As a family dentist office offering holistic focused dental care, we often hear questions like:
- What is a holistic dentist?
- Why is holistic dental care important?
- How can I find a holistic dentist near me?
In this post we will answer these questions by explaining how holistic dentistry differs from traditional dentistry, why holistic dental care is important for both prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, and how you can find a holistic dentist in your area.
Have a cosmetic issue and don’t think this will apply? Don’t worry! We offer holistic approaches to cosmetic dentistry to keep your mouth and body healthy.
What is Holistic Dentistry?
Holistic dentistry, which is also known by many as biological dentistry (1) or integrative dentistry, focuses on the integral role that oral health plays in a patient’s overall health. Instead of relying solely on conventional methods, holistic dentistry also incorporates natural or alternative treatment options into plans for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This whole body approach focuses on the cause-and-effect relationship that exists between the oral health of patients and their overall health. 2
Afraid of dental work? We have a holistic approach to all types of dentistry. Learn about how we also offer ‘sleep’ or sedation dentistry.
Holistic Dental Association
The Holistic Dental Association, which is made up of hundreds of active members across the United States, provides support and educational resources for biological dentistry practitioners and works to raise awareness among the general public about the important role that holistic dentistry plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The HDA was originally founded in 1978 to raise awareness (3) about the dangers of dental mercury, and has quickly grown and expanded as awareness of dental health’s connection to overall health has moved into the mainstream.
What is the connection between oral health and overall health?
You may be surprised by just how much your oral health is linked to your overall health. This is because your oral cavity is an entry point (4) for bacteria and infections to be introduced into the bloodstream, which can result in many health issues and chronic diseases.
When your holistic dentist evaluates your dental health, they will take into account any inflammation that may be negatively impacting your health, including gum disease like gingivitis and periodontitis as well as sources of chronic dental bacteria such as infected teeth and failed root canals, as the inflammation caused by these issues can be linked to a variety of health problems.
In fact, poor dental health has been found to contribute to a wide range of serious health issues (5) including cardiovascular disease, increased heart attack and stroke risk, low birth weight and/or premature birth in pregnant women, and difficulty controlling diabetes.
Your dental health can also provide your dentist with valuable clues about your physical health, with conditions including HIV, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis commonly affecting dental health. Some other conditions that are thought to be closely linked with oral health include rheumatoid arthritis, cancers of the head and neck, Sjogren’s syndrome, eating disorders, and even depression!
How does holistic dental care differ from traditional dental care?
Similarly to traditional dentists, holistic dentists perform routine teeth cleanings, fill cavities, and create treatment plans when issues arise. However, when approaching these practices, holistic dental practitioners take the overall health, mental well-being, emotional health, lifestyle and diet of their patients into consideration, while also trying to treat the patient using the safest materials as possible.
Risk factors of traditional dentistry
There are many risk factors associated with traditional dentistry that holistic dentists avoid when treating patients. Some of the traditional treatments that pose overall health risks for patients include the use of dental mercury in fillings, fluoride treatments, root canals, and other materials used in traditional treatment procedures. Unlike traditional dentists, holistic dentists take into account the risk factors for their patient’s overall health when providing treatment, and sometimes use alternative treatment options that do not pose the health risks of conventional treatment options when the patient agrees that is the direction of care they desire.
About 50 percent of traditional dentists (6) in the United States still use mercury-containing dental amalgam in their practices. Most of us know amalgam as “silver fillings” but contrary to popular opinion, amalgam is NOT made up mostly of silver, but rather from an alloy of metals containing 43 to 50 percent mercury (7). Mercury, a known neurotoxin, poses a variety of risk factors for the health of patients and dental workers, as well as the environment. It is especially dangerous when used in vulnerable populations including young children and pregnant women. Additionally, amalgam can actually weaken the tooth (8) in the long term.
Although in the past it was thought that the toxic mercury was safely contained in the amalgam filling, more recent studies have shown that when individuals with amalgam fillings chew, their fillings actually emit low levels of mercury vapors that are then absorbed into the body. Mercury has been shown to be toxic, even in low levels of exposure, which can be especially dangerous for individuals with other mercury exposure or for dental professionals who are regularly exposed to these toxic materials.
Instead of relying on this harmful and toxic material, holistic dentists opt for other filling materials (9) that are equally effective, like resin composites that are BPA-free. Holistic dentists also specialize in the safe removal of mercury fillings, using the SMART protection protocol from the IAOMT (10), which minimizes the risk of mercury exposure to the patient and dental staff during the removal process.
Biocompatibility testing & the use of non-toxic materials
When it comes to choosing dental materials that will be used for fillings, dental implants, or other common dental procedures, a holistic dentist may perform a biocompatibility test in order to discover which materials are the most biologically compatible with your body as a whole.
To test biocompatibility, your dentist will request blood work, which will then be sent to a lab for analysis against a variety of dental materials. After analysis, the lab will rank the materials based on their compatibility with your body, so that you can avoid materials that may cause an adverse reaction and make an informed decision about which materials will have the least impact on your overall health.
If you are concerned about the use of metal or titanium materials used in traditional implants, your holistic dentist may suggest the use of zirconia implants, which do not have the potential side effects associated with the use of metals.
Anyone who has been to a traditional dentistry practice knows the importance placed on fluoride for the prevention of cavities. However, holistic dentists consider the overall health risks of fluoride (11)—especially in ingestible forms—noting potential links to cancer and bone problems, as well as negligible benefits from ingestion.
In fact, too much fluoride can actually lead to fluorosis or discolored enamel. Although some holistic dentists agree with the use of topical fluoride treatments, some choose to avoid potential risks by avoiding it altogether.
When it comes to prevention, your holistic dentist will most likely recommend anti-cavity toothpaste and dental care products that are highly effective in preventing decay, yet free of toxic fluoride. A great option is CariFree CTx3 toothpaste (12).
When it comes to the use of x-rays, many patients worry about their exposure to radiation. However, the benefits of detecting cavities and infections early on are worth the exposure in most instances. When x-rays are necessary to detect potential issues that are not visible to the naked eye, your holistic dentist should opt for digital x-ray imaging, which drastically decreases the amount of radiation exposure, and will take the minimum amount of images needed to accurately diagnose any potential issues.
Although a traditional root canal may be the quickest and most effective fix for tooth pain or infection, it is not always the best option for every patient. Even when treated, root canalled teeth can still harbor bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and lead to a variety of health issues.
A holistic dentist considers these risks as well as the patient’s dental health, overall health, and immune system when deciding on whether or not to perform a root canal, which could incorporate the use of ozone gas or water or different filling materials than standard root canals. They may also use 3-D imaging if they are concerned about an infection or abscess to pinpoint if there is a need for extraction or a root canal. If after evaluating your overall health your holistic dentist does not think that a root canal will be beneficial, they will most likely propose an extraction as a safer alternative. The tooth may then be replaced with an implant, bridge, or partial denture if a patient so desires.
Holistic Dentistry & Oral Surgery
Whether you are having an infected tooth extracted, getting an implant, or having a dental cavitation (13) treated, it is important that your dentist considers the effects that the procedure will have on your body as a whole. Since holistic dentistry takes into consideration the effects of dental health on overall health, your holistic dentist will most likely employ the use of some alternative treatments and therapies when you undergo surgery to ensure the best overall outcome. Two commonly used techniques include ozone therapy and the use of platelet rich fibrin.
Ozone therapy (14) is commonly utilized by holistic dentists when treating infected teeth, during surgical procedures, or performing root canals to decrease the amount of bacteria present in the tooth or surgical site. Since it is both antibacterial and antifungal in nature, ozone gas is a highly effective method for cleansing and reducing the risk of infection. This procedure is not only used to decrease the risk of infection following surgery, but also to reduce inflammation and bacteria which can have long-term impacts on your health.
Platelet Rich Fibrin
If you are undergoing an extraction, implant, or other procedure that exposes the jaw bone, your holistic dentist may also use platelet rich fibrin (PRF) to assist in the quality and speed of healing following your surgery. This procedure involves drawing blood from the patient before the surgery, which is then centrifuged to isolate PRF. The PRF can then be placed back into the surgical site. The use of PRF has been found to have a number of benefits (15) including a decreased risk of infection, minimizing pain following surgery, and an accelerated healing time.
The importance of holistic dentistry for children
Since children are especially vulnerable to the use of harmful chemicals used in traditional dental practices, such as dental amalgam and fluoride, it is important to find a holistic pediatric dentist that will focus on your child’s overall health and wellness (16) when providing dental care. In fact, the dental care that your children receive while they are young can affect their overall health for years to come, which is why it is so important to choose a holistic practitioner.
A holistic dentist will focus on using conservative and minimally invasive treatment options, keeping the emotional and physical health of your child in mind. They will also avoid the use of potentially hazardous materials when creating treatment plans and rely on the use of non-toxic materials, instead of dental mercury, when treating cavities and infected teeth.
X-rays play an important role in identifying tooth decay, and treating it before it becomes an issue. However, holistic pediatric dentists weigh both the risks and benefits of x-rays (17) before recommending them in order to minimize your child’s exposure to radiation. Although x-rays may be the only way to detect tooth decay in certain circumstances, holistic dentists may opt to avoid x-rays by inspecting baby teeth with transillumination, that can expose tooth decay with a bright light. They will also consider your child’s previous medical history and issues with tooth decay to decide if the benefits of an x-ray outweigh the risks. Holistic pediatric dentists also tend to opt for digital x-rays, which minimize radiation exposure.
How to find a holistic dentist near me
Many people think that it will be difficult to find a holistic dentist, but you may be surprised at just how common they are. This is because the number of biological dentists has increased in recent years, as patients increasingly recognize the connection between oral health and their overall health and seek out dental care that takes this into account.
If you are looking for a holistic dentist in your area, we suggest using the Holistic Dental Association’s “Find a Holistic Dentist” tool (18) or the IAOMT’s search tool (19) which allow users to search by state or region. 20
Looking for a holistic dentist in Nashville or Franklin, TN? Dr. Ryan Jones and the Nashville Restorative Dentistry team are here to provide you with safe, mercury-free dentistry that takes your whole body health into consideration while performing routine dentistry, diagnosing issues, and creating comprehensive care treatment plans. Contact our family dentist office today to learn more about our holistic dentistry services in Franklin, Brentwood, Nashville, and the surrounding area.