A Holistic Approach to Oral Health: Mark Stites Practices Mercury-Free Dentistry
Mar 01, 2013 12:34PM
By Linda Sechrist
As a young student in elementary school, Mark Stites, DDS, was asked to draw an image of what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitating, he drew a picture of a dentist. “My mom still has that drawing,” says Stites, who lightheartedly jokes that dentistry was his destiny. “When I was growing up, dentists didn’t use Novocain on children, so I’m fairly sure that my burning desire to be one wasn’t the result of pleasant experiences,” he quips. Musing over the source of his aspiration, he notes that the idea could have been positively reinforced when a new family moved to his childhood neighborhood. “My friend’s dad was a dentist. I liked him because he was patient and kind.”
Stites’ career goal never faltered throughout high school, so he already had his heart set on Northwestern University Dental School before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his undergraduate degree. In 1977, with both degrees in hand, Stites moved to Naples with his wife. “We were born and raised in the Midwest and wanted to experience life in Florida for a year. Thirty-seven years and three daughters later, we’re still living in Naples, where I work out of the same office in which I opened my practice,” advises Stites.
A seeker who believes in leaving no stone unturned in his search for the best protocols to help patients, Stites has attended numerous workshops and seminars in order to keep abreast of changes and innovations in his profession. He vividly recalls a 1980s workshop presented by Dr. Hal Huggins that discussed the toxicity of amalgam (mercury) fillings. Huggins, a controversial figure and prolific campaigner against the use of such fillings, had been a practicing dentist who studied and researched mercury and its impact on health.
What Stites learned at the workshop left an indelible impression. “Hal didn’t wait on science to confirm his anecdotal evidence, even when the only alternative to an amalgam filling in the 1980s was a gold casting. Unlike mercury, this noble metal resists corrosion and oxidation in moist conditions. Today, few patients want gold, largely because the cast ceramic alternative looks more natural,” notes Stites, who specializes in mercury-free dentistry.
Although one of Stites’ goals is to teach patients that oral health plays a key role in overall wellness, he largely focuses on prevention. “I believe that prevention is the best answer and have found that when people are knowledgeable about how to take care of their gums and teeth, they accept responsibility for their dental health and are more vigilant regarding oral health and the need for regular dental visits. They also have fewer problems and experience less expense,” he says.
Stites suggests treatment plans that support optimal oral and whole-body health. “Each person’s treatment plan is unique. I consider all options to be part of a whole-person approach to dentistry. How an individual feels about themselves when they chew or smile is very important to their physical and emotional health,” explains Stites. “A smile is the light in the window that lets others know you are confident. I want my patients to feel comfortable with their appearance and powerful when they interact with others.”
Location: 4444 Tamiami Trail N., Ste. 6, Naples. For more information or to make an appointment, call 239-263-2636 or visit DrMarkStites.com.