Holistic Dentistry: The “Whole” Package
By Heather Rothbauer-Wanish and Isabelle Rothbauer
When people describe how to be successful, they usually say you have to be smart, ambitious, passionate, and hard working, or–in other words–have the whole package. Similarly, holistic dentistry, also known as biological or environmental dentistry, focuses on taking care of the body’s overall health, not just oral health. The practice draws attention to how diet, decay, gum disease, missing teeth, mercury fillings, and root canal procedures can affect the whole body, and then it offers alternative procedures and materials that are beneficial to the patient’s health.
Holistic dentists don’t have a specific set of rules or guidelines to follow. Rather, each has his or her own techniques and beliefs on how to treat their patients. However, most dentists lean toward more conservative and preventative methods. Practitioners also tend to treat the cause of symptoms rather than the symptoms themselves, so as to treat the problem from its core. The practice accommodates patients’ personal needs, and some doctors will use blood or other tests to determine their patients’ compatibility to certain materials.
Holistic dentists usually advocate the use of natural products that are beneficial to both the mouth and body. Some recommend organic toothpastes and powders and herbal mouth washes, while others suggest treatments like acupuncture because of its pain-relieving and relaxing benefits. Holistic dentists advocate healthy habits in their patients, as well, including eating nutrient-dense whole foods, avoiding root canals and amalgam fillings, making sure there aren’t large gaps or cavities between teeth that are prone to infection, and advising patients to abstain from smoking and to drink alcohol in moderation.
Most holistic dentists also monitor the use of widely known harmful materials and are usually fluoride free and mercury free. They practice proper disposal of dental waste such as mercury, which can contaminate water sources and harm wildlife. Holistic dentists may also use digital X-ray equipment to minimize the amount of radiation the patient is exposed to. Conventional dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons may not be labeled as holistic dentists but can practice some of the same principles. In fact, research has shown that 50 percent of the population has been exposed to and treated with some sort of holistic dentistry.
If you want to make a difference with your teeth and dental care, a balanced nutritional diet can make a huge difference in oral hygiene. Teeth require several minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and boron. Yet, most of these minerals aren’t in refined sugars, white flour, and white rice—all staples in our diets today. Additionally, drinking soft drinks and eating fruits is damaging because of their high sugar content and acids that destroy tooth enamel. Removing or reducing these foods in your diet plus taking supplements can greatly improve oral health.
Holistic dentists tend to stay away from fluoride and amalgam fillings because they can be harmful to the body. Many believe fluoride causes cancer and degenerative bone diseases and isn’t an effective way to prevent tooth decay. Amalgam, an alloy of mercury and silver, is the most widely used type of filling because it’s inexpensive and easy to put in, but, in reality, it contains more mercury than any other manufactured good in the United States. The average mercury content is estimated at around 1,000 milligrams, which may not seem like a lot, but that amount can slowly cause mercury poisoning. This can affect the body’s nervous, immune, and endocrine systems and inhibit the body’s detoxifying capabilities. Furthermore, research on mercury exposure has shown its connection to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Other harmful filling materials include nickel, aluminum oxide, iron oxide, and fluoride and silver.
Some dentists believe that because mercury is bound with other metals it doesn’t release itself into the body. In actuality, mercury vapor leaks from the filled tooth every time you che, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, winner of the Shorty Award for Health. If you already have one of these fillings, theres no need to worry because procedures are available for safe removal. Conventional dentists may also use similar methods, such as providing an alternate air source to prevent inhalation of fumes, using dental dams to prevent swallowing of residue, and using cold water spray to reduce the amount of vapors. With modern technology, dentists can replace the filling with other materials like porcelain, a strong, long lasting substance that is metal and mercury free and non-toxic.
Holistic dentists are also cautious when it comes to root canals. According to Dr. Mercola, a root canal procedure involves removing the pulp within the tooth and replacing it with foreign substance. The problem with this is that bacteria is wedged in this area and can become toxic if the immune system is too weak to fight it of. Dr. Weston A. Price, the founder of the National Dental Association, connected root canals to heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis, and neurological and immune diseases as early as the 1900s. Studies performed later by other researchers have also shown an evident correlation between root canals and breast cancer.
Holistic dentists recommend having the tooth removed and replaced with an implant instead of getting a root canal because the risk of infection is so high. However, they strongly believe that teeth should only be removed when absolutely necessary, especially wisdom teeth and abscesses. Gaps and cavitations can be targets for bacteria, and a nutritional balanced diet can help eliminate abscesses. Gum cleanings can also force bacteria into the bloodstream, so holistic dentists use natural antibacterial agents to reduce the chance of infection.
The Holistic Dental Association, founded in 1978, has an online database that provides contact information about holistic dentists nationwide. They aim to educate the public on new procedures and support doctors who practice and advance holistic dentistry. Whether you choose to go to a conventional or holistic dentist, it’s still important to ask questions about the types of fillings an X-rays they use and how they dispose of medical waste. Not only could small changes make you more eco-friendly, it could also make you happier and healthier.
If you’re looking to improve your dental health at home, www.holisticdentalstore.com, owned by Luscious Garden Inc., sells a variety of organic products including natural mouth wash, herbal tooth and gum powder, gum cleaning brushes, and supplements.