Have you ever been sitting in the chair at the dentist’s office and thought, “Man, I wish there were more tests that the dentist could run on me. I’ve been having so much fun, lying here with my mouth open, wondering which shiny tool the dentist will choose next to jam into my gums.” If your thought process is anything like that, then holistic dentistry may be right up your alley.
What is it?
Holistic, or biological, dentistry combines ageless healing traditions (perhaps drum-circle chanting?) with the likes of modern, meat-and-potatoes dentistry. If that sounds confusing, then maybe the general mantra of biological dentistry will clear things up: “The mouth is a micro-environment of the body with a profound potential to reflect and influence the health of our whole person.”
There, did that clear things up for you? Apparently, the practice of holistic dentistry revolves heavily around the idea of nutritional health or “wellness”, not only within the mouth, but throughout the body. In turn, this means that the practice involves procedures on body areas that are typically considered outside of the legitimate scope of dentistry. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drop trousers for your holistic dentist (and if he asks you to, hightail it out of there immediately, especially if he’s running his practice out of the back of a Dodge Neon), but it does mean that several diagnostic tests may be performed that seem otherwise gratuitous to dental care. This may include:
Hair Analysis, which is meant to measure the body’s nutritional state through hair samples which can further help diagnose a wide variety of diseases and can be used as the basis for prescribing supplements.
Applied Kinesiology, a practice of muscle testing that relies on the notion that all health problems are related to weak muscles in the body and nutritional imbalances. Holistic dentists may perform reflex tests on your legs or arms.
Cranial Therapy, in which skull bones can be manipulated to relieve pain, particularly in the muscles of the head, neck, and jaw. It is never completely specified as to what manipulating skull bones entails, although it sounds like it involves a Louisville Slugger and a dingy warehouse in Redhook.
Auriculotherapy, in which proponents believe that the body and organs are represented on the surface of the ear. Needles or small electrical currents are administered to points on the ear that are supposed to correspond with diseased organs within the body.
Of course, biological dentistry also includes more typical dental treatments, such as natural care for mouth, teeth, and gums, cosmetic dentistry, and now even integrative orthodontics. However, it is important to remember that teeth are not the end-all-be-all of the holistic approach, which is to improve the overall health of your body as a whole. For instance, in the case of holistic orthodontics, straightening teeth is only a portion of the procedure, as it also claims it will improve the posture and the function of the body, essentially correcting the alignment of the entire body.
Who needs it?
While it remains unproven that anyone actually needs holistic dentistry, most people who seek out the practice are already well-versed in holistic healing or are severely unhappy with the conventional methods of dentistry they have been treated with in the past. But generally, if you subscribe to holistic practices, hold nutritional value in high regard, and believe in the scientific theories of bodily “wellness”, you probably already have a holistic dentist.
And if you are seeking out a holistic dentist in some ill-advised plan to get back at your regular dentist for giving you a root canal, then make sure you legitimately believe in the practice of holistic healing because it typically costs the same amount of money as your other dentist, if not more.
If you feel that your standard dentist isn’t focusing on the bigger picture (i.e. your entire body) then you’ll find big benefits in switching to a holistic dentist, whose priority is keeping the balance of your entire body in a healthy state.
In addition to that, biological dentistry offers many techniques and practices that cannot be fulfilled within normal dental practice. This includes removal of mercury amalgam fillings (which holistic dentists believe to be toxic and the root of many health ailments), dental acupuncture, and homeopathy.
The main risk to holistic dentistry is that there is no real scientific proof to back any of the claims that its proponents offer. Therefore, some of these diagnostic tests may be entirely inappropriate for treating teeth and recommendations for dietary supplements or homeopathic products may not only be unnecessary but expensive. Not to mention that the American Dental Association considers the unnecessary removal of amalgam fillings “improper and unethical.”
To quote Sir Laurence Oliver, wielding his dentist’s drill in Marathon Man, “Is it safe?” In the case of holistic dentistry, probably not.
The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care an appropriate health care provider.