What is a Holistic Dentist?
When people hear that I'm a "Holistic Dentist", they picture something like lava lamps and healing crystals . . . there may be some of you (Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to raise your hands!) who may not even know what the word “holistic” means.
And there’s no shame in that!
In wrote this chapter to clear the air and finally nail down what a holistic dentist is (and what it isn’t)...
Holistic Dentistry vs. Traditional Dentistry...
Most traditional dental experiences are similar. You visit the dentist every six months (or when you get around to it…)
At that visit, they polish your teeth, scrape the crusty stuff off, then the dentist comes to complete a cursory exam. You sit tensely, waiting for the verdict…
Did you brush enough?
Can they tell you never floss?
Maybe you REALLY DID inherit your mom’s bad teeth…
You’re told about the cavities that need to be filled, the teeth that need “crowns” or perhaps even “root canals,” and you glumly sit and listen…
As you prepare to leave, you’re given a toothbrush and floss, maybe told to use the floss a little more often and scheduled for another “cleaning” appointment in six months.
You return to have the recommended dental work completed, pay the bill and continue doing everything the same as in the past, cursing those bad tooth genes.
What’s missing in this scenario?
So MANY things!
- Why did you get the cavities?
- How can you prevent them in the future?
- How will that crown or root canal affect you?
- Are there alternatives?
- Are there things you can do with your dental habits that that could have a huge impact on your overall health?
Unfortunately, dentistry has followed modern medicine right down its disconnected, reductionist path, separating body parts and processes.
You need an ENT for ear problems, an OB/GYN for women’s problems, a dentist for tooth problems…
…there is a doctor for every little part and piece of our bodies.
Somehow we’ve forgotten that it’s all the same body!
When was the last time a dentist talked to you about the relationship between your mouth health and your overall health?
The other big issue in modern Western medicine and dentistry, is that the focus is almost entirely on symptoms, instead of the source or cause of the problem.
- Why did you get that cavity?
- Does it have to do with what you eat or if you are getting enough nutrients from your food?
- Do your hormones affect your teeth?
- How long is that filling going to last and what is it doing to your tooth and body?
No one talks about it.
This leads to a never-ending loop of exams, fillings, crowns, root canals, surgeries and dental fears that never even address the root of the problem.
Holistic Dentistry is What’s Missing
How did we get this way and are the tides turning?
The answer is yes and no…
The tides are certainly not turning in the education of dental professionals. For example, in dental school…
- I did not have one nutrition class
- I was trained to place and remove mercury containing fillings, without one thought or concern about the toxicity of that metal.
- Root canals and fluoride are the standard of care.
…and I’ve talked with new graduates and they report the same.
However, if you look outside of the dental schools, you will see a lot of talk about alternative dental care and treatment ideas.
This information and interest is coming from concerned consumers like you!
You are frustrated with the lack of preventive care in dentistry. You are concerned about the possibility that your dentistry is making you sick…
…and you want dental professionals to help you with your HEALTH, not just your TEETH!
Because you realize they are connected, even if they don’t.
What Is a Holistic Dentist?
A holistic or biologic dentist focuses on the treatment of the whole person, rather than just the symptoms of dental disease.
That is a lot to tackle and each practitioner does it in a little different way based on their training and experience…
…but the focus will always be on something bigger than just your dental problem.
I must say it is about time!
Renowned German Physician Dr. Reinhard Voll estimated that nearly 80% of all illness is related entirely or partially to problems in the mouth.
According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket on CAM (Complimentary and Alternative Medicine) practices and products. If we can receive alternative care for medicine, it’s about time the same is available for dentistry.
Holistic Dentistry and the Whole-Body Connection
The field of dentistry is so focused on the details of treating TEETH, they can’t see that that treatment of the teeth has affected the entire BODY!
Some of the most outspoken doctors about this tooth-body connection are cardiologists and Cancer centers.
Dr. Thomas Levy, MD, JD has written a book in 2017 titled “The Hidden Epidemic.” It is full of long-standing scientific research pointing to the overwhelming health effects of dental infection.
“The vast majority of the adult population of the world has at least one significant tooth infection. Yet, these teeth nearly always go undiscovered and are rarely addressed.
Some of the diseases that have been shown to be connected to dental infection are:
- Heart Disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Pregnancy complications
- Pulmonary disease
- Hearing loss
In his 2011 book, Whole-Body Dentistry, Dr. Mark Breiner, DDS laments that,
“This year millions of adults and their children will needlessly suffer a broad range of preventable illnesses. Less serious conditions, like excessive fatigue and headaches, may go unnoticed or will be incorrectly attributed to aging or stress.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals will develop more serious conditions. These people will become ill for no apparent reason. But more often than not, there is an underlying issue that triggers these people’s illnesses, and that issue is often found in the mouth.”
I realized just how serious these dental-health connections are when I reached out to alternative cancer treatment centers for patients that needed their care.
They informed the patients and I that they would not see them to treat their cancer until all their dental conditions had been treated and resolved.
They have learned the cancer treatments will not be effective while chronic infections remain in the mouth!
I am fascinated to hear that patients don’t get this information from their cancer doctors, heart doctors, or even their previous dentist!
Why aren’t more health professionals talking about this with every patient?
We have been trained to treat dental conditions in a mechanical “drill and fill” method…
If there is a hole in a tooth, it needs to be filled.
We have not been trained to look for the sources or causes of the problem, or to look deeper into how these dental problems could be affecting the rest of the body.
“The vast majority of the adult population of the world has at least one significant tooth infection. Yet, these teeth nearly always go undiscovered and are rarely addressed. Nevertheless, it is these teeth, along with infected tonsils and infected gums that cause the vast majority of heart attacks and cases of breast cancer.”
What’s Missing From Traditional Dental Training
Like most other graduate schools, the training received in dental school is basic and very traditional…
The schools make sure their students are able to perform dental procedures before they graduate.
They learn to…
- diagnose dental problems,
- clean teeth,
- fill teeth,
- crown teeth,
- root canal teeth,
- pull teeth
…and replace teeth.
Some dentists never complete another day of training after dental school, so their practices are centered on “fixing” teeth—That’s all they have been taught to do.
It is up to the individual dentist to invest their time and money into learning more.
If you are looking for a dentist that will do more than just fix your teeth, there are certain things to look for. Read the list below to learn what to look for when searching for a holistic dental provider.
How Can You Find a Holistic Dentist?
Here is a list of the things to look for when choosing a Holistic Dentist:
1 – Is it a “Mercury Free” and “Mercury safe” Dental Practice?
These are two different things. “Mercury Free” simply means the dentist does not place mercury containing fillings, and thankfully, quite a few dentists fall into this category now.
“Mercury safe” means that all mercury is handled safely and when removing old mercury fillings, you and the dental team will be protected. Make sure that the office is MERCURY SAFE!
To handle mercury safely, the office will have a mercury removal protocol including physical protection for you and the dental team during removal.
This should include rubber dam, high volume suction, and skin and airway protection, amongst other things. The office should also have a protocol for you to follow nutritionally to prepare your body to excrete the metals after removal.
X-rays have been and will continue to be a concern in medicine and dentistry, but they are safer now than ever before.
With the introduction of digital x-rays, the radiation used for an x-ray is dramatically reduced. X-rays are essential in proper diagnosis, but should only be done digitally to keep you safe.
4 – What is Their Position on Fluoride?
Fluoride has had a controversial journey. It does make a tooth stronger…
…however, there are very undesirable side effects of fluoride usage that are often ignored.
Fluoride should be used sparingly and never ingested if possible.
The dentist has probably talk to you about not eating sugar . . . but that is the tip of the iceberg on how nutrition affects your dental health.
Nutrition can hurt or heal your teeth, bone, and gums. The entire dental team should be able to guide you to a Mouth-Friendly diet.
Root canals save teeth—in the short term. Their effect on health in the long term is the problem.
A very educated and honest approach to root canals, as well as high-tech diagnostic tools like Cone Beam CT scanners, are necessary to really take care of your health.
Bio-mimetic means simply mimicking nature. No dental restoration is as good as what you were born with . . . but some are close to nature than others.
If you need a dental restoration, make sure it will help preserve and protect your tooth.
8 – Do They Have Non-Toxic Recommendations for Dental Products?
As a practicing dentist, I know I get boxes of toothpaste for free from dental product manufacturers. Although it is free to give to the patients — I don’t.
I don’t recommend many of the ingredients in those products, and neither should the dentist you visit. They should have well researched alternatives to traditional dental products available for you.
9 – Do They Use a Laser to Diagnose Dental Cavities?
I don’t know how I ever practiced without a laser. I was taught to “poke” a tooth to see if it had a cavity. Unfortunately, the poking method is only 25% accurate. That means I was missing 75% of the cavities while they were still small (and easily healed or treated).
There is a specialized laser that detects cavities—and it is 90% accurate in diagnosis. Make sure your dentist uses these new technologies to help keep you healthy.
10 – What is Their Position on Tooth Remineralization?
There is a lot of outrage on both sides about “healing teeth”. Consumers feel dentists have been hiding the fact that cavities can be healed, and dentists are sure they can’t.
There is a truth to this controversy, and it lies somewhere in the middle. Make sure your dentist has a remineralization protocol and explanation for how it should be used.
When considering your options of visiting a holistic dentist vs. a regular dentist, you should consider how much the dentist will be looking out for your overall health.
When using the assessment above, the dental office should score at least SEVEN OUT OF TEN on this questionnaire, if they are really whole-body and health focused.
DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS.
Now, that we’ve answered the question “What is a holistic dentist?” let’s get back to some of the basics that will help you best care of your teeth.
In Chapter 2 we’re going to discuss what teeth are made of.