Holistic dentistry may also be called biological dentistry, integrative, natural, alternative or biocompatible dentistry. Holistic dentists take the whole body and state of your health into account when choosing treatment methods. Using natural and conventional therapies, holistic dentists strive to use treatments that promote oral health without harming the rest of the body.
Holistic dentistry understands that oral health is important for overall, optimal health. The mouth can be entryway for microbial infections. Studies link diabetes, heart disease, and premature births with gum disease. Poor oral health can also contribute to depression and low self-esteem.
To categorize dentists as “holistic” or “conventional” is not the best method of segmentation. Some dentists who don’t place mercury fillings but otherwise use conventional methods call themselves holistic. Conversely, conventional dentists who focus on the entire body when considering oral health may not label their practice as holistic. Every dentist is different, and what matters most is the philosophy, standard of care and the use of practices that have scientific validity.
There are many issues that separate holistic and conventional dental practices, including fluoride, X-rays for children, root canals and other invasive procedures, and biocompatibility of dental materials. But most people think of mercury fillings as the defining difference.
Conventional dentists stand behind mercury amalgam fillings for their longevity, insurance coverage of the cost, and the FDA and ADA’s statements that mercury in is stabilized in fillings and therefore safe.
There are differing views on the toxin level of the toxin that is released by the amalgam fillings, as well as the level of harm. Current research does not back up the claim that the fillings are harmful; several European countries, however, have banned their use.
Holistic dentists contend that even small amounts of mercury increase the risk to central nervous and immune systems. Natural dentists, therefore, avoid the mercury amalgam and other metals and instead use composite resins to fill cavities.
Holistic Dentists have differing views on whether the removal of mercury amalgam fillings is safe and prudent. During the process of grinding out old fillings, the patient may be unnecessarily exposed to additional mercury. Some holistic dentists do not recommend replacing the amalgam with composite resin on an elective basis.
Conventional dentists are in favor of using topical and ingested fluoride. They believe that fluoridating water supplies decreases cavity rates.
Holistic dentists, on the other hand, believe that ingested fluoride ingested fluoride does not prevent tooth decay, and may be linked to tooth discoloration, weakening of the bones, cancer and a reduction of IQ in children. They do not favor fluoridating public water supplies.
X-rays for children
Natural dentists use X-rays sparingly, especially for children. While digital x-rays expose the patient to substantially less radiation, we still want to minimize exposure as radiation exposure is cumulative.
Conventional dentists recommend root canal therapy to save an injured or severely decayed tooth. Most holistic dentists, however, typically do not recommend root canals. Holistic dentists believe that completely sterilizing the canal is not possible, leaving bacteria trapped to potentially cause long-term negative health effects. Additionally, the holistic dentist is concerned the patient’s exposure to sterilizing agents.
In some cases, using nutritional support, homeopathy and/or herbs, in conjunction with cleaning in and around the tooth, may stave off the need for a root canal.
Other invasive procedures
Unless they are causing problems, holistic dentists don’t remove wisdom teeth. A small percentage of people who undergo wisdom tooth extraction each year suffer from nerve damage from the surgery, resulting in permanent numbness of the tongue, lip or cheek.
Holistic dentists may use holistic therapies such as homeopathy, infrared devices and vitamin C during and after invasive procedures to help the body recover from the procedure, reduce discomfort, and minimize the use of painkiller and antibiotics.
Biocompatibility of dental materials
Conventional dentists may not give you a choice on which materials will be used to fill your cavity. A holistic dentist may use a biocompatibility test such as a blood chemistry screening test, hair analysis, computerized dietary analysis, or applied kinesiology (muscle testing) to determine which filling material respond best in your body.
How do I choose a holistic dentist?
The difference between holistic dentistry and conventional dentistry is primarily philosophical. Look for a dentist whose philosophy matches yours. Schedule a consultation with the dentist before agreeing to any treatment. Ask questions about the filling materials they use, whether they use digital X-rays, and how they approach invasive procedures.
Be suspicious of a dentist who makes outlandish claims of cure diseases. Additionally, be sure to get the treatment plan and pricing up front. While cleaning and routine checkups are usually covered by insurance, other holistic dentistry services are likely to be out of pocket.