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Do you know about the connection between the health of your mouth and the health of your entire body? Knowledge of this is causing more people than ever to seek out the help of a holistic, or biological, dentist. Make no mistake about it, deciding to work with a holistic dentist is a wise choice for your overall health. But once you go down that path, you may be confused as to what to expect. In this two-part series, we will take a close look at what a true holistic dentist is, as well as examine some key dental tests you should know about.
What’s Wrong With Conventional Dental?
If you are like most people, the last time you needed a dentist, you probably booked an appointment with your family D.D.S. or a dentist in your neighborhood. They may have taken x-rays, filled your cavities using the latest standard metals (including mercury), recommended a root canal if dental decay was pronounced, performed a routine cleaning with fluoride-filled substances, and sent you on your way with a prescription for antibiotics.
If you are like most people, you were probably more concerned about getting out of that chair than what was going on while you are in it. If so, you are not alone. According to WebMD, approximately 20% of all Americans suffer extreme anxiety about going to the dentist. Many millions simply avoid it altogether because of fear, cost, or a combination of both.
When you do muster up the courage to make an appointment, however, you naturally assume that the “standard of care” you will receive will actually help your health, not hurt it, right?
Unfortunately, if you are going to a conventional dentist, this may not be entirely the case.
The dental industry overall is “big business.” According to a 2017 report put out by the Health Policy Institute, total dental expenditures, including out of pocket by consumers and insurance payouts, were roughly $124 billion in 2016. Yes, that is billion with a “B.” Most of the dentists that make up the industry earn their living through offering conventional modalities such as amalgam fillings and root canals.
Don’t get us wrong. Your friendly neighborhood dentist is probably a decent human being just trying to do his or her job. He or she may even give you great advice (like the need to floss more) that you should definitely take to heart. The sad truth is, however, that by “just doing their job,” conventional dentists often do more harm than good to the body overall. This is especially true for those already struggling with a chronic disease such as cancer.
It is beyond the scope of this report to go into all the reasons why conventional treatments such as amalgam fillings and root canals may spell bad news. Suffice it to say that the direct and indirect connections between some standard conventional procedures and chronic disease are very real. Research by natural health pioneers such as Dr. Weston Price, Dr. Hal Huggins, and cardiologist Dr. Thomas Levy have confirmed this connection.
If you are new to the topic, a great introduction to the pitfalls of conventional dentistry can be found in Dr. Stuart Nunnally’s presentation from the 2017 TTAC Live event. We also recommend checking out the documentary movie Root Cause (2018, Play Pictures) for more about the dangers of root canals in particular.
How is a Holistic Dentist Different?
On the other hand, not every dentist who claims to be “biological” or “holistic” really is. For example, many dentists who offer mercury-free fillings still recommend root canals and don’t think twice about using harmful substances for procedures they perform every day.
What True Holistic Dentists Offer
Despite the myriad of so-called “resources” on the internet and elsewhere that claim there is no difference between conventional and holistic dentistry, nothing could be further from the truth. At a minimum, a truly holistic dentist should be knowledgeable about the following:
- Safe amalgam removal
- Alternatives to amalgam fillings
- Safe root canal removal
- Alternatives to root canal
- Safe solutions for cavitations
- Natural substances for antibiotics (when appropriate)
- Key dental tests, such as Dental DNA and heavy metal testing
- Epigenetic aspects of oral health
- Specialization in holistic dental and natural health methodologies such as neuromuscular dentistry, restorative dentistry, epigenetic orthodontics, ozone therapy, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, or Ayurvedic medicine.
- Knowledge of (and in some cases in-house help for) structural issues such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), bruxism, and restrictive breathing/ sleep apnea
- Proper referrals to other natural health and dental providers for services they cannot perform safely in-house.
Using the above list as our guide, let’s dive a little deeper into what makes a truly holistic dental professional stand out.
Holistic Dentist Difference #1: Holistic Approach and Training
What exactly does “holistic” mean when it comes to dental? In a nutshell, a holistic view considers how all of the body’s mechanisms are connected as well as how environmental stressors (whether they are generated from the body’s internal environment or the outside world) affect the body. The study of how outside stressors may influence genetic expression is called epigenetics.
The Holistic Philosophy
“Holistic dentistry is very closely related to integrated medicine,” explains Dr. Fen Hui Chen, who has practiced holistic dentistry in La Jolla, California, since the mid-1990s. She has advanced training in ozone therapy for dental and whole body care. “It is [also] crossed-linked with functional medicine [because] we are going to find the core cause.”
Indeed, a truly holistic dentist will filter every discovery and recommendation through a holistic and epigenetic lens. For example, based on an intake questionnaire or initial conversation, if a holistic dentist discovers that you have health issues, like an autoimmune condition, they will take that into consideration when determining how to proceed.
Holistic dentists are also acutely aware of the periodontal health-chronic disease connection as well as the connections between root canal-generated bacterial overgrowth and disease. They know that an infection around a tooth has a bleed-over effect in the rest of the body. Likewise, they will strive to offer both the safest and most effective modalities to gently clean up and reverse pathogenic bacterial conditions. Maintaining and improving the health of the whole body, especially the immune system, is just as important to a truly holistic dentist as is improving oral health.
In terms of training, Dr. Chen and other professionals admit that it can be broad, depending on interests. In the United States, all holistic dentists must go through the required course of study to become a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DDM (Doctor of Dental Medicine). But since there are no “schools of holistic dentistry” in the United States, dentists, unfortunately, do not need to have official certification in order to call themselves “holistic” or “biological.”
This means that each path is unique. Some holistic dentists may have training in other medical cannons such as Chinese medicine (OMD or DOM), Ayurveda (CAP or BAMS), homeopathy (DHt, DHANP and CCH), naturopathy (ND), or nutritional counseling (CNC). Others may specialize in a particular natural health field, such as ozone therapy, neuromuscular therapy, laser dentistry, or epigenetic orthodontics. Holistic dentists who offer root canal and amalgam removal have also been professionally trained in how to safely remove them. One example is the Huggins-Grube protocol for safely removing amalgam mercury fillings.
Finally, the holistic dentist you will want to work with will no doubt be passionate about natural health in general. It takes a lot of integrity and even courage for a trained dentist to make the decision to “go holistic” in an industry where the majority of money is made from conventional treatments and the pharmaceutical substances that go with them. Holistic dentists must also operate outside of most insurance networks and under the scrutiny of an overall medical model that does not give much credibility to natural medicine modalities as a whole.
For these reasons, truly holistic dentists are almost always driven by a deeper mission and purpose for their work. This will show in how they interact with you as well as in their understanding that your body’s own immune system is the best mechanism for your healing overall.
You’ll know this passion the first time you talk to them. And if it is not there, our advice is to head for the door!
Holistic Dentistry Difference #2: The Right Tests
Your journey with a holistic dentist will more than likely start with an intake questionnaire and a brief consultation/interview. From there, depending on your overall health and other factors, your dentist may suggest getting some tests done. Below are the most common ones:
The Serum Compatibility Test
The Serum Compatibility Test is a blood test that checks for the presence of antibodies to dozens of different kinds of chemicals as well as metals. Here’s how it works.
When the substance in question comes into contact with the blood serum from your sample, it will clump together if there is an antibody against it. Laboratory technicians will then give the particular chemical or metal being tested a “grade” based on how reactive it is. Next, the test results are put through specifically-designed software which compares them to a database of commercially-available dental products. The products that contain substances a person is reactive to will be flagged in a final report that will be given to you and your dentist.
The Serum Compatibility Test has also become the “go to” test for mercury toxicity. The American Dental Association estimates that over 100 million Americans have at least one amalgam filling in their mouth.
And here is something that may shock you. If you think that all you have in your mouth is silver, think again. About 50% percent of the metal in silver fillings are actually elemental mercury. Getting a Serum Compatibility Test done will let you know how high your mercury levels are right now, as well as levels of other heavy metals in your body. Many “unexplained” health challenges, such as brain fog, fatigue, loss of balance, slurred speech, mood swings, and tremors can be connected to heavy metal toxicity. The first step to clearing them up is to remove their main source in the body. For most people, this means amalgam fillings.
Dental DNA Test
Dental DNA measures a person’s predisposition to gum disease based on what kind of bacteria are present in the mouth at the time of the test. The American Academy of Periodontology states that about half of all Americans aged 30 and over have periodontitis, or advanced periodontal disease. According to a 2006 study conducted by Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, periodontal disease can be linked to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, and complications during pregnancy. Whether you have gum disease already or you want to avoid it, this test can be extremely valuable.
“The mouth has the most complex bacteria of the whole body,” says Dr. Chen.
Dental DNA can help you find out which specific kinds of bacteria are causing your gum disease and how much is in there. This, in turn, can help you determine how fast your condition is progressing. It will also give your dentist (and you) the information needed to determine a spot-on treatment plan.
The Dental DNA Test can help you with your overall health goals as well. Remember, what is in the mouth often does not stay in the mouth. Particular pathogenic bacteria in the oral cavity can wreak havoc in other areas, causing autoimmune reactions, heightened inflammation, and a cascade of other disease-causing reactions throughout the body.
The above are just two of the many tests that a holistic dentist may suggest, depending on your situation. Other tests include the “Melisa Test,” which checks for titanium reactivity, structural testing for jaw-related conditions, bio-energetic testing, meridian testing, and dental thermography, just to name a few.
If your dentist doesn’t suggest a particular test, be sure to ask him or her about it. A truly holistic dentist will not hesitate to arrange it for you.
The key to success when it comes to working with a holistic dentist is to have a solid understanding as to what they can do for you. Armed with this information, you will know which questions to ask to make sure the holistic dentist you choose is the “real deal.”
In Part 2, we will dive into some of the most common protocols that holistic dental offices offer besides testing. we will also take a look at up-and-coming specializations in holistic dentistry that you are going to want to know about, such as restorative, laser, and neuromuscular dentistry and epigenetic orthodontics. Stay tuned to become even more empowered with your health!
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