Going to the dentist has always been something that’s just a part of life. People don’t really question it, they just know they have to do it. Well, that’s assuming of course, that they want to maintain proper dental hygiene. What isn’t the norm, however, is that people now have more options than ever when it comes to dental care. That’s why approaches like holistic dentistry are quickly rising in popularity. Before we investigate why, we must first understand what it is.
What exactly is Holistic Dentistry?
The holistic dentistry method is an approach to dentistry that focuses on total health and wellness as opposed to strictly on the treatment of disease. While it is still rooted in modern science, it also incorporates knowledge drawn from other disciplines, such as natural healing. Synonymous names for it include biological dentistry, alternative dentistry and sometimes even biocompatible dentistry. It recognizes the patient as more than just another mouth to examine, but rather sees them as a whole individual (mind, body, and spirit).
Why Holistic Dentistry Is Better?
Every dentist must successfully graduate from dental school. That means that all dentists have the same basic training. Once they’ve graduated from school, they become what is known as a general dentist. What separates dentists beyond that is if they pursue a subspecialty. Think along the lines of orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, endodontics, etc… Holistic dentistry may not be a traditional subspecialty, but it is still a different school of thought and can be used as a supplement to general and cosmetic dentistry.
Specifically, a holistic dentist would treat the patient with conventional dental care, while additionally providing complementary care. For example, a general dentist would focus on the specific problem you’re dealing with (let’s say a gum problem), while the holistic dentist would focus on your whole body health to determine the root cause. The specialty comes from pinpointing where the imbalance in the body comes from and then treating it with a combination of traditional dental treatments and natural remedies. The goal is to restore the patient’s whole health as opposed to just his or her oral health.
Holistic approaches to health are on the rise, and dentistry is no exception. Let’s take a look at why holistic dentistry is gaining popularity.
Evidence suggests that there’s a link between poor oral hygiene and common illnesses
As science evolves, more and more cases are being made to support that there is indeed a link between declining oral health and certain illnesses. Here are a few examples.
- Stroke and Heart Disease – A surprising number of Americans don’t realize that they are living with periodontal or gum disease. What may surprise you even more is that a moderate or advanced stage of either is linked to heart disease. Oral disease and heart disease are linked by a spread of germs and bacteria through your mouth to other parts of your body via your bloodstream. Studies estimate that patients with gum disease and cavities are having strokes twice as often as people with good oral health.
- Diabetes – We’ve already established that bacteria and germs from your gums can enter your bloodstream. This is of particular concern for people living with diabetes because those suffering from this disease are already prone to a variety of infections. The bacteria from gum disease can both increase blood sugar levels and effect the length of time it stays elevated. In turn, this makes the diabetes more difficult to control and may cause further complications. Managing blood sugar is critical. If not managed properly, there is an increased risk of gum disease, tooth decay, fungal infections, and dry mouth.
- Pregnancy complications – In the case of pregnancy, the spread of germs and bacteria happen from the mouth through not only the blood but also the amniotic fluid in the womb, to the unborn child. This can result in an infection once the baby is born. It can also cause early contractions, premature delivery, and a low birth weight for the baby. In this case, poor oral hygiene is putting both the mother and unborn child at risk.
- Osteoporosis – Osteoporosis is a disease affecting bone health. The disease is known to weaken bones and make them more prone to breaking. Since the mouth contains jaw bones, this means that those bones are also subject to being weakened or broken. There is a part of the jawbone that provides support to the teeth, which means that bone loss in this area can result in both tooth loss and loss of mobility.
- Pneumonia – Every mouth contains a combination of good and bad bacteria. This usually isn’t much of a problem as both can live in balance. The problem occurs when the harmful bacteria grows out of control. When this happens, it’s possible for the bacteria in your mouth to be pulled into your lungs and cause pneumonia or other respiratory infections.
If you were to see a dentist and were told you had gum disease, you’d be given a list of steps to take to remedy the problem. However, if you were to see a holistic dentist, they’d look at the issue in correlation to the rest of your body. So, say if the dentist knew you had diabetes, they’d be able to give you a total solution to balance both issues through both proper oral care and nutrition. In essence, they are concerned with the underlying issue and not just the problem itself.
Holistic treatments are less invasive than traditional methods
Going to the dentist probably falls at the bottom of most people’s list. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who actually enjoys going. In fact, many people are downright frightened to go. That’s because going to the dentist is often associated with painful treatments. However, one of the benefits of a holistic approach is that the dentist will provide patients with alternative therapies that focus on avoiding unnecessary pain and drawn out procedures.
It’s important to note that this does not mean sacrificing quality of care. Furthermore it does not mean that the treatments aren’t as effective as their more invasive counterparts.
Here are a few examples of treatments that do a great job of destroying germs and bacteria while being minimally invasive.
Laser Treatments – With bacteria being the biggest danger to oral health, laser technology can offer a non-invasive way to combat the root cause. Lasers are multipurpose devices that can give a broad spectrum treatment that will destroy microorganisms that are known to carry disease. If there’s a tooth or gum infection, laser treatment will be able to eradicate the problem, while simultaneously creating a regenerative environment for your blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and soft tissue to heal.
Air Abrasion – It’s probably safe to say that no patient is happy to see the drill come out while at the dentist’s office. If a patient needs a cavity filled, air abrasion can be used as an alternative to the traditional drill method. The abrasion tool lets out coarse little particles, along with air, to prepare the teeth for restoration. The treatment is so gentle that many patients opt out of using anesthesia. Another benefit of this tool is that it leaves the teeth nice and dry, which permit fillings to bond to the teeth more easily.
Ozone Therapy – Ozone therapy is an alternative dental method that kills bacteria using a super charged form of oxygen. It has the ability to disinfect unlike anything else. Dentists have been known to use it to fight against tooth decay, periodontal disease, and for dental pain. It can be used in a liquid form or gaseous form.
People like to avoid pain at all costs and whenever possible. Holistic approaches to dentistry have allowed for patients to avoid this very thing.
The desire to avoid toxins found in dental materials
From the beauty products we use on our hair and faces, to the cleaning products we use in our homes, our lives are filled with pesky toxins. That’s why more and more people are making the transition to more eco friendly products. However, the trend doesn’t end with home and beauty. People are looking for alternative treatments that allow them to lead a greener, more sustainable existence in every aspect of their lives. Dental treatments are no exception.
A holistic dentist will avoid using tools and products that contain chemical toxins. Here are two examples.
Fluoride – Fluoride is a chemical used by dentists to strengthen teeth. It’s quite effective at doing its job and can usually be used without much harm. However, because it is a chemical, too much of it can be toxic to the body. With fluoride being found in many community water systems, it’s hard to tell just how much someone is ingesting on a regular basis. That’s why holistic practitioners will only recommend it when they feel it is absolutely necessary.
Mercury – Mercury fillings are often used by dentists because they are said to last longer. While this is true, the reason that they last longer is because they are stronger than our teeth. This means that they put a lot of undue pressure on the teeth, which in turn can severely damage the original tooth. A holistic dentist will be concerned that traces of mercury could leak into the body, putting your entire system at risk. That’s why they’ll use a more gentle substance for fillings, to ensure that your tooth and body are protected.
Holistic practitioners will also encourage their patients to use natural products as part of their oral health care regimen.
Poor oral hygiene has been correlated to low self esteem
It may come as a big surprise to many, but poor oral hygiene has been linked to lowered self-esteem in individuals. Children who have poor oral health tend to be more self conscious. The state in which their mouth or teeth are in can dictate how often they smile. In most cases they are embarrassed to do so because they aren’t confident with their appearance. As silly as it may seem, having an unattractive smile can put people at a disadvantage in life.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 53% of people being treated for gum disease suffered from low self esteem. If not careful, low self esteem can cause periods of depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances.
That’s why a holistic approach to dental care can make a big difference in a patient’s mental health. The practitioner can bridge the gap between the person’s physical and mental state by providing appropriate dental treatment that fixes the medical issue, while alleviating the emotional burden experienced by the patient.
The bottom line is that a beautiful smile can make anyone feel more confident.
A proactive dental approach rather than a reactive one
At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is that more and more people are looking to take better care of themselves. They’re aiming for longevity, and in order to accomplish that they need to respect the mind and body connection. A holistic dentist won’t just warn them that oral health is linked to certain cancers, they’ll take the time to talk to them about proper nutrition, and things to avoid – such as smoking and consuming alcohol in large quantities.
A holistic dental approach can play a positive role in helping patients lead a healthier life. Dr. Kate Brayman has practiced cosmetic and general dentistry, using a holistic approach for over 15 years now. In addition to being treated for their specific dental needs, patients are taught about the connection between dental care and their physical health.
If you are interested in booking an appointment, or even just learning how her NYC dental practice can help you, please call 212-505-0295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a contact form you can use here.
Dr. Kate Brayman’s offices can be found at 20th 5th Ave Suite 1C, New York, NY 10011. The offices are accessible via major transit lines.