What is a Holistic Dentist?
A holistic dentist is a dentist who treats dental issues as part of a person’s overall health. Holistic dentists get additional training after dental school, to deliver safer, non-toxic treatment for patients wanting a more natural approach to oral health. Holistic dentistry is also known as biological dentistry, natural dentistry, naturopathic dentistry, functional dentistry, or biomimetic dentistry.
Read on to understand how holistic dentists are different from traditional dentists, and the evidence-based alternatives they offer for safer diagnosis, materials, and treatments–and what you should know when finding a good holistic dentist near you.
Why “Holistic?” Mind, Body & Spirit
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, holistic is defined as “relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts. Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease.”
While many people have embraced the holistic approach when it comes to their medical care, fewer have incorporated this type of practice when it comes to their dental care.
Yet problems with the teeth and gums are often the precursor to systemic problems—a breakdown in some vital aspect of the whole body, a clue that can suggest a change in lifestyle is needed before a disease takes hold. As Benjamin Franklin suggested, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” A true holistic dentist understands the connection and treats both body and mind accordingly.
In addition to looking at the body as a whole, holistic dentists are trained in treating your teeth and gum diseases in a way that does not create disharmony within the rest of the body. They take the Hippocratic Oath seriously, “First, do no harm.”
To this end, they understand the potential health risks associated with root canals, the filling used for cavities, the possible negative side effects of fluoride and the importance of biocompatibility testing. As with any holistic practice, a holistic dentist does not treat the symptom but the underlying issue that caused the symptom.
Holistic Dentistry And Your Teeth & Gums
A holistic dentist sees you and your teeth and gum issues as a major clue to the health and wellness of your being. Oral health is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other health issues, and some experts estimate that 80% of all disease begins in the mouth!
Why would that be the case? One of the reasons is simple: your mouth is the major gateway to the rest of your body, bringing in bacteria and other pathogens that can settle in certain organs or pathways. Problems with teeth and gums are highly correlated to other diseases; for example, internationally-recognized expert Dr. Andrew Weil notes that 95% of Americans with diabetes have gum disease. And the American Heart Association links several heart diseases to inflammation directly caused by oral bacteria.
Another reason oral health is so predictive of overall health is the connection of bodily energetic meridians. If you have experienced acupuncture, you understand the energy pathways that run through the body. How a pressure point in the hand can relieve a headache or how point GB31, found on the gall bladder meridian, can relieve hip pain. (Check out our Interactive Tooth Chart to see meridian connections for individual teeth.)
Your teeth are also found along these meridian lines—pathways in which vital energy flows and each of which is connected to a specific organ.
The Meridian Tooth Chart is used by holistic dentists in order to determine what your teeth may be saying about the rest of your body and the imbalances that may be occurring. For instance, your incisors and canine teeth are on your kidney, liver and gallbladder meridians. Issues with one of these teeth may be a symptom of an underlying disease or imbalance in one of these organs.
These connections between oral health and the health of the rest of your body are important, but modern American medicine treats the two as separate. Traditional dentists’ “territory” ends at the throat, and traditional doctors don’t routinely examine teeth and gums as part of their diagnostics.
Holistic dentists know that teeth and gums are keys to other diseases that may be affecting your body. And because over half of Americans have some type of gum disease (often undiagnosed until it becomes severe enough for patients to notice), these clues in the mouth can help catch systemic problems early. Like a detective collecting evidence, a holistic dentist combines clues in your teeth and gums with scientific testing to determine the underlying issues.
Holistic dentists also know that procedures done on teeth and gums affect a person’s overall health. X-rays, extractions, drilling, fillings, root treatments, implants, gum treatments, and other oral disruptions aren’t just isolated in the mouth–each procedure changes the body, and often in significant ways. This “holistic” understanding is why biological dentists seek out and use safer, less toxic or harmful procedures, materials, and equipment.
Holistic Dentistry:A Healthier Approach to Diagnosis And Treatments
When we think of the diagnostic tools a dentist has available, our first thoughts turn to x-rays. Afterall, for many dental patients, the normal course of a visit involves a set of x-rays, an exam, and then the diagnosis.
The good news is that the radiation we are currently exposed to from dental x-rays has been dramatically reduced since their advent in 1895. The radiation you are exposed to from a routine exam has been compared to the same amount of radiation you experience on a short 2-hour airplane flight. For those of you fortunate enough to visit dentists that have opted for digital x-rays, your radiation has been reduced by 70 percent compared to that of traditional x-rays.
The bad news is that the unnecessary use of panoramic and full-mouth radiographs–as well as the use of a diagnostic tool before the necessity of it has been determined–has left many patients wondering if they should speak up before the next lead apron has been flung over them.
There are holistic dentists who offer alternatives to dental xrays. One of these is DIAGNOdent, a low power laser that can detect demineralization. The other is CariVu, a small pen-like tool that transmits a near-infrared light that causes cavities to appear dark and fractures or cracks to stand out.
According to a report in the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT), almost half of all dentists are still using amalgam, or silver, fillings. Herein lies one of the great divides between many traditional and holistic dentists.
Amalgam contains mercury and other metals. This same report quoted a dentist from Pennsylvania who succinctly related the concerns that many patients and dentists have when it comes to silver fillings:
“Mercury is one of the most powerful neurotoxins known. We can’t put it in landfills, and any excess has to be picked up by hazardous waste haulers. Yet we can bury a filling that is 50 percent mercury three inches from a person’s brain?”
This highly toxic metal has been shown to produce serious negative health effects. Symptoms of mercury exposure include:
- Memory loss or brain fog
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Unexplained pain
- Chronic headaches
Holistic dentists go so far as to replace amalgam fillings with non-toxic composite material. The removal of the amalgam can cause the release of mercury and, therefore, must be extracted using safe and protective measures.
Some of the precautions include the use of dental rubber dams that isolate the tooth and minimize the release of mercury vapor. Other safety measures include the use of high-volume suction and an alternative source of air as well as an air purifier. Biological dentists who have the equipment and are trained in these procedures are known as “mercury-safe” (as opposed to “mercury-free”) dentists.
Because mercury has been shown to leak from amalgam fillings, producing a build-up in various tissues of the body, holistic dentists will often recommend a mercury detoxification program.
Most holistic dentists are against performing root canals, for several reasons. The most prominent reason is that bacteria become trapped in the canal, leading to adverse health effects.
Dr. Boyd Haley, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kentucky, took a close look at approximately 900 teeth with root canals. He determined that about 50 percent of the teeth contained enough bacteria to challenge a healthy immune system, 25 percent were fairly benign while the other 25 percent contained toxins more powerful than botulism—one of the most toxic substances known to the human body.
While the link between bacteria in the teeth and heart disease is fairly well-known, increasing evidence suggests a link to cancer as well.
According to Joseph Issels, MD, “A survey conducted at my clinic found that, on admission, 98 percent of the adult cancer patients had between two and ten dead teeth, each one a dangerous toxin producing ‘factory’.”
Because the artery and nerve supply have been removed, a tooth that has had a root canal is considered dead. A dead tooth, capped by a crown, is often unable to alert the patient through normal pain routes that the bacteria harboring below have become a problem before serious infection sets in, leading to a root canal failure and extraction.
A passage from The Toxic Tooth, a book by Robert Kulacz, DDS and Tom Levy, MD will make you think twice about a root canal. “My dental assistant once described an extracted root canal-treated tooth as smelling like a dead mouse that had been decomposing for a while.”
Biological dentists will offer alternatives to root canals, and will prioritize treating the sites of former root canal teeth.
Just as a snowflake or the patterns of a fingerprint are unique and one-of-a-kind, no two people are alike. Holistic dentists understand that what may affect one person adversely will be suitable and have no long-term consequence for another.
With more than 140 metals and chemicals found in dental material, it’s safe to assume that many patients may have an adverse reaction to one or more of these substances. For this reason, most include biocompatibility testing when determining the type of dental material to use in their patients.
This type of testing will often be used to find out what type of composite filling is best suited to a particular individual as well as various materials that may be used in a bridge or crown. A blood sample is drawn and then placed in a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells and platelets from the serum. The antibodies contained in the serum will offer an immune response varying from mild to severe when tested with each type of material.
While most people can put up with some toxicity without occurring systemic or whole body effects, there are a growing number of individuals who have multiple chemical sensitivities. This may be due to a compromised immune system, a body that has been overloaded with chemicals and other toxic residue, or a situation in which chronic stress has left the body unable to respond properly to potential invaders.
The goal of holistic dentistry is to find the right restorative materials to maximize strength, comfort and appearance while minimizing toxicity and the body’s immune response.
Dental implants are used to replace a missing tooth. They are typically made of titanium rods that are placed in the jawbone and topped with a crown.
This is an example of a dental procedure that works well with biocompatibility testing to ensure the best dental material, that is least reactive to individual patients, is used. For instance, an alternative approach is the use of zirconia, also known as zirconium oxide.
It differs from its cousin, zirconium, in that it is not a metal but rather a ceramic and has proven to be very biocompatible and “gum-friendly.”
EAV stands for Electro-Acupuncture According to Voll, and is also known as Electro-Dermal Screening or EDS. In essence, it measures the energy flowing along the energy pathways in your body, otherwise known as meridians.
Everything in your body, including your teeth and organs, are linked to these meridians. This important diagnostic tool can help a holistic dentist determine, for example, it the root canal in your first molar preempted a thyroid disorder or if your headache is caused by an infected tooth or a troubled gallbladder.
Did you know that when smog is on the rise, so too is ozone? Ozone is nature’s way of cleaning pollutants from the environment and filtering out the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. And in the same way that it purifies the air, it cleans your mouth.
Ozone kills bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. This powerful oxidizer is used in holistic dentistry in a number of ways, including irrigating and bathing the teeth and gums in areas of periodontal disease. This procedure promotes the health of your gums and limits tooth decay.
The debate over whether the use of fluoride in a dental practice constitutes wisdom or folly is still raging. Fluoride was first added to public water over 60 years ago.
Proponents suggest that children who live in areas where fluoride is added to the public’s water supply have fewer dental caries. Advocates, in turn, site growing evidence that ingested fluoride is linked to some cancers and bone issues, including hip fractures.
Some people are particularly susceptible to fluoride toxicity. Perhaps it is for this reason that 97 percent of Western Europe has rejected water fluoridation. Or perhaps it is due to the 50 examinations performed on 12,000 plus children that associated elevated fluoride exposure with reduced IQ.
Most holistic dentists fall on the side of opposing ingested or topical applications of fluoride, though some will provide fluoride treatments in the office, if they determine your teeth could benefit.
Traditional dentists prescribe antibiotics for the treatment as well as the prevention of a bacterial infection. I, personally, have never been one to take drugs as a preventative cure–I leave that to the plant kingdom, homeopathic remedies, and the tried-and-true “one apple a day” approach.
However, I understand that when the pain of an infected tooth wakes you up in the middle of the night, it’s easy to reach for the promise of relief in a pill.
The relief, however, comes at a price. Antibiotics can’t differentiate between your bad bacteria and the good bacteria that live in your gut. They sweep through your body in disregard of who the foreign invaders are and who your best friends are. And when this delicate ecosystem is left in disarray, a host of ailments can follow including autoimmune disorders, yeast overgrowth, and indigestion.
So, what is the alternative? Dr. Michelle Jorgenson, a holistic dentist from American Fork, Utah, utilizes a highly effective homeopathic penicillin called Notasan. She has received such positive results that she rarely uses antibiotics in her practice.
Care for Your Teeth & Gums the Natural Way
If you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at bedtime, and use an oral water irrigation system (such as Waterpik) than you are following the recommendations that most holistic and traditional dentists make as far as caring for your teeth on a daily basis. Where the two often differ is in the products used to accomplish this.
Holistic dentistry advocates will often avoid commercial toothpastes, due to their use of chemicals and sweeteners. Health food stores carry several natural options that usually contain essential oils and herbs. Dr. Mark Breiner, author of Whole-Body Dentistry, recommends a mixture of hydrogen peroxide with baking soda.
In addition, your holistic dentist may recommend the following:
- The use of diluted 3-percent hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash in order to kill the bacteria responsible for gingivitis. Some suggest adding it to the reservoir in the water irrigation dispenser.
- Oil Pulling—a traditional Indian folk remedy used in order to prevent tooth decay, establish healthy gums, get rid of bad breath and whiten teeth. The oil also attracts and pulls out bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins.
- Coconut oil is often recommended due to its high lauric acid content, which is also found in high concentrations in human breast milk. Simply swish a few tablespoons around in your mouth first thing upon waking for 10 to 20 minutes. This act has been shown to reduce bacteria, pus, mucus and plaque. (Note: make sure you spit the coconut oil into a trash can, and not the sink or toilet. Coconut oil re-hardens quickly and can clog plumbing.)
- Monitoring your mouth’s pH balance. An acidic mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. Saliva-activated pH strips are available at most pharmacies. Aim for a pH of 7, and modify your diet until it’s achieved. Diet is, after all, a key to the health of both teeth and body.
A Diet that Prevents Decay
Weston A. Price, DDS, considered by many as the father of holistic dentistry, lived from 1870 – 1948. He believed that health and vitality were directly related to the food one eats and that dental decay was the result of modern denatured food, or food that has been altered from its natural state.
Dr. Price traveled across the globe, studying various indigenous and isolated cultures. He found that those who remained on their native diets experienced little to no tooth decay or degenerative diseases; however, when civilization crept into these cultures and refined sugar and flour were introduced, tooth decay became rampant.
He believed so strongly in healing cavities with nutrition that he stated he would “recommend it with confidence as adequate to control well over 95 percent of dental caries.”
Most holistic dentists, to varying degrees, look to the diet to determine the cause of tooth decay. Refined foods are at the source of many of today’s common ills. These include processed and packaged foods that are often high in white flour, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup.
So, what should you eat? The bottom line for a healthy diet is to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet. These foods are also found to produce an alkaline pH.
Did you know that the body has to maintain a blood pH of 7.35 to 7.45 in order for us to survive? Help it along by eating those foods that fall in the alkaline range. Other foods good for you and your teeth include legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
How to Find Your Holistic Dentist: Ten Questions To Ask
As with any profession, holistic dentists can vary widely in their interpretation of exactly what the phrase “holistic” means. Some even go by alternative names such as biological or natural dentistry. Unfortunately, there are those that use the term for promotional purposes and offer little in the way of holistic services except for using composite fillings instead of amalgam.
Many holistic dentists incorporate natural therapies such as herbs, supplements, homeopathy, dietary recommendations and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and craniosacral treatments for problems with the jaw or TMJ. Others use applied kinesiology (muscle testing) to determine what dental procedures and material will weaken or strengthen the body.
But with so many dentists out there hopping on the holistic bandwagon, how can you really tell the difference?
To take the guesswork out of this important decision, we’ve done the leg work for you. We’ve called dentists across the nation that define themselves as “holistic” and asked them ten key questions to determine just how holistic they really are.
- Are you mercury-safe or mercury-free in your office?
- What are your procedures for removing mercury fillings?
- What alternatives to root canals do you offer?
- Do you avoid the use of fluoride?
- Do you use x-ray alternatives, or digital x-rays instead of film?
- Do you offer alternatives to metal implants?
- Do you have a CT scanner for checking out the health of my root canal teeth, or to see if my jawbone is strong enough for an implant?
- Do you offer ozone treatments?
- Does your office offer alternatives to antibiotics, or nontoxic alternatives to pain medication?
- Does your office offer alternatives for drill-based cavity treatment?
And this Holistic Dentist Finder is yours for free! In addition to listing dentists, we also share just what services they provide, so you can make an educated decision about caring for you and your family.
(If you have a really great biological dentist we missed, leave a comment and we’ll get their info in our holistic dentistry resource as soon as possible.)
We didn’t offer anything, require membership, or charge these holistic dentists any fees to be in this resource, because it isn’t advertisement. It’s about YOU, educating you to take control of your health.
This is our goal: Helping you and yours live a better, happier, non-toxic life filled with all the goodness that comes from making healthier choices!
1. Holistic Dental Association. http://holisticdental.org/about-us
2. Bipasha Mukherjee. 12 Effective Acupressure Points to Relieve Hip and Lower Back Pain. Modern Reflexology. http://www.modernreflexology.com/acupressure-points-to-relieve-hip-back-pain/
3. Each Tooth is Associated with an Organ in the Body—Pain in Each Tooth can Predict Problems in Certain Organs. Daily Health Post. 03/2017. https://dailyhealthpost.com/meridian-tooth-chart/
4. What are the Seven Emotions? Shen Nong. http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/principles/sevenemotions.html
5. Weil M.D., Andrew. Holistic & Biological Dentistry. https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/dental-oral-health/holistic-biological-dentistry/
6. New Survey shows Majority of Dentists are HG-Free. International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology. https://iaomt.org/survey-shows-majority-dentists-hg-free/
7. The Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART); International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology. https://iaomt.org/safe-removal-amalgam-fillings/
8. Joseph Issel, MD. Cancer: A Second Opinion, chapter 8, Focus on Foci. Issels Immuno-oncology Integrative Immunotherapy for Cancer. 2015. http://issels.com/publication-library/focus-on-foci/
9. Robert Kulacz, DDS and Thomas Levy, MD, JD. The Toxic Tooth. MedFox Publishing. 2014.
10. Self Help Dental Issues and Metals. Breast Cancer Study and Support. http://www.breastcancerstudyandsupport.org/dental-metals.html
11. Steve Koral, DMD. A practical guide to compatibility testing for dental materials. International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology. https://iaomt.org/practical-guide-compatibility-testing-dental-materials/
12. Connett, Michael, PhD. ie. Fluoride & IQ: The 50 Studies. Fluoride Action Network. 09/2016.
13. Nagel, Ramiel. Cure Tooth Decay. http://www.curetoothdecay.com/Dentistry/weston_price_dentist.htm
14. Breiner, Mark, DDS. Whole Body Dentistry. Quantum Health Press. 2011.