Holistic dentistry combines conventional treatments with natural therapies to prevent and treat diseases of the mouth and teeth. Also called biological dentist, holistic dentistry assesses the patient’s overall state of health, both physical and emotional, in diagnosing and planning treatment for conditions that afflict the oral cavity.
The Holistic Dental Association was formed in 1978 by a group of dental practitioners who sought to educate the public and other dental practitioners about the benefits of holistic dentistry. Holistic dentistry is based on the knowledge that many of the treatments traditionally used for oral diseases and dental conditions are toxic. For example, the metal amalgam that is commonly used for dental fillings contains high levels of the heavy metal mercury, which has been shown to damage both the immune system and the central nervous system. Holistic dentistry also addresses the idea that many common dental procedures, including the root canal, force bacteria into the bloodstream; holistic dentists have introduced the use of natural antibacterial agents during some of these routine practices to mitigate the adverse effects this can impose on the body.
Holistic dentists consider the patient’s whole body and mind when addressing the causes of diseases that affect the oral cavity. Many holistic dentists guide their patients on smoking cessation or balanced nutrition in addition to oral hygiene, understanding that smoking and nutrition can have significant effects on the health of the oral cavity, in addition to the other systemic things they affect. Some holistic dentists may advise against the use of fluoride, for a variety of reasons, while others endorse its use. Holistic dentists also use composite resin, exclusively, to fill cavities, avoiding the use of metal amalgam and of metals in general, and many will offer to remove existing amalgam fillings and replace them with composite resin; this complicated practice is unlikely to benefit the patient. Many general dentists have also begun using composite resin for fillings; the practice has moved beyond the world of holistic dentistry.
Holistic dentists avoid practices that traditionally rely on chemical sterilizing agents, like root canals, and they offer digital x-rays, which expose the patient to lower amounts of radiation; however, these digital x-rays are also common in conventional dentistry. The Holistic Dental Association maintains a nationwide database of dental practitioners who use holistic dentistry practices.
In addition to medical and biological concerns, holistic dentists address the environmental concerns that can arise from conventional dentistry. Dental waste that is disposed of improperly can lead to the release of heavy metals into the ecosystem, where they are introduced into the food chain and threaten the well-being of wildlife. Small amounts of mercury that appear on regular dental supplies, like gauze and cotton balls, can be released into the air if discarded with regular trash that is incinerated. Talk to your dentist if you are concerned about the practice’s environmental impact; proper waste disposal can significantly reduce the risks of environmental damage, and the increased use of composite resin in dental practices diminishes the risk even more.