geir, olsen, Norway, doctor, orthodontist

Dr. Geir Olsen (Norway): Harsh kindness with the flamenko soul (interview)

This amazing person without any ego is one of the best TMD doctors in the North of Europe, who works not far from the Oslo. What is the peculiarity of the Norwegian character, how does develop the situation with the use of the apparatus ALF and braces, what should expect patients on TMD treatment, what is duende, and what stereotypes about our country have Norwegians — all this Dr. Geir tells us in this exclusive interview for our blog.

— Dr. Geir, because of your love to all the latest inventions, some of your patients in Internet call you «Mr. Gadget». It’s really funny, but still, how right are they?

Mr. Gadget, never heard that one. They are actually very wrong because when it comes to TMD treatment it is the underlying understanding that is important. It is easy to focus on the tools, but more important to see healing as a prosess. This means that when it comes to the ALF philosophy the oromyofascial exercises to retrain the tongue and lip function, and a good
ostheopath to support the process, is a vital part, the patient being the most important. It takes very strong motivation from the patient to achieve the desired end result because of all the work, so this treatment is not for everybody. The «gadgets» are there to support and help the patient to achieve correct function, enough oral volume and healthy function in the TMJ, but I have seen patients who has healed themselves with OMT only. Another important aspect of strengthening the healing process is nutrition and pshycological vulnarabillities.

— Russians joking that “if to add to a pedantic German some spirituality or to let a Russian Siberian learn etiquette — it will be a Norwegian”. So we define the character of Norwegian as “harsh kindness”. Is it about you?

I love Russians and that you have jokes about us. I find the Siberian with etiquette the most precise. Remember we used to be at the perifery of world events and never had a feudal society, so the norwegian character if you can generalise is paradoxically very communal like all tribal societies, and at the same time EXTREMELY selfreliant and freedom loving.
My fathers mother grew up on a tiny ilet on the northern coast. Her parents and sikling were the only ones living there. There were many families in the old days that instead of subjugating to a landowner would rather live under extremely challenging circumstances and retain their freedom.

Geir, Olsen
Geir Olsen in his young years

— Okay, now let’s move to more serious things. You started your career as a dentist more than thirty years ago (in 1984). What did you do at that time? (I mean specialization).

I have never formally specialized. I started out as a GP dentist in private practice. General practice, not specialising but doing everything you are interested in and feel competent in.

— As far as I know, applying the knowledge acquired in the dental school, for the installation of braces you have removed several teeth of your child. Can you talk about this story?

Yes, I did remove 4 bicuspids on my son. He went to a popular and competent orthodontist (competent within his paradigm). I was not confident enough to listen to my gut feeling that said do no do this.

— How happened your acquaintance with the ALF device, where and with whom did you study, and how happened that you developed such a passion for TMJ treatment?

The treatment was a disaster and my son got TMD. That opened my eyes and I started to look for information and eventually took a series of courses with Skip Truitt. Through him I joined a study group in Ireland, and it was through my friends in Ireland I met Darick Nordstrom who has developed the A.L.F CONCEPT. In a way you can say my work with TMD since has been a way of redeeming myself. I was fortunate to spend on to occasions almost two weeks with Brendan Stack in Washington DC. It is the inspiration from these colleagues, but first off all the tremendous joy of being witness to patients being able to sometimes transform their lives that drives the passion.

— How do you think, why the direction of ALF-orthodontics is more developed in America at the moment, and Europe is noticeably behind in this aspect?

In America these mentors have students. It is a big country with lots of resources, saying that orthodontics as in braces comes from America and is still the dominant treatment model over there as well.

— As far as I know, many European countries don’t allocate funds for the research and distribution of intraoral light wire devices, and despite of their proven effectiveness and stunning results, many talented doctors resist alone against orthodontic system on braces. Looks like conspiracy. What do you think about this situation?

I agree it looks like a conspiracy, and in some ways that is fair to say because orthodontics is much more profitable than a more holistic aproach. In Norway which has a public health system that cover a big part of the expences for orthodontics it is structurally cemented in the way dentists are reimbursed. I think the old paradigm will be gone in a few years because of patients becoming more aware and informed.

— How the clinic “Tannami” was born? 

Tannami was something I had to do. I had been part of building up a Dental Franchise, but it was not my baby, and I was also ambivalent to the corparate model. One of the reasons I choose to study dentistry was the oppertunity it offers to be practicing an independent, free profession with a lot of responsibility and autonomy. I had already aquired my passion for TMD treatment. So to be true to myself I needed to start Tannami. The name litterally means Mytooth. Every norwegian has heard Torbjørn Egners story about KARIUS OG BAKTUS. In the story a little boy has toothache and complains to his mother TANNAMI hurts.

— Do you think that the doctor who has the TMJ himself understands his patients better, and therefore treats them better?

I think it certainly will make him more passionate and dedicated and emphatic, but I do not think it is an requirement for doing good treatment.

— You have quite interesting friends, for example, a well-known in Texas TMJ specialist, former Olympic champion Finnish Risto Hurme. Where did you meet him?

Somehow the colleagues who gets interested in TMD are fantastic people so to meet at courses and workshops is great fun and heartwarming. I met Risto the first time in Phoenix at the anual AAGO conference. He is so kind and warm and very passionate about TMD.

— I saw on Facebook that at the end of last year, ALF developer Darick Nordstrom and famous American doctor Jeffrey Brown have visited you. What was the purpose of their visit, and what impressions do you have from their visit in general?

They held a workshop in my surgery. The purpose from my side was to get more dentists in my area interested in their treatment philosophy. Unfortunately it is still a hard sell. But we had 2 days with presentations and also patients. It was great but I will not do it again because it was an economic loss for me. The good thing is that Darick with Angela Tenholder and others have organize a fantastic online ALF Education and community, so you can learn without having to travel so much.

Darick Nordstrom, Geir Olsen, Jeffrey Brown, Gabor Hermann

— On the website of your clinic I found information that you use NLP techniques for the treatment. What are the effects of this and what benefits patients have from this?

I took all the NLP courses 30 years ago, and inittialy I aplied it helping patients with Dental phobia. But to give you an example how it helped me with a patient suffering from TMD I remember this woman who had been suffering for years. She had been in an accident and strained her neck due to a whiplash. She at the time of the injury was a bus driver in Oslo, and was hit from behind. We sorted out that everytime she went into town and saw a bus her pain got worse. It was as if that sight triggered her initial reaction,as if the body lives in an eternal now and can not untangle the trauma. With only one session of NLP Technique she stopped reacting when she saw a bus, but not only that her overall condition also instantly improved. This shows that although there are obvious physical problems it is important to work from many angles.

— How long does the TMJ treatment usually last? What are the difficulties that patients can meet during the TMD treatment?

A TMJ treatment goes in several stages.
1. Stage is support for the joint with OMT and some type of splint. No more than 12months, what you have not achieved in 12 months you will not achieve, if the disc in the joint is not recaptured you will have to compromise and live with that or some practitioners will recapture the disc surgically as was what Brendan Stack did. I have seen great results with this but it is risky and have myself not gone down this road.Usually when we talk about the ALF we think of an apparatus in the maxilla. It comes with different designs, but the one most frequently used is the simple stealth ALF with 3 three omega loops.

It works primarily as a tongue teaser encouraging correct tongue function and also gives the body feedback to where it has its midline facilitating better posture. So this ALF goes in at the same time as the patient gets the splint for the lower jaw. When the 1 stage is done you have established in what position of the lower jaw is going to have when the bite is functioning. Then you have to establish a new occlusion in this position and that will take approximately 2 years. The difficulties the patient will have to struggle with is sometimes they will have pain, AS if sometimes they relive in reverse their pain history. They will have to eat with a splint which many find easy when it takes away the pain but difficult when they feel fine. So it can become a bit like Sisyfos who had to start all over again everytime the boulder rolled down the incline (the disc coming back into position will slipp off if you do not wear the splint.)

— I’m very grateful to you for advising me to read the book of the founder of the Starecta method, Moreno Conte, about the effect of dental occlusion on the entire human body. You have already told me your opinion on this method, but can you share it with readers of my blog?

The Starecta merhod is developed by a patient who treated himself and is congruent with the ALF philosophy. The method is about empowering the patient so the patient can understand and take personal responsabillity. Of course when you are sick and suffering you just want to find someone you can trust and be taken care of, and this is truer the more severe what is ailing you is. Never the less it is important to support a patient in supporting him/herself.

— You said that sometimes, sitting in the office, you travel, because patients from different countries come to you. From what countries, for example? Could you tell us about your the most memorable patients?

We say that life is a journey and if you are a people person meeting people is more interesting than seeing sights. And if you engage in these meeting as I have to do with my TMD patients it is as if I am traveling. They share their story with me.

Most of my patients come from Sweden and Norway but I have had patients from Finland, Denmark, France and England. But since there are people from everywhere living everywhere a Norwegian might have familie for instance in Pakistan. I do not realy want to say to much about patients, but I remember very well one wonderful finnish woman who came from an Island between Finland and Sweden, so She had a long way timewise to get here because it was a boattrip, train,bus and airplane ride. She had TMD, early 40ties, mother of three. We succeded to take away the pain and restore function with ALF, but the teeth had to be leveled and aligned to look straight and increase stability. But she was so happy to be functioning well, that she choosed to not to straightening her teeth. She continues to use the ALF for retention and is happy with that. A beautiful, carefree woman and exceptionally relaxed about her appearence.

Geir, olsen

— As far as I know, you have great passion to Spain. What attracts you there so much?

Ny wife and I are privelidged to have an appartment on the Costa del Sol. We use it every holiday. She has become fluent in Spanish, I still have a long way to go. Obviously it is the climate and simle affordable lifestyle which is the main attraction.From Oslo it is also very easy to get to with several direct flights every day. Wake up in bed in Oslo and 8 hours later we are having lunch in our flat. In January it is dark and cold in Oslo but in Malaga it can feel like summer. Mountains are great for hiking and medditarainian great for water sports. It is also full of friendly unpretentious people. The music and poetry intriguing.

Juan Ramon Jimenez is my favourite poet next to Norwegian poet Olav H Hauge. The strongest reaction I have ever experienced watching a musical performance was in Seville during a flamenco concert. Then I learnt what Duende means in Spanish. The only time I have experienced something similar was during a concert with George Benson in Croatia at a small intimate venue for a small very attentive audience. Duende explained by Federico Garcia Lorca at a lecture in Buenos Aires in 1933 in which he addressed the fiery spirit behind what makes great performance stir the emotions. “The Duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ..the Duende is not in the throat; The Duende climbs up inside you, from the sole of the feet. Meaning this; it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation….everything that has black sound in it, has duende”. Duende makes perfect sense to me and is the main attraction for me when I think of southern Spain.
There are many Russians in the south of Spain. They are well known to be quite adept at learing Spanish.

Geir, olsen

— You said that you would like to visit Russia and, especially, St. Petersburg. It’s interesting, what stereotypes do you have about our country?

I used to be a bit influenced by stereotypes growing up during the sixties and seventies. You were unbeatable in ice hockey, and the harsh stories about the Gulag archepelago made us think you were a bit scary. Today I imagine you are much more like us Norwegians. I imagine the main difference might be that you have more respect for authority figures and money. I do not know but I have a story my son told me. A friend of him went to Russia with a team of business people. This friend was a junior enployee but very smart and observant. He noticed that the Norwegian presenters did not get very much attention from the Russians and he noticed that the Russian presenters had a different style of presenting; much more confident and loud. So on the last day when it was his time to shine he decided to put on an act. He pretended to be super confident and very macho (that was easy for him because that is what he is because in Norwegian culture you have to mellow down those character traits). The Russians loved him and they were all ears.

To your Russian readers I have always been curious about your country because of us being neighbors and my interested in history and litterature. When finishing secondary school I chose to write a Paper on Dostojevskij. These days my favourite commentator on currant affairs is an analyst who has a blog called (the Saker.is). He lives in Florida with an american wife, but is a swiss citizen with a russian mother and dutch father. One of my favourite patients is a retired russian cardiologist. She is in her eighties and came to Norway because of love. She worked a lifetime at our largest hospital, but she thinks very holistically about everything. She is the daughter of a russian army general and She told me once that the way She saw politics it is better for people to live in smaller political communities with a lot of autonomy than in superstructures like the USA or Soviet. Just want you to know that we are many who do not believe in the demonising off Russia that we see in MSМ.

— Do you think that everything went smoothly in your life? And what helped you overcome difficult periods?

I am an emotional person and being sensitive I have often felt life is harsh. Saying that if you are born a male in Scandinavia after the second world war, have had good health and a steady job how hard can life be? I am very privileged, but sometimes I think that the sum of suffering in different societies is a constant, as if some problems dissapear we humans worry about something else.
What sustains me is love and also in a spiritual sense. A basic trust that is about accepting life as it is as the same time as you try to improve it.

— Could you say that all your dreams have come true, or still left there something?

I never was very ambitious, if I have dreams it is more about learning more, love more and find peace.

— Dr. Geir, thank you very much for such an interesting interview. Could you tell a few words for the readers of this blog, who suffer of TMJ this moment…

If you have TMD start doing OMT, there are lots of instructive videos on YOUTUBE. Read Moreno Conte book. Do your own research. There are dentists, osteopaths and OMT who can help.

Website of Tannami clinic www.tannami.no.
Russian version of the interview
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© zub-za-zub.ru
Pictures are from the personal archief of Dr.Geir Olsen.

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