Thursday, August 11, 2016

#1702: Richard Hansen

Dental woo is an area that we may not have covered in much detail (it’s a rich field, and there is a good resource here), but Richard Hansen is a good example of the kind of pseudoscientific crackpottery and untested and unsupported claims you may encounter in that field. Hansen, together with Andrew Yoon, operates the Laser Dental Wellness Center in Fullerton, California, where he advocates “functional dentistry”, an invention of his own defined as “an approach to dental care that recognizes the complete integration of the mouth with all the functioning systems of the human body, identifying and treating any oral stressor that may adversely affect a patient’s overall health.” Like reflexology, really. Among his unsupported claims:

  • “Mercury and other chemicals used in traditional dental treatments may be very harmful and toxic to the body in general, the mouth in particular, and interfere with many bodily functions.” (Oh, yes, the amalgam scare: The claim is false, of course.)
  • “The mixed metals used in fillings, crowns and bridges produce voltage and electromagnetic fields which may influence brain function and brain rhythm patterns.” A normally reasonable person should already think “hold on”, but Hansen continues with “[a] Vegatest readout showing high voltage levels from metal fillings and crowns in the mouth.” The Vegatest is a quack device without any diagnostic ability whatsoever (apart from detecting gullibility, perhaps).
  • TMJ [temporomandibular joints] issues may negatively affect body structure, alignment, muscles, and our nervous system and can influence the whole body’s well-being.” There is no evidence for such claims either. A pattern emerges.

As for his background, Hansen does have a real degree in dentistry, but “[a]fter graduation, he received training in acupuncture, eastern medicine, and nutrition.” And his efforts are certainly not limited to dental health (though he claims, of course, that dental issues are the roots of many other health issues). Presumably, his book The Key to Ultimate Health (coauthored with lawyer Ellen Brown) outlines his basic view of health issues. It’s a critique of established medical care and endorsement of worthless “alternative” theories and methods, but there is no clear key anywhere, unless it’s his claim about teeth: “Many diseases, once thought to be irreversible, may be alleviated by eliminating energy blocks. Toxins, and ‘focal infections’ arising in the mouth.” He also contributed the second (2002) edition of Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide (2002). Apparently he has also been on “the advisory board of Fitness and Health Magazine” and made numerous TV appearances. It’s a bit harder to assess his claim that “his work in psycho-neuroimmunology and behavioral electroencephalography has led him to help establish the Society for Advancement of Brain Analysis,” since he has, unsurprisingly, published no research in these fields. The same goes for his efforts as Director of the Advanced Health Research Institute, which is “dedicated to research and education of the root causes of illness and the dysfunction of functional systems leading to a predictable process of disease.”

For a brief description of a relatively rich history of legal and financial issues, as well as disciplinary actions, you can go here. One interesting detail: In 2000, Hansen apparently registered an unincorporated nonprofit association called the Comprehensive Health Association (CHA), and for the past years patients who wish to be treated by him or Yoon must join CHA and agree to its bylaws, which for instance state that no member can sue any member or the association without filing a grievance and going through an informal hearing, an administrative mediation, and a formal administrative hearing, all of which would be controlled by CHS’s leaders and costs $750 (though in 2014 the Dental Board of California prohibited Hansen from working for or contracting with his Comprehensive Health Association to provide sevices to California consumers).

Diagnosis: Yeah, you should probably think twice about consulting one. Hansen probably knows a bit about dentistry, but he embellishes that knowledge with apparent commitment to a wide range of unsupported and ridiculous claims and pseudoscience. He should know better.

Note: I got most of the information here from Quackwatch’s entry on Hansen, which also provides further detail.

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