themselves. The health and well-being of the colonies they tend is paramount. There are many different approaches to this form of husbandry, some based on past historical practice, organic or a contemporary modern process. Our training and initial experiences touched on all canons. Rather like my primary training in dentistry, both as a dental assistant and hygienist, were a mere taster on what you expected would be a baptism of fire after qualification. Beekeeping is similar to that: the sting’s fear soon goes and mistakes and lessons learned until the next one comes into view. It is a constant learning journey. The comparisons between the hive and the mouth are uncanny. A culture, an environment, an evolving real-time theatre of activity, balance, imbalance, interactions and behaviours that determine them. The beekeeper plays a quasi omnipotent role in all these proceedings, always a step behind the action, occasionally interceding to help out to productivity or health of the bee collective.

You can be technically free but not really free. If you’re concerned about being wiped out by a healthcare crisis ( so you are not free to move freely through the world ) or you’re concerned that you may lose your job, you’re not really free. Real liberty, realized liberty, is liberty you can act on. Bret Weinstein

The mycological angle is still about the seasons, the weather and the specific sites where they spread the mycelial tendrils. Knowledge born of my experience gained plays the critical cornerstone of the “gentle hunt”. Awareness of certain trees and the association between them and the vast, intricate fungal root systems beneath our very feet. The lack of knowledge brings about prejudice to the fruiting bodies, some of it well earned. Fear is a powerful force, only research, detailed research, and a degree of courage will win the day and fill your belly with delicious notes and powerful nutritional benefits.  I found the French at one with this dynamic. The chemists were all able to identify edible, sickening or fatal varietals. In its smaller microcosm, the mouth relies on diversity and balance to bear fruit. Yeast and fungi are part of the oral microbiome, vital to ensure and promote a balance favouring health. When out of balance, they play a different game that negatively affects the habitat in which they dwell. Mushrooms will always be a passion for me, like bees, and the ongoing quest for knowledge and experiences will always amaze, surprise, delight and confound me til my dying day.

Gardeners, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to a community. Anne Rover

Community gardening has a personal history stretching back to the early noughties when the last exodus from New Zealand, post-family trauma, saw us needing to grow our own food. This is documented in a separate publication at http://www.offtheplot.wordpress.com. The journey to Boulder, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, provided the contrast between a community-supported agricultural model, where the growers interact with the general public to get an audience for their produce. The strong bond of the community link provides a powerful message to the “big food” industry. These bold, environmentally driven farmers believe in their organic and sustainable approach and positively welcome public engagement as a source of income and, moreover, aligns with their values, principles and purpose. The Portland city farm incorporated the organic and sustainable model with alternative health and well-being improvement therapies, led by complementary and alternative thinking professionals in those disciplines. Both are inextricably mindful of the mantra that food is medicine. Both promote their practices to the public for scrutiny and engagement.

I do smoke, but I don’t go through all this trouble just because I want to make my drug of choice legal. It’s about personal freedom. We should have the right in this country to do what we want. If we don’t hurt anybody. Bob Marley

THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, or Cannabidiol, are by far a more contentious subject matter than shrooms or honey. In this respect, I will be honest and tread wisely, I hope, around this touchy subject. To say I enjoy these naturally occurring chemical substances isn’t strictly correct. I have been, until now, extremely cautious of them. What changed my mind was listening to Sam Harris, Michael Pollen, Paul Stamets and Joe Rogan. All are learned proponents of this contentious product’s medicinal and recreational applications. Chronic pain and poor sleep hygiene have dogged my life and  partner Toni more so. A past journey to Oregon and Washington State where it is legal and for sale over the counter in a well-controlled and regulated environment set the scene for more reseacrh in the therapeutic context. Indeed, our good friend Dan, from the USA, was allowed by prescription from a doctor to grow his own, being allowed a certain amount to not make it a nefarious business on the side. This was a prescription born of trauma and well-being issues resulting from military combat in the Gulf and Afghanistan. In certain more liberal States, the Americans had a whole approach to treating their veterans who suffer from post-traumatic disorders with a menu of choice. With the troubles that prevail regarding drug abuse and overuse, this appears to be a step forward as an alternative therapeutic, more natural drug of choice.

Upon my return to New Zealand, I found the experience compelling and was encouraged to see the incumbent government encourage the populous to vote in a referendum on this matter. I hoped that positive engagement would be substantial, considering the amount of cannabis grown illegally here. Its widespread use, perceived criminality, endless petty prosecutions and pursuit of those supplying or using it is a dividing subject. If it were to be legalised, in the context of the Canadian or US State model, it may more than likely bring a reduction in the policing of a plant, profit gained from its production and supply, with quality overcoming the dangerous synthetic varietals causing concern.

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. Ghandi

Step in politicians, the church and the medical establishment to divert the attention from its legalised benefits to scare the population into seeking assisted suicide above chronic pain relief and sleep support after the vote was counted. This country and its lame-ass politicians never cease to surprise me, even today with COVID. When it comes to mandating a population for experimental vaccines with little or no long term research in efficacy or potential side effects, the opportunity to ease the housing crisis with a capital gains tax that generates income for social housing, taking the homeless off the streets and helping those in pain beyond “pill-popping” convention medicine, they, in my humble opinion, have failed miserably.

Quin Dental was founded on the philosophy of providing the very best natural dental care for the whole family. We believe in preventative care with a minimal intervention approach. We call this our “natural care philosophy”. Gerry Quin, Nelson.

Working in a mixed general and orthodontic/orthotropic practice has seen the last part of the clinical jigsaw puzzle found and correctly placed into the cannon of my professional life. I’m glad I found it. Being a Dental Hygienist in the workplace environment has allowed me, with the grace of my clinical lead and amazing colleagues, the scope and breadth to explore a more accurate, more personal evolution in my approach to dental health promotion and disease prevention. The research undertaken in wholedentalhealth.com adventure enhanced working at Quin Dental and my clinical collaborators and exemplars. Their professional, cultural and social ideologies have resonated with me, and I feel I am a better individual, team player, clinician and person for it.

The greatness of community is most accurately measured by the compassionate action of its members. Coretta Scott King

What I have found hard to assimilate of late is the draconian vaccination mandating dentistry with coercion, intimidation and what I believe to be a one size fits all policy. I am not anti-vax, far from it. I am pro-choice and pro personal responsibility. It has to be said that when one has a co-morbidity or more, chronic health conditions that align with increased risk or of a certain age even, that “tough” governmental love needs to be applied, with a degree of choice, to those. Many, I am sure, would be willing to oblige and seek protection, albeit to what extent I would be able to comment further. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and choices, this is the point of our forefathers and mothers struggle to improve their and the future quality of life for their progeny. In this regard, I am flabbergasted by the lack of personal responsibility advocated by those in power. Why are they not listening to more progressively-minded health experts regarding well-being, exercise, decent nutrition, supplementation where appropriate, reducing co-morbidity risk, and encouraging or endorsing behaviours that promote a less enhanced response to COVID infection? The one size ( or jab ) fits all policy cannot apply now. What are the costs, both financially and socially, of this?

I am appalled how ill-prepared we were for this, but more so that moderate and deeply concerned experts in medical and biological sciences, well-intentioned, advocating for alternative approaches, have been cancelled into silence as a consequence. Are we, who live in a free society, too damn lazy to understand alternative perspectives and knowledge? Are we confident that those wielding the vaccines at and into us know of their actual long term outcomes and efficacy? It appears that as the next vaccine boosters are delivered with three-month intervals, what next? I am highly suspicious now that a recipe based upon the initial Wuhan strain hasn’t evolved as quickly as nature. We appear to be behind the curve, which seems now to be running away from us. Choice and innovative new vaccines must now follow, especially those deemed at risk.

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I am returning, consequently, to the UK in June. The decision is made, and I regret nothing. I will hold dear those experiences and memories, the people I value and their part in my improvement and growth. All that is to do now is to register, which is underway, gain what I can from the last four months here and depart amicably. New Zealand isn’t all bad, far from it, but I feel it has a hollow centre. The beating heart that once resounded is weaker than ever as those who plunder its reputation of fairness and equality for profit, and personal gain continue regardless of the long term cost. A so-called Labour government continue to reside over the out-of-control housing and rental costs, so poorly planned affordable housing. They continue to instigate further social engineering to divide this country on racial lines and expect its population to disregard their freedom of personal agency for want of a decently funded and prepared health system. Its phoney leadership found its muse with the “team of 5 million” and “kindness” slogans, but they are nowhere to be seen now. Their grim determination to see through their plans to continue with the vaccine at all costs and exclude those who don’t comply is a place I will not tread any further.

If you want others to be happy practice compassion, if you want to be happy practice compassion. Dalai Lama

As a modern civilised society, we need to know we can trust those who command our obedience. Where I am going to, it appears, has learned hard-won lessons, but in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, these are yet to be heeded. Maybe the relative hardship of Britain’s COVID experiences has taught its majority leadership not to go where the new world is now treading carelessly. That’s where I will be, live, grow old, and prosper.

Ultimately, well-intended and meaningful words frame this project’s journey. They are hard-won and easily lost. The most precious gem is freedom. Freedom combined with expression of one’s personal truth and values, whatever that may be and finally, community, the emotional and/or physical structure where you find and give support to those in your tribe is epitomised within wholedentalhealth.com. Where are the ripe, brightly lit uplands of my learning future? It belongs where those crazy words abide. I want to continue freely expressing my opinions and thoughts that link my professional learning to my personal values. I desire community, the home of those who seek similar truths and have experiences to share. This I will pursue in the UK, and in particular, born of an uncanny expectation of a need to understand the benefits of nasal breathing and the importance of tongue tone and behaviour in those who mouth breath and need arch expansion to correct an orthodontic malalignment. I am toying with the idea of video blogging, a future project that combines all my interests, both personal and professional. Not just in words, capturing the essence of a subject is hard for me, but visually which will add a new dimension, appealing to my inner creative and curious self. This will be how I promote my professional value system in the form of an unconventional but unique efolio, expressed in words in a resume and cover letter to prospective employers. The future is whole, whole dental health.

Success is completion. Success is being able to complete what we set out to do. Each individual action, each specific step, each desired experience whether a big project or a very small errand. Susan Collins

A Year to the Day 02 September 2020, a Reflection on a Radical Year. September 2019 – August 2020.

Roman Bridge, Provence, Still Standing

March the 23rd, is a day I will never forget. I thought, initially, it would be the last day I practised dental hygiene and strangely, it felt strangely easy on me. After nearly 32 years I was prepared and almost willing to lay down my scalers and hang up my latex free gloves for good. I had been destined to travel to Melbourne, the following week, to do a four day introductory course in myofacial function therapy. This was in jeopardy due to a rapidly unfolding global drama and the spread of COVID 19. This culminated on that Monday, the aforementioned 23rd, when the whole of dentistry, less emergency care, was stood down by the Ministry of Health. That afternoon a final meeting was held at the practice, distances between and masks provided, for each and every one of us, all uncertain of the future and more besides. That very day too, I witnessed something I’d never have considering seeing since my days in East Berlin and Moscow in the heady days of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The beginning of the queue outside food stores had begun. A fit elderly lady on a bike, horrified at the very sight of it, perhaps with memories of her past experiences in leaner times, stopped and hurled abuse at those in the queue. Her ardour was embarrassingly silenced when she fell off her bike, at which point I, observing from a distance, decided enough was enough and cycled home, supplies in hand.

A mere six months before I had returned to New Zealand from a long learning break and started a new adventure in dental health. I have worked in virtually every conceivable dental health scenario except orthodontics. This was about to change with my introduction to orthotropics and orthodontics with Quin Dental in Nelson. My ignorance was blinding, I had hoped to spend a few days observing the practice but the immense jetlag and seasonal adjustment had the better of me as I slowly embarked on the journey of getting to know the intricacies of a new professional landscape, a new uniform, matching clinical footwear and a peculiar personal learning environment to navigate.

The previous weeks had deeply affected me and had shed light upon my less than ideal sustainable approach, and carbon footprint from the previous 9 weeks travel. We decided to stay with one vehicle as we lived near to our places, purchased Ebikes to make future journeys less reliant on the remaining car and began to dig the garden for our vegetable futures. Loaf making, with sourdough yeast from a friend, and continually nurtured by us, became a weekly event. The experiences and experimentation with CBD in the States drew my partner to its legal prescription and use to help her chronic pain.  I had also decided that at some point I would reduce my working week to 4 days, so as to be able to focus on completing this project. The best laid plans of mice and men rings an load accord and this only happened the week I was stood down in March, which transpired to be several weeks in fact and much catching up with it was mercifully achieved.

My annoyance and regular triggering by the inconsistent and arrogant responses and attitudes of my governing council to the needs of the profession grew stronger as the COVID days went by. This was enhanced by the unwillingness to recognise the fear and uncertainty that registered professionals felt at that telling moment, the significant reduction in income and the demand to pay registration or be deregistered. This was further inflamed by what I suspected would happen with the professional association being inept and unsupportive to their members. Me not being one (thankfully) but I was witness to the enraged voices and rants of those who were via social media. A pathetically drafted and grammatically piss poor effort of a letter to the regulatory establishment was the last straw and I decided that was it, and my time was officially now “up’ so to speak.

To be honest I can imagine this being the case for many people in a similar state of mind to me. My headspace was somewhat fragile, a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder, from past events. I had spent many years trying to suppress and manage it without professional help, regular journeys with numbing effects to dull the emotional pain which is thankfully being properly addressed now as I write. My decision making had been somewhat reactive and primed I immediately went about considering my options beyond dentistry. I found a degree nursing course locally and applied, surprisingly being rapidly accepted. This was a relief and allowed me the time to contemplate where the future would go and where it would take me, or I take it. It was put to the back of my head and when the alert levels allowed I returned to clinical practice, unsure of what the PPE requirements were despite advice that seemed logical, for once. Everyone had a different interpretation of it, some wore masks everywhere in the clinic, others only in the surgeries and so on.

I was also uncertain how many clients would attend, still numbed and fearful of the risk of COVID but for 102 days New Zealand registered no community spread despite returning citizens and residents, and Trumps apoplectic rantings about this diminutive country’s record on controlling COVID. I continue to treat clients in a as near as normal environment as before. This has been reassuring but the threat of the looming recession and further community spread is upmost in my rear view mirror. I continue as before clinically and will continue to do so, with an addition of another clinical day elsewhere in Nelson to make the total to 4 days a week.

I have also made a decision to withdraw my interest in general nursing, a decision based upon not wanting to accumulate addition debt from study as well as incur a lack of income through not working. Being 55 years of age, a decade or so way from retirement refocused my priorities and changed my decision. Feeling better mentally and emotionally contributed to this move too.

Possibly the biggest decisions I’ve made within this year has come from two sources. Experiences with bee keeping and study of the benefits of honey and being asked to observe a mentor an online learning portal of friends have reframed my thought processes. The learning hub has made me realise I’m not alone with tough decisions, as over half the course have decided to change their present employment in dentistry and go in different directions, being affected as was I, by the COVID crisis. It also taught me to be more lateral in my future career thinking within dentistry, something that is still ongoing but has got the grey matter stoked. Watch this space with novel and enterprising ideas and action in the months and years to come.  The other has me immediately engaged, and I begin my Certificate in Apiculture tomorrow. It directly links to my other passion, which I’m less engaged with in this country, that of mycology and free food gathering. Apiculture and foraging are great inquiring hobbies which may also lead to income generation, potential teaching and well-being in the future , so I’m very excited.

Finally, professionally where do I go from here? As I have discussed previously I had intended to do a myofacial therapy course abroad. This is impossible now but a virtual learning programme is being constructed soon and at my annual review I will ask to be put on it. Virtual learning is no stranger to me and the thought of using my skills and experience as a dental hygienist align with this perfectly. It also makes me think that perhaps the future of the dental hygienist, long considered redundant with the advent of the multi-disciplined hygiene therapist, isn’t quite an endangered a species as once I thought. The additional knowledge can be used with orthotropics, sleep disorders, mouth breathing issues and perhaps too, myofacial pain. The thought of getting wise counsel and guidance within the workplace from experts is a golden opportunity to be grasped. This may also bear future fruit with consultancy and mentoring too.

The future still appears to be uncertain, once essential international airline pilots, once criss crossing the skies above us are now filling food store shelves. The trick appears to be to make yourself professional self relevant and essential, consider where the opportunities may lie, deal with one’s demons, as in my case, and not consider yourself past it beyond the age of 55. Continue to plan for and be aware and mindful of the opportunities that still may prevail. I wish you all good luck and the best for your clinical and professional futures as I sign off from this year of discovery, thank you all so much for sharing my journey. Stay well and smile.

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