Holistic dentistry is an approach to oral health that focuses on materials and techniques that are beneficial to the patient’s overall physical and emotional health as opposed to treating the oral cavity as separate from the rest of the person. Holistic dentists integrate natural therapies with more conventional dentistry in order to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease and injury of the teeth and gums.
Conventional dentistry tends to focus almost solely on the mouth and, as a result, often uses materials and procedures that may be harmful to the patient. Many people are aware that silver amalgam fillings contain mercury, but few are aware that the mercury content of amalgam is 50% by weight or that waste material gets into the groundwater.. Even fewer are aware that bacteria can enter the bloodstream as a result of routine gum cleaning. This can be avoided with the use of natural antibacterial solutions.
Holistic dentists operate on the notion that oral health and physical health are inextricably linked. Conditions of the oral cavity have a direct influence on many aspects of a person’s overall health, and many diseases can be detected by early symptoms that present in the mouth. In fact, gum disease is present in 95% of diabetics and pregnant women with gum disease have increased risk of premature delivery. Research has also shown that gum disease increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Poor oral health can also aggravate depression and interfere with social interactions.
Holistic dentists may advise their patients to quit smoking, reduce their alcohol consumption, or improve their diet, knowing that these lifestyle changes can all positively influence oral health. Specific practices vary among holistic dentists. Some discourage the use of fluoride, feeling the risks of cancer and bone disease outweigh any benefits. Some even believe the proposed benefits of fluoride are exaggerated. They may also oppose fluoridating the water supply, viewing the practice as forced medication of the public. Many do not perform root canals, as the procedure can trap bacteria inside the tooth and cause long term harm. Most use alternative materials, such as resin, for filling cavities. Some reduce radiation exposure by using digital x-rays in place of traditional x-rays.
There are no regulations specific to holistic dentistry and any dentist can use the holistic label, even if they don’t really follow holistic practices. Likewise, not all dentists who follow holistic practices use the holistic label. Do not be afraid to ask questions, do your research, and find a dentist that you are comfortable, whether convention, holistic, or somewhere in between.
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