Legendary actor Dick Van Dyke says he has solved a medical mystery that has baffled him and his doctors for years. The cause of pounding headaches that have plagued him for seven years are his titanium dental implants, he says.
Fans and friends of the 87-year-old star had been concerned about his health ever since he canceled a public appearance in April and announced that he was fatigued and suffered from insomnia as a result of an undiagnosed neurological disorder.
Van Dyke was so desperate that he appealed for help from his fans through Twitter. "My head bangs every time I lay down," he said. "I've had every test come back that I'm perfectly healthy. Anybody got any ideas?"
The beloved star of TV's The Dick Van Dyke Show and the movie Mary Poppins added, "It's been going on for seven years. I've had every test you can think of, including an MRI and spinal tap."
Van Dyke took to Twitter again to announce that the source of his mystery illness had been discovered — titanium dental implants. "It seems that my titanium dental implants are the cause of my head pounding," he Tweeted. "Has anyone else experienced this?" he asked. "Thanks for all your replies."
Dental implants replace damaged or missing teeth. The "roots," which are usually made from titanium, are placed within the jawbone.
Dr. David Brownstein, holistic doctor and author of Dr. Brownstein's Natural Way to Health newsletter, says that problems with dental implants often cause patients to go from doctor to doctor for years without finding a solution. "As long as there's no infection, no one considers the implants as the source of the patient's problems," he tells Newsmax Health.
There are tests for titanium allergies, says Dr. Brownstein, but that doesn't explain what happened to Dick Van Dyke.
"Titanium is metal and it creates kind of a lightning rod in the head," he said. "It doesn't happen to everyone, and most doctors don't look for it. Most people have other metals in their mouths, like fillings, and saliva combines with the metal to give a battery-like effect.
"Any metal can do this, and it can be a big problem," he says. "I just had a patient with issues similar to Van Dyke's — headaches and facial pain that no one could identify."
Although titanium is generally considered safe, one study showed that patients had severe health problems after receiving dental implants. Medical issues included neurological problems, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Once the implants were removed, the patients' health improved dramatically.
Studies have also found that implanted titanium can cause abnormal cells to form, which could precede the beginning of oral cancer. Two articles published in the Journal of the American Dental Association indicated that dental implants either caused or aggravated oral cancers.
"There's no easy answer," Dr. Brownstein says. "If a patient has a hole in his mouth, his bite is going to be compromised. The dentist is going to have to do something to fix that space and most of the answers involve some kind of metal.
"I don't advise people not to have dental implants," he says. "I am just cautious and say that if problems develop, the implants should be considered as a possible cause."
Zirconium dental implants, which use high-impact ceramic (zirconium oxide), are more compatible with the human body and may be a safer choice. "Zirconium is an inert metal, and zirconium implants are becoming more widely available in this country," says Dr. Brownstein.
"I think zirconium would be a better choice than titanium.
"Putting any type of metal in the mouth can disrupt the electrical activity and result in a lot of problems," says Dr. Brownstein. "This includes fillings, root canals, caps, bridges, and implants.
"So, if you are suffering and not getting any answers, fillings, root canals, and implants should be considered as possibly upsetting the electrical activity of the head and neck causing headaches, brain fog, and other symptoms people don't ordinarily connect with dental implants."
Related: Dick Van Dyke Undergoes Tests for "Cranial Throbbing"