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What is holistic dentistry?
Holistic dentistry is a complementary or alternative dental practice that is currently gaining much popularity as more and more people seek out natural tooth care and treatment methods. It can be compared to and thought of in the same way that acupuncture or naturopathy is alternative medicine to conventional medicine.
Holistic dentistry is known by many different names that you may be more familiar with, such as alternative dentistry, unconventional dentistry, natural dentistry, organic dentistry, or biocompatible dentistry just to name a few.
It's also sometimes used interchangeably with ‘biological dentistry' although according to the American Dental Association, there are slight differences.
One very important part of holistic medicine, including dentistry, has to do with the foods you consume. Some research has shown that diets high in grains and phytic acid may damage enamel and increase your risk for cavities.
Alternatively, diets with lots of nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, grass-fed meats and fish high in Omega-3 oils have been shown to improve oral health and overall health. It's also essential to take care of your gut health, because this is closely linked with the health of your mouth.
Dr. Randy Martin
According to the Holistic Dental Network, as seen on their website here, holistic dentists aim to address dental issues from the perspective of ‘mind, body and spirit‘ – aiming to ‘promote health and wellness instead of the treatment of disease'.
Holistic dentistry aims to combine modern science with traditional healing, and operates by four major principles:
- Correct nutrition for preventing and possibly reversing degenerative dental diseases
- Avoiding and eliminating toxins from conventional dental materials
- Preventing and treating dental malocclusion (bite problems)
- Preventing and treating gum disease at its biological basis
Holistic dentistry vs. biological dentistry
The term ‘biological dentistry‘ is sometimes used in place of holistic dentistry, but they are slightly different in approach. Biological dentistry treats the whole body (like holistic dentistry), but also specializes in amalgam removal and uses biocompatible materials for restorations such as implants. They do not perform root canals unless absolutely necessary.
What is the difference between a holistic dentist and a regular dentist?
A qualified holistic dentist receives the same basic education and training as a conventional dentist but looks to take it a step further by providing patients with complementary health care as well.
Through seeking to improve both oral health and general well-being simultaneously, a holistic dentist will generally approach dentistry in a different way than a traditional dentist.
The materials that holistic dental practices use can differ, but generally include natural solutions such as organic mouthwashes, neem toothpaste and propolis. This is combined with therapies such as nutrition education, homeopathy, herbology, and aromatherapy to focus on boosting the immune system and treating general health problems.
Organic dentistry does not use materials that can potentially cause the body harm, namely:
- Fluoride for cavity prevention
- Mercury for fillings (read more here)
They also try to avoid any techniques that cause the tooth damage, such as dental crowns or root canals. Find out more about dental crowns in our article here, and root canals here.
Have a look at the table below for a summary of some of the key differences between holistic and traditional dentists.
Treat the symptoms and the underlying problems, even if found elsewhere in the body
Treatment focuses on the mouth, gums, teeth and jaw
Don't use amalgam fillings, use safe methods to remove them
Do use amalgam fillings, meeting the safety guidlines
Against the use of fluoride, use alternative methods to fight against cavities
Use safe amounts of fluoride to combat cavities
Use ozone therapy to sterilize root canal, or use alternative therapies
Use root canals to save natural teeth
Biocompatibility of dental materials
Always try to use biocompatible materials
Use materials for their effectiveness and safety
So, what do holistic dentists actually use for fillings? And what's the alternative to a root canal?
Holistic dentistry procedures
What do holistic dentists use for fillings?
Mercury, even in very small amounts, has been shown to cause nervous, digestive and immune system issues, as well as lung and kidney failure. Even though the use of silver fillings has been deemed safe by the FDA, it's thought by many that mercury fillings have a high potential for causing various health problems.
Amalgam fillings are still used by a number of traditional dentists as they are cheap and easy to work with. As you'd imagine, holistic dentists won't go anywhere near mercury – they instead use a range of ‘bio-compatible' materials such as composite resins (plastics), glass ionomers, porcelain, and even gold.
While these may be a bit more expensive, they provide a lot of peace of mind for many people.
What is the holistic alternative to a root canal?
A root canal is often undertaken when the ‘dental pulp' (soft tissue) inside the root canal of a tooth becomes inflamed or infected, generally due to damage or tooth decay from poor oral health.
The procedure involves drilling out the tooth, removing all of the infected tissue, chemically killing the bacteria, and then essentially 'embalming' the tooth with synthetic materials to replace the structure. If needed, a cap or ‘dental crown' is also applied.
Homeopathic dentistry aims to address patients on a case by case basis, but it is generally believed in the alternative dentistry community that many root canals, and indeed many common dental procedures, are unnecessary.
Many biological dentists propose that you can never remove all of the bacteria from an infected tooth, and by ‘cementing' it in with a root canal, it can further health problems down the road.
There are a few alternative treatments to a root canal that holistic dentists will undertake, again, all specific to the needs of the individual patient. If the infection is minor, some dentists will address it via herbal remedies and building the body's natural defenses.
If it is more major and a significant health risk, they will often completely remove the tooth, disinfect the site with a natural substance (e.g. ozone) and replace it with a ‘bio-compatible' material to fill the gap, such as zirconia-ceramic. Check out the video below to see how ozone therapy works, and which procedures it can be used for.
Again, many holistic dentists will perform root canals if it is the best option, but will often avoid them where possible to reduce unnecessary stress and trauma on the immune system.
So… Should You See a holistic dentist?
There is no right or wrong answer to this – it all depends on your personal values and specific dental health problems. You may want to consider a holistic dentist if:
- You are concerned about mercury exposure
- You want to avoid a root canal
- You are concerned about fluoride
- You prefer a holistic approach to medicine
Holistic dentists offer a different approach with a strong focus on holistic health care when compared to conventional dentists, however, this doesn't necessarily mean they are a better option for you.
If you are uncertain about which way you'd like to go – we'd recommend you speak with a number dentists and your preferred general health practitioner to make an informed decision, and get a feel for what is the best fit for you.
How do I find a holistic dentist near me?
If you're looking for a biological dentist near you, chances are that you won't have too much trouble finding one. One way is to go to the website for the Holistic Dental Association, and type in your zip code.
Holistic dentistry, also known as natural or alternative dentistry and similar to biologic dentistry is an approach to wellbeing that focuses on the mind the body, and the soul, not just your oral health. Holistic dentists are often dentists who specialize their studies in healing other parts of the body as well.
Dentists in this field try to limit unnecessary treatment, and when treatment is needed, use natural alternatives. As to whether holistic or traditional dentistry is better, that's a completely subjective decision that each person will need to make for themselves, but it might help to consult a variety of dentists beforehand to see what most resonates with you.
What is the cost for a holistic dentist?
The cost of holistic dentistry is all over the place. You'll find some who charge less than a traditional dentist, some who charge more, and some whose prices are comparable. In some cases, your dental insurance might cover natural dentistry, or your dentist may offer a discount plan. Read more about dental savings plans.
Where can I find a natural dentist near me?
You can visit the web pages of official organizations for holistic dentistry, like the Holistic Dental Association or the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine.
ADA.org: Biological Dentistry vs Holistic Dentistry: What's the Difference? Consulted 5th June 2020.
NCBI: Azadirachta indica: A herbal panacea in dentistry – An update. Consulted 3rd June 2020.
ScienceDaily: Dentists Abuzz Over Cavity-Prevention Potential of Honeybee Product. Consulted 3rd June 2020.
WHO.int: Mercury and health. Consulted 5th June 2020.
FDA.gov: About Dental Amalgam Fillings. Consulted 5th June 2020.
Holistic Dental Network: What is Holistic Dentistry: Consulted 5th June 2020.
Theatlantic.com: The Truth About Dentistry. Consulted 5th June 2020.
IABDM.org: What is Biological Dentistry? Consulted 5th June 2020.
EPA: Wastewater Technology Fact Sheet Ozone Disinfection. Consulted 5th June 2020.
Holistic Dental Association: Find a Holistic Dentist. Consulted 5th June 2020.