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Everything you need to know about holistic dentistry

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Dentists explain 'biological dentistry,' a new school of toxin-free approaches to fillings, cleanings and more.

No matter how much we love having bright-white, straight, cavity-free teeth, going to the dentist is not always a pleasure ride for many people. It has been estimated that 9 to 15 percent of Americans (30 to 40 million people) avoid seeing the dentist because of anxiety and fear. In a survey by the British Dental Health Foundation, 36 percent of those who didn’t see a dentist regularly said that fear was the main reason.

Then comes all the worrying over potentially toxic fillings and the use of questionable chemicals like fluoride.

While so much of dentistry is pain-free, the other concerns do remain. And it has led to a new crop of dentists entirely: biological or holistic dentists, who are as concerned about what cleaning agents and fillers are going into our mouths — and our bodies — as we, their patients, are.

A holistic approach to dental health is slowly gaining more attention, so we talked to a couple of experts, Dr. Idelle S. Brand, DDS, of The Brand Wellness Center, and Dr. Dawn Ewing, executive director for the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine, to find out everything a patient might need to know about this new school of dentistry.

It’s about more than just teeth

“Biological dentistry is a comprehensive approach to dental health,” Dr. Brand says. “It focuses on the use of non-toxic biocompatible restorative materials for dental work, restoring the dentition to health with the least invasive procedures. It emphasizes the impact that oral health (teeth, gums and soft tissues of the mouth) may have on a person’s overall health.”

Indeed, Dr. Brand says we need to understand that “the health of the mouth is a reflection of overall body health. If teeth are constantly infected or getting cavities, then other parts of the body may be impacted or adversely affected.”

While many of the dental services we’re used to still exist in a biological dentist office, Dr. Ewing says, “It is the beliefs that are different. The biological office focuses on the root of the word bios, which means life. They do everything to promote the ease of living.”

And not only with our physical bodies. According to Dr. Ewing, “The emotional component [of a visit to the dentist] is addressed by using color, sound, and homeopathics. This may be color therapy glasses and the music choice in the office.”

Biological dentists are dentists

According to Dr. Brand, it’s important to note that “biological dentists have all the training of a traditional dentist, plus more. They are capable of treating whatever a licensed traditional dentist can treat.”

In fact, you visit a holistic dentist in the same way–and as frequently–as you do your traditional dentist.

Dr. Brand herself practiced as a conventional, licensed dentist until a bout with Lyme disease placed her on disability. When she found conventional medicine couldn’t heal her, she turned to alternative medicines and saw a “major shift” in her health. This opened her eyes to the toxins in her own field and to a desire to integrate what she learned of holistic medicine into her own practice.

Holistic dentists seek to minimize toxins

Because holistic dentists believe that traditional dentistry uses too many toxins, they “try to minimize them,” according to Dr. Ewing. So, she says, holistic dentists will use air and water filters, dental materials that are mercury-, fluoride- and latex-free.

For example, fillings are handled with fewer crowns and less drilling. “A biological office uses minimally invasive dentistry which includes digital x-rays, inlays and onlays vs. full crowns, air abrasion vs. drilling where possible.”

“The way mercury fillings are removed may be different in a biological office as well,” Dr. Ewing says. “They will be quartered and taken out in a specific sequence based on galvanic readings that were taken prior to the removal.” And, that’s important, according to Dr. Brand, who says that concern over the use of mercury in fillings is valid.

“Mercury silver amalgam fillings are releasing mercury vapor 24/7,” she says. “Mercury is the second most toxic substance on the planet. (Plutonium is #1.) Mercury is a known neurotoxin and is continuously destroying nerve cells in your body.” So these fillings must be removed, and carefully, Dr. Brand says, especially to prevent patients from being exposed when a dentist drills out the old fillings.

Even lesser toxic chemicals can also have bad affects on your body, holistic dentists say. Though fluoride applied topically to our teeth can prevent cavities, Dr. Brand says, its presence in our drinking water has “no effect” on our teeth. In fact, fluoride can calcify our pineal glands over time, she says, “creating an imbalance in melatonin production, and may cause sleep problems. Systemically, too much fluoride can also cause osteofluorosis (similar to osteoporosis), and discolored teeth (dental fluorosis).”

The benefits of holistic dentistry are hard to ignore

Getting rid of the toxins in dentistry appears to be making a big difference in patients’ lives. “The consensus is that everyone has more energy and clearer mental thoughts (less brain fog) as the dental toxins are removed,” Dr. Brand says. “I have seen chronic health conditions and autoimmune diseases disappear as patients remove toxic dental work and continue on a regimen of detoxing and rebuilding their body.”

“As a practitioner, I have seen some instantaneous and quick reversals of dental problems and persistent health problems,” Dr. Brand says. “It keeps me wanting to learn more holistic modalities to integrate into my practice. As a patient, I have greater understanding of why certain health conditions refuse to heal, until the dental health is addressed.”

Dr. Ewing has seen similar results. “I personally have witnessed extremes with dental clean-up. All the way to cancer remission! These miracles are what keeping me doing what I do,” she says.

All biological dentists are not the same

As with everything, caveat emptor applies.

“Do not assume that a dentist calling themselves ‘biological’ or ‘holistic’ are aware of the best modalities that will help your particular situation,” Dr. Brand says. “It is important for patients to ask questions of the dentist before committing to any dental work.”

Dr. Ewing agrees and suggests visiting the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine’s website for practitioners near you — as well to find information about the best questions.

Even still, biological dentistry isn’t ‘accepted’ everywhere

Though biological dentists go to dental school, the American Dental Association hasn’t gotten on board with the movement. Though, they do encourage studying and “proving” the effectiveness of holistic practices. The ADA makes the following statement:

With the explosion of unrefereed information about oral health issues made possible by the Internet, the Association believes that the need for systematic evaluation of diagnostic and treatment efficacy and safety to assist practitioners in responding to patient inquiries is greater than ever. The dental profession advocates an evidence-based approach to oral health care that requires the judicious integration of systematic assessments of clinically relevant scientific evidence, relating to the patient’s oral and medical condition and history, with the dentist’s clinical expertise and the patient’s treatment needs and preferences. The ADA supports the scientific exploration needed to discover new diagnostic and treatment approaches and techniques, and encourages advocates of unconventional dentistry to pursue scientifically valid, systematic assessment of diagnostic and treatment efficacy and safety.

Of course, Dr. Ewing cautions that the ADA “holds the only patents left on amalgam [mercury-mixed] fillings! Of course, they are against telling people it’s toxic,” she says.

Perhaps because of this stance, according to Dr. Ewing, we shouldn’t count on insurance covering biological treatment. “The standard of care is to place a mercury filling,” she says. Thus, they may only pay a “very small portion” of alternative treatment.

It’s a lot to consider — but an interesting field to pay attention to.

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