What Is Holistic Dentistry?

As you look through the pages of this issue of Natural Awakenings and see the advertisements for holistic dentists, you may be asking yourself, “Exactly how is that philosophy different from what ‘conventional’ dentists do?”

The answer is pretty straightforward. For dentists, the training in dental school has always been very mechanical in nature. In other words, they are taught to look for physical problems, such as decay, missing teeth or infections, and fix them. Not much thought is given to the rest of the patient.

Holistic dentists (also referred to as natural or biological dentists), on the other hand, are extremely concerned with how these procedures and dental materials affect the overall health of the patient. 

The single greatest issue dividing conventional and holistic dentists, concerns the use of mercury dental amalgams, aka “silver” fillings. This has been a source of heated discussion ever since the late 1800s, when mercury amalgams were first introduced. Even the conventional dentists can’t seem to agree on this issue. Not too long ago, there was a time when a dentist in the Midwest could lose his or her license for informing patients about the dangers of mercury from amalgam, while a dentist in California could lose it for not doing so—go figure!

The other areas where holistic dentists disagree with their conventional colleagues include the use of fluoride and root canals. Whole books have been written on these subjects, but let’s just briefly touch on each, starting with fluoride.

While most holistic dentists avoid fluoride at all costs, the conventional-minded American Dental Association touts it as one of the greatest health discoveries of our time. Unfortunately, the science does not support its position. A review of the published literature on fluoride by The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons discovered no valid studies showing ingesting fluoride to be of any benefit.

Many communities in the United States and most European nations have ceased fluoridation of their water supplies (does it really make sense to medicate the entire population?). That being said, there are some benefits to using fluoride when applied to the teeth in a topical manner. 

So, what’s the problem with root canals? Well, when a tooth is vital and healthy, a lymph-like fluid flows through the millions of tubules that make up the root of the tooth. Once a tooth dies (due to trauma or infection) and the area where the nerve used to be is filled, this fluid becomes stagnant and can harbor highly toxic bacteria. 

These organisms can be difficult to detect because they do not produce the type of symptoms usually associated with infections. They can, however, produce powerful enzyme-inhibiting toxins. As a result, many holistic dentists choose to extract, rather than “root canal” dead or infected teeth.

The concept of an infected or toxic tooth causing illness in another part of the body is known as the “focal infection” theory, one that conventional dentistry has never subscribed to.

That may be changing, however. With the discovery of the connection between gum disease and heart disease (sounds an awful lot like that focal infection theory), there has been more and more talk about the importance of good oral health in achieving better overall health. 

Conventional and holistic dentists may still be a long way from seeing eye to eye, but there is no doubt patients are better served when their dentist is looking out for their oral as well as their overall health.

Ingo Mahn, DDS, AIAOMT, is a 1985 graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry. He is an accredited member of the IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) and earned a doctorate in integrative medicine from Capital University, in Georgetown. He recently opened Natural Dental Partners, a high-tech, health-centered practice in North Phoenix. For more information, including a listing of his upcoming live seminars, visit MyNaturalDentist.com.



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