Holistic Dentistry is composed of two main premises. The first premise is to consider the ramifications of dental care on the entire individual. To this end, the dental practitioner chooses biocompatible materials that will have the least deleterious effects on a patient and utilizes treatment methods that will enhance the health and wellness of the whole person. The second premise is that any decision to undertake treatment is decided by the doctor and the informed patient. A patient gives his consent after he and his Dentist have discussed the recommendations for care and all the anticipated outcomes of the treatment.
The holistic Dentist has an inter-disciplinary approach to healthcare that facilitates the individual’s innate ability to heal himself. The professional views the patient as a totality of body, mind and spirit, made up of equal physical, chemical and psychological parts. These parts are interlaced and need to be balanced and supported by the care provided. When needed, the dentist recommends and enlists help from other healthcare practitioners.
Dental materials can break down and change with time. Even noble metals such as gold and platinum, as well as porcelains and ceramics, can corrode and weaken in the mouth. The resulting breakdown–corrosion by-products–can be very toxic as they enter surrounding tissues or are swallowed.
Sensitization to these components may occur with accompanying adverse health effects far removed from the mouth. Responses from patient to patient may vary significantly. For some, the effects may be neurological, while others may have problems in the kidneys, digestive or cardiovascular systems.
Dissimilar metals in the mouth can cause electrical interference fields that block the successful outcome of many therapies. Materials used to restore teeth can result in biochemical and neurological disturbances that prevent organ systems from healing and recovering from degenerative disease.
Focal infections from failed root canals, abscessed teeth or residual problems from extracted teeth can play a part in many pain syndromes. The antibiotic effect of mercury released from dental amalgam fillings can destroy normal intestinal flora making it difficult to eradicate parasitic and fungal infestations.
The holistic Dentist pursues an ongoing continuing education regimen so that he is able to provide the best and most up-to-date treatment available to his patients. This base of continually-expanding knowledge enables the dentist to educate his patients and guide them in choosing dental care that will promote the health and wellness of the whole person.
The practice of holistic dentistry is an integral part of holistic medicine. In order to treat the whole patient for any medical condition, an evaluation of the status of their dental health is important. The mouth is an excellent barometer for systemic health. The clinical condition of the teeth, gums and tongue can be a window to biochemical deficiencies within the body. An inability to chew food properly because of missing or misaligned teeth can interfere with digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Musculoskeletal problems can be greatly influenced by jaw dysfunction.
A holistic approach to Dentistry needs to be an integral part of your long-term plan for maintaining good health and high quality of life. Many people with chronic disease must pass through a holistic dental office before the final desired results can be attained.
Holistic Dentists have similar offices to other dentists, but most holistic Dentists do not place amalgam (mercury) fillings. In addition, many use:
- Composite materials instead of amalgam
- Sequential replacement of fillings
- Material compatibility testing, when required
- Oxygen, if desired
- Air filters in operatories to remove amalgam particles and mercury vapor
- Rubber dams to prevent materials from being ingested
Any treatment of temporomandibular joint disorders–known as TMJ–or orofacial pain must be a holistic one. Since the great majority of conditions called TMJ–over 90%–do not originate in the temporomandibular joints themselves but rather in the muscles and other structures of the head and neck. Furthermore, a common finding is stress–emotional, ergonomic (often job-related) or due to trauma. Other contributing factors are potentially harmful habits, such as: clenching or grinding of the teeth–usually during sleep, when the patient is unaware–excessive gum chewing and smoking, as well as poor nutritional patterns, for example, high sugar intake and caffeinated beverages.
With these elements in mind, holistic treatment of TMJ and other orofacial pain disorders commonly proceeds in stages:
- Diagnosis of the problem, including identification of any contributory factors. This is via a thorough history and examination.
- Communicating these findings to the patient in a consultation where the patient is encouraged to ask questions and clarify any points not completely understood. At this time, the patient’s role in the treatment regimen is outlined and its importance stressed, and any necessary written instructions and guides provided.
- Any other disciplines whose expertise can be of help in the healing process are identified and recommended to the patient, or the patient is actually referred, if desired. These often include one or more medical specialties, Chiropractic, Physical and/or Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, restorative Dentistry, Nutrition and whatever other help the patient requires.
By recognizing the many factors involved in TMJ and orofacial disorders and enlisting the patient and other health care professionals in the healing process, successful treatment outcome is much more.
TMJ Source: Stephan Winber, DDS, MPS
A Denver woman was involved in an auto accident two months prior to her initial office visit. Her chief complaints were headaches, neck pain, right ear and jaw pain, difficulty chewing food, fatigue and a loss of energy. Examination revealed she had sustained skull trauma and neck and jaw whiplash resulting in a dislocated jaw and teeth that did not meet properly, as well as spasms of the neck and jaw muscles.
Treatment involved the placement of an acrylic splint over the lower teeth. This was worn full time to support her jaw and to begin to relieve the muscular spasms. Cranial manipulation and Chiropractic care were utilized in conjunction with the dental splint to alleviate her symptoms. Within four months, her condition had dramatically improved. Eventually her head, neck and jaw pains were eliminated, and her energy level steadily improved. Final treatment has included orthopedic dental appliances to properly align the teeth eliminating the acrylic splints.
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