A holistic approach to health is becoming a common and known practice in Western medicine. However, have you heard of holistic dentistry? While it has been around for at least thirty years, most people aren’t as familiar with it. Holistic dentistry like complementary and integrative medicine applies the same whole-body philosophy to dentistry in both the prevention of and treatment of dental issues. Holistic dentistry is also known as biological dentistry.
Holistic dentists employ less invasive dental treatments whenever possible, although conventional therapies may also be used when necessary. Holistic dentistry is also concerned with the education of the patient, so that patients can make informed consents that support their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
History of Holistic Dentistry
In 1978, a group of dentists came together because of their shared belief that dentistry was more than dental procedures. They wanted to offer additional optional treatments that were not taught in dental schools. The patient’s feelings and attitude were also crucial along with the idea that patients are participants in taking care of their health.
“All dentists to some extent see the importance of the mouth in the overall health of an individual. For instance, studies have concluded a link between gum disease and heart health, diabetes, and pregnancies. However, many dentists are not trained in the long-term effects of what dentistry does (or could possibly do) to the whole body. Hence the reason the field of holistic dentistry was formed.” The Center for Natural Dentistry[i]
Holistic Dentistry in Detail
Holistic dentistry separates itself from conventional dentistry on several issues:
- Mercury Fillings: Amalgam fillings is one area where traditional and biological dentistry differ. Amalgam fillings are composed of 50% mercury. Mercury is a known carcinogen that can impair the immune system and central nervous system. The ADA and FDA say fillings with mercury are safe even when only small amounts leak.
Holistic dentists do not use amalgam fillings. They believe that because mercury is a toxin any amount no matter how small is detrimental to a person’s health. Also, amalgams can weaken the tooth because they put intense pressure on the tooth. Holistic dentistry does not use nickel or other metals to repair cavities; they use materials made from resin.
- X-Rays: To reduce radiation exposure, digital x-ray equipment is used which uses significantly less radiation. Some conventional dentists also use digital x-ray equipment.
- Fluoride: Research suggests fluoridated water doesn’t lower cavities: In countries that don’t add fluoride to their water, the number of cavities has also decreased just like in the U.S.
Holistic dentists believe fluoridating water is also forced medicating. Their concern is that too much fluoride can cause fluorosis (hypomineralization of tooth enamel). Some holistic dentists use fluoride as a topical.
- Root Canals: Root canals in conventional dentistry is employed to save a tooth that has extreme decay or will soon die. Formaldehyde and other chemicals are used to sterilize the canal. However, research has shown it’s difficult to completely and thoroughly purify and clean the canal.
Holistic doctors believe the chemicals and remaining bacteria can cause harmful health effects later in life including breast cancer and heart disease. So, root canals are not recommended by holistic dentists.
- Dental Materials: Because everything that goes into your body can affect your health, biological dentists consider carefully the materials that they will use in a patient’s mouth. Also, many dentists have equipment in their office to test the biocompatibility of dental materials and can choose from different materials.
Holistic dentistry seeks to eliminate and treat the underlying cause of dental issues, not just the symptoms. It also educates patients on preventative measures that go beyond the typical advice of regular flossing, such as healthy eating. Biological dentists also favor treatments that don’t affect the patient’s overall health adversely.
Countries that do not fluoridate their water have also seen big drops in the rate of cavities. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/fluoridated-drinking-water/.
Holistic Dental Association: History. Retrieved from http://holisticdental.org.
Weil, Andrew, M.D. Holistic and Biological Dentistry. Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/wellness-therapies/holistic-biological-dentistry/.
What Is Holistic Dentistry? Retrieved from https://naturaldentistry.us/holistic-dentistry/what-is-holistic-dentistry/.
[i] Holistic Dental Association: History. Web.