Holistic Dentistry – Origins, Evolution and Benefits
Dental students are trained in general dentistry. From there, it is on them to choose and learn a specialty that can advance their career. Specialties are varied, ranging from pediatric, periodontal or endodontics. Part of the mix is holistic dentistry, which might sound radical but has been practiced for a long time.
Also known as biologic and integrative dentistry, this specialty is built on one fundamental concept: to consider the oral health of a patient in the greater scheme of their physical, emotional and mental health.
When a patient sits in a dentist’s chair, they should have the assurance that their mouth won’t encounter harmful chemicals, and that their dentist has tested how compatible they are with common dental materials like mercury. The aim is to minimize the potential for risk and harm to a patient during treatment.
It’s time to get to know holistic dentistry. First, we’ll explore what it is exactly and what it means for patients. Next, we’ll review its origins and track its evolution to chart how and why it has become a popular choice of patients worldwide. Lastly, you’ll come to understand the benefits and how this approach separates Georgian Dental® from other Barrie clinics.
We believe that a patient has the right to receive the best oral care without worrying about what is being put in their body.
What is Holistic Dentistry?
A dentist might treat the mouth, gums and teeth but they also play an important role in a patient’s overall health, including physical and emotional. With holistic dentistry, the idea is to combine conventional dental practices with those that have been used in traditional Eastern medicine in every stage of a case: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and post-operative care.
Dentistry involves the use of harsh, sometimes toxic, chemicals. Holistic dentistry subverts some of the risk associated with traditional professional oral care to provide a healthier alternative. This approach includes customized treatments based on dental materials compatibility screening. This screening tests your body’s reaction to a database of materials to determine compatibility. During treatment, a patient is only exposed to a material after proving that their body will not react negatively.
One harsh chemical often employed in dental treatments is mercury, a heavy metal that can be dangerous to one’s immune and central nervous systems. It is also a source of environmental concern as dental fillings cause more mercury pollution than electronic devices and measuring control devices.
Since most dentists call them silver fillings, removing the word mercury, most patients don’t realize that mercury is living in their mouths. Then, there’s amalgam which contain 50% mercury, proving that the dental industry has long been reliant on this metal.
Consider that the cost of an amalgam filling, including environmental impact, ranges from $204 to $272. The composites used by Georgian Dental®, which are typically made of a ceramic and plastic compound, costs only $185 while not harming the environment.
Mercury contains dangerous short-term effects:
- Coughing and sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Increase in blood pressure
- Eye irritation
- Vision problems
Mercury also contains some very serious long-term effects:
- Sleeping issues
- Loss of appetite
Georgian Dental® is contributing to a mercury-free future by not including this toxin in the treatment of our patients. Additionally, we follow protocols created by governing bodies and only employ the most state-of-the-art equipment to ensure a patient’s utmost health and safety.
At the Beginning
As mentioned, holistic dentistry has been around for a long time. In fact, the first amalgam filling was invented in England in 1819. By 1830, it was an accepted part of a practice evidenced by its endorsement but the American Society of Dental Surgeons (ASDS).
Research about the effects of mercury was conducted until 1840 with most findings suggesting that mercury was indeed harmful. This led to the ASDS to pull its support for amalgam fillings and caused a schism among dentists and dental surgeons, leading to the formation of The American Dental Association (ADA).
As you can see, some form of holistic dentistry has played a prominent role in the evolution of dentistry.
Holistic Dentistry’s Evolution
In 1978, the Holistic Dental Association (HDA) was founded. It grew in popularity because it promoted treatments and methods that were scientifically supported but not commonly taught in dental colleges.
As more studies were conducted and published on mercury, this specialty became something of a necessity since it’s guiding principle is to refrain was using any toxic chemicals. It was Alfred Stock in the mid-1920’s who first discovered the correlation between amalgam fillings and the toxicity of mercury. It was his research that led to a worldwide movement to prevent the use of mercury in fillings. Unfortunately, these efforts were interrupted by WWII. Stock’s laboratory was destroyed during a bombing raid, effectively halting the momentum of his work.
In 2002, holistic dentistry further cemented its reputation as a respected specialty when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of mercury in horse medicine. Once finalized, mercury was no long medically-approved for use of any kind in the treatment of animals. It was still legal for humans due to FDA approval, which allowed for mercury level under 1 part per million (ppm) to remain in use. The one exception was dental amalgam, which is made up 500,000 ppm.
While holistic dentistry has become more common and the use of mercury has declined, there are still some disturbing trends with respect to the use of harsh chemicals and metals by dentists and oral surgeons. Sadly, the ADA still claim that amalgam fillings present no health risk. Furthermore, dental students aren’t taught about the dangers of working with mercury.
What are the Benefits?
In addition to avoiding dangerous toxins, there are ample benefits to holistic dentistry for all parties. With respect to procedures and treatments, this specialty places the health and safety of patients at the forefront by using only compatible materials and ensuring up that each patient is set-up for a proper recovery.
This approach to dentistry fosters a clinic that is conscious of the health of its staff and patients. Its goal is to limit the number of dangerous elements and chemicals. One example of this is that clinics that practice holistic dentistry only use digital x-rays to reduce radiation exposure.
Astoundingly, dentists are the 2nd largest users of mercury in the United States. By adopting a holistic approach to dentistry, including the exclusion of amalgam fillings, we can lower the amount of mercury in circulation to safeguard the environment from this toxic metal.
If performed properly, holistic dentistry leaves little to no negative environmental impact. It minimizes the amount of mercury in both landfills and water systems.
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Holistic dentistry offers conventional oral care with a more patient-centric approach. To define holistic dentistry in the simplest way is to say that it doesn’t just focus on fixing a single tooth. It focuses on providing the best healthcare based on a patient’s case in order to fix a single tooth.
If you’re looking for a holistic dentist in the Barrie area, book your free, no-obligation consultation and see for yourself how we integrate holistic dentistry in our clinical practice.