I am a huge fan of holistic dentists and holistic dentistry — it’s true preventive health care. Holistic dentists practice a form of dentistry that takes into account a person’s entire state of health — physical, emotional, and even spiritual. I don’t get regular annual check ups or screenings, but I do get my teeth cleaned twice per year.
Oral health is crucial for your overall health. Poor oral health may be a risk factor for — or indicate the presence of — diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Since 1978, the Holistic Dental Association has supported holistic dentists and helped to educate the public about the health benefits of dentistry. Well before that time my father practiced holistic dentistry. He taught his patients the importance of oral health, and he actually could tell a person’s state of health just by looking in their mouth.
How To Know If Your Dentist is Holistic
Views among holistic dentists may differ. But, most holistic dentists advise and offer programs on preventative care that goes beyond practicing good oral hygiene. For example, they may educate you on the importance of good nutrition, advise you to quit smoking, and tell you why you should consume alcohol in moderation if you drink.
Many holistic dentists also use digital X-ray equipment, which means you are exposed to substantially less radiation. And, they typically do not take nearly as many X-rays as traditional dentists. In addition, holistic dentists typically use natural antibacterial agents when performing common dental procedures, including gum cleanings and placement or removal of amalgam fillings.
Here are some questions to ask your dentist to determine if he or she is truly holistic:
What materials do you use to fill cavities? Holistic dentists do not use metals such as amalgam, nickel or other metals to fill cavities. Instead they use composite resin, a practice that has also become common among dentists who do not describe themselves as holistic.
How do you treat gum disease? Using non-surgical approaches to healing gum disease is something that many holistic dentists believe in. Some holistic dentists treat different stages of gum disease using highly effective lasers and ozone treatments to clear the areas of bacteria. They may use an iodine irrigation system to help prevent harmful bacteria from entering the gums. And, some may prescribe herbal remedies to promote faster, natural healing.
What is your view on fluoride? Most holistic dentists are against fluoride treatments because they believe that fluoride does not prevent tooth decay and that it can cause long-term health problems, including an increased risk of cancer. Truly holistic dentists do not even offer fluoride treatments. Now, even some traditional dentists are starting to ask parents whether they want their children to have fluoride or not.
Do you remove wisdom teeth? It seems that removing wisdom teeth has been a rite of passage for young adults for a long time. But, it’s not always necessary. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 2/3 of wisdom tooth extractions are unnecessary. If your wisdom teeth are correctly positioned, fully erupted and not crowding other teeth, you probably don’t need to have them removed. If your dentist routinely removes wisdom teeth even if there is no pain or infection, that is a big clue that he is not holistic.
Do you perform root canals? Some dentists who say they are holistic are firmly against root canals because they believe that root canals can put your health at risk due to the spread of bacteria. These dentists believe that the best option is to pull infected teeth. This way of thinking began in the early 1900s when a dentist named Dr. Weston Price wrote extensively about a wide range of medical problems related to treating infected teeth. You can learn more about Dr. Weston Price’s views on dentistry here. But, these opinions are far from mainstream. In my experience the best holistic dentists use both natural and conventional therapies. A truly holistic dentist is open-minded about root canals and other procedures and treatments, and may recommend or perform them. If your dentist says he absolutely never would perform or recommend a root canal or other common procedure, you may want to consider looking for a dentist that is open to evaluating each person — and tooth — individually.
What To Do If You Have Amalgam Fillings
In the past, many dental treatments, such as fillings, required using substances that we now know can be toxic. For example, most fillings were done with amalgam, which contains more than 50% mercury and can damage your central nervous and immune systems. But, not everyone who has amalgam fillings has a problem with them. While I am not a fan of amalgams — I had all of mine removed in 1985 — many people never have a problem with them.
If you have amalgam fillings you don’t need to live in fear. Just get regular check ups and make sure that they are not leaking. Now, if you have symptoms that could be attributed to mercury, such as muscle and joint pain, stiffness and cramping, chronic fatigue, chemical or food sensitivities, or significant neurological symptoms that can mimic Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological diseases, then you may be better off having your amalgam fillings removed.
It’s much easier today to find dentists who really know how to do this safely. One of the best places to get amalgam fillings removed at a reasonable cost is Sanoviv Medical Institute in Baja California, Mexico.
What To Do If You Need A Root Canal
Root canal surgery is used to save a tooth that is fractured or badly decayed, and to prevent or treat infection. During a root canal procedure, your dentist will remove the nerve and pulp from your tooth, clean the inside of your tooth and then seal it.
Traditional dentists will typically treat a bad tooth with medication and lifestyle changes and may delay a root canal procedure until the tooth is in a severe state. On the other hand, many holistic dentists believe that the time to do a root canal is when the problem is mild. This way the tooth is being treated when it is not in an inflamed state and the nerves inside the tooth haven’t shrunk, which can make the tooth even more difficult to treat. By performing a root canal in the earlier stages, you are more likely to get a good result.
If you have been advised that you need a root canal, be sure to learn everything you can about the procedure, including what medications and tooth sealing materials your dentist (or endodontist) will use. Also, a root canal can become re-infected if the restoration leaks, so you need to maintain good oral hygiene and be sure to get regular check ups to ensure that the tooth or the sealing materials haven’t broken down over time.
As with any medical procedure, don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making decisions or undergoing treatment until you have all of your questions answered. Choose the dentist you are most comfortable with and who listens to your needs. You may also want to search the Holistic Dental Association database to find a holistic dental practice near you.
9 Easy Ways to Keep Your Mouth Healthy
- Try oil pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil (usually coconut, sesame or olive oil) in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. Then spitting it out. While there is no proof that this technique can draw out toxins from your body, oil pulling is a great replacement for mouthwash because it doesn’t kill all of the good bacteria in your mouth. It may also help to remove plaque and whiten your teeth, among other benefits.
- Ditch the sugar. When you were a child someone probably told you not to eat sugar because it would rot your teeth. And, this one is actually true! Tooth decay happens when the acid in your mouth attacks your enamel and dentine causing cavities. This happens when you eat sugar because plaque uses sugar as fuel, then releases acid as a waste product. So, the sugar you consume actually helps to create an environment that leads to tooth decay.
- Get Acupuncture. Each tooth is at the end of an acupuncture meridian. So, a problem with a tooth can be an indication that you have an imbalance in another organ or system. Or, a filling or trauma to a tooth can create chronic stimulation of an organ along its energy meridian and create an imbalance. Acupuncture can help bring your energy system back into balance. Sometimes treating the tooth is necessary as well. Check out this interactive tooth meridian chart for more information.
- Quit smoking. There are really no benefits to smoking; just tons of health risks. The important question to ask whenever you put anything in your mouth habitually, whether it be cigarettes, gum, candy or whatever, is this: Why are your oral needs not being met? Perhaps you eat too much processed food and don’t chew enough. Maybe you are afraid to speak your truth and so you stuff it down and “blow smoke” instead.
- Brush with natural toothpaste. Most of the benefits of tooth brushing come from the actual act of brushing, not toothpaste, which is often filled with potentially harmful ingredients such as sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), fluoride, artificial flavors, and more. One alternative is to create your own paste out of Indian Lilac (neem). Neem has antibacterial properties that help fight the bacteria that cause cavities, plaque, and gum disease. Another natural alternative to chemically-laden toothpaste is to brush with sea salt. Of course, there are many natural toothpastes on the market now, such as Earthpaste, Toms of Maine, and Dr. Bronner’s.
- Use floss. Flossing helps keep your gums healthy and removes bacteria and food from between your teeth where it can cause plaque to form. If you don’t like using floss, you can try air flossing with an electric air flosser.
- Eat a balanced diet. Like the rest of your body, your teeth need nutrients to stay healthy, especially calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and magnesium to build and strengthen tooth enamel and protect your teeth.
- Drink Water. Water helps wash away food and bacteria left in your mouth. It also neutralizes acid that can erode tooth enamel. Make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water after meals.
- Don’t ignore symptoms. Tooth sensitivity or discoloration, bleeding gums, or oral pain may have underlying causes. If something unusual or new has happened to your teeth, gums or mouth, let your dentist know right away.
Do you use a holistic dentist? How is your oral health? Please leave your comments below.