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Holistic Dentistry

A Reason to Smile!

by Ellen Lovinger Eller

If you’re among the many people nervous about going to the dentist—perhaps one of those folks who hasn’t gone in a year or two, or more, for fear of drilling and scary procedures—it’s time to discover another way to take care of your teeth, and the rest of you: Holistic Dentistry.

Holistic Dentistry, sometimes called Alternative or Biological Dentistry, combines traditional knowledge with practices based on a fundamental rule of natural health care: don’t treat the symptom; eliminate the cause.

Because oral health affects an individual’s overall physical well-being, the Holistic Dentist takes a whole-body approach to examination, diagnosis and treatment, focusing on helping patients prevent dental and gum problems or, when necessary, working to heal them using techniques designed to prevent the spread of disease to other parts of the body.

Prevention is the key, and Holistic Dentists—like traditional dentists—urge their patients to concentrate on healthy eating habits and proper nutrition, and to floss, floss, floss regularly.

But when counseling patients, and especially when problems arise, Holistic Dentists step off the beaten path, following the acupuncture meridians associated with the teeth.

Heavy Metal & You

Other than tragic literary figures like Shakespeare’s Juliet, who drank a deadly potion because she believed her beloved Romeo had died, most people would never intentionally put poison between their lips. Yet many of us have mouths full of toxins: those old mercury-based amalgams (containing silver, copper, tin and zinc, as well) that family dentists once routinely used to fill cavities.

Over time and countless passes of a toothbrush, that poison is released as mercury vapor, and it can cause serious harm elsewhere in the body. For that reason, Holistic Dentists recommend the removal of amalgam fillings.

Removal is done under carefully controlled conditions, and is generally preceded by a urine or blood test, or perhaps hair analysis, to determine the impact of heavy metals on the individual.

With the information gathered about how the body deals with the toxins it has absorbed, the practitioner will often prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements or homeopathic remedies pre-removal to strengthen the patient’s immunity and overall health, and make sure that, as the mercury is released during and after the procedure, he/she can safely handle the detoxification process.

The removal of amalgams is usually done with an electric drill that cuts the filling in chunks, rather than grinding it out, and the chunks are suctioned out of the mouth. The idea is to minimize the amount of mercury vapor emitted. As an added precaution, the patient may be given a nose mask to wear with a steady supply of clean oxygen. (And yes, you’ll be numb for the procedure—unless you prefer not to be.)

The Holistic Dentist then replaces those old fillings with new ones that are "invisible" or "tooth colored" ceramic, porcelain or nontoxic synthetic material—and, most importantly, metal free.

Getting to the Root of Root Canals

Like any living tissue, the nerves inside teeth can be injured, become infected and die. Because teeth are linked to various organs along the acupuncture meridians, a dead tooth blocking the flow of energy can lead to all kinds of problems, from chronic sinus infections to debilitating joint pain.

Unfortunately, once a tooth’s nerve dies, you have very few options.

You can choose to do nothing, but the problem won’t go away. The disease process at work in your mouth will continue, causing considerable pain and taxing your immune system, and that will leave you open to other infections.

You can have root canal therapy, in which pulp tissue at the center of the tooth, made up of the nerve, lymph and blood, is removed and the canal is filled with a latex or similar synthetic material. "Saving" a tooth this way means no worries about having to replace it with a bridge or crown. However, without the nourishing pulp, teeth become brittle and prone to fracture. Also, root canals can fail, resulting in more pain from the active infection that remains and bone loss, as well as problems caused by toxins given off by bacteria in the inflamed area. Those toxins have been known to "target" weaknesses and, in the case of a compromised immune system, overwhelm the body’s defenses.

Option three is to have the tooth extracted, which not only eliminates the throbbing in your jaw, but also decreases the risk of having the disease spread.

The Holistic Dentist only extracts a tooth that cannot be saved any other way—due to advanced gum disease, or because the tooth is abscessed, impacted, or perhaps broken at the gum line. The extraction is performed painlessly, and the site is thoroughly cleaned to prevent bacterial growth.

Braces, Beauty & Bacteria

When it comes to correcting tooth alignment and bite problems, the goal in traditional orthodontics is to straighten the teeth, fix the bite and create an attractive appearance.

In working toward those results, the Holistic Dentist makes it a point to ensure that the muscles of the patient’s face, head and neck are aligned properly as the teeth are being adjusted to prevent any resulting problems in those parts of the body.

For people seeking help to correct discolored, chipped or misaligned teeth, or to revitalize old crowns and bridgework, Holistic Dentistry provides a full range of possibilities, including veneers, shaping techniques, bonding and sealants—as well as new crowns and bridges made of safe, composite, non-metallic materials.

And for those suffering from gum disease—linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes in recent scientific studies—Holistic Dentistry offers individualized treatments. They may range from a recommended course of Vitamin C and Co-Enzyme Q-10 to frequent rinsing with tooth-and-gum mouthwash…from inserting a tiny, slow-releasing antibiotic chip in a periodontal pocket to using cutting-edge healing technology, such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

Customizing care, the Holistic Dentist’s solution will depend on whether the problem is localized or widespread, the result of a high electrical current or interference on a tooth’s energetic meridian, poor nutrition, an imbalance in body chemistry, a defective restoration, improper bite, or mercury toxicity.

Ready for Your First Visit?

Have no fear of your first encounter with a Holistic Dentist. Just be prepared for a one-on-one discussion of your general- and oral-health (including your history of fluoride treatments, surgeries, etc.) and a comprehensive examination.

To get the ball rolling, expect a thorough cleaning—above and below the gum line. A hygienist will gently probe your gums for pockets around teeth, and may take a plaque sample and inspect it under a microscope to evaluate your periodontal health.

As each tooth is checked for decay, the practitioner will make note of amalgam fillings, root canals, movement or misalignment that might cause problems in the mouth and elsewhere in the body. A series of X-rays will be taken to show the sinuses and jaw bones as well as the teeth—an overview in keeping with the whole-body approach.

The Holistic Dentist will inspect the roof and floor of your mouth, your tongue, gums and lips for signs of cancer, possibly asking you to rinse with a special solution that will cause any malignancy or pre-malignant condition to show up under a fiber-optic light.

Finally, he/she may use specialized instruments to check the vitality and general health of your teeth, or measure the electrical current of metal restorations—one way of determining whether teeth are causing symptoms in other parts of the body—or use muscle-testing for diagnostic purposes. It’s an excellent tool if, for example, a patient has pain in his upper jaw but can’t tell which tooth is causing it.

Once Upon a Time…

Being afraid of going to the dentist was a fact of life. Everyone dreaded the pain and grinding of the drill—long before anyone knew the serious consequences to having holes in our teeth filled with metal.

Today, we not only want painless freedom from cavities, but also flawless cosmetic fixes for discolored, badly shaped and injured teeth. We want to get rid of bad breath and bleeding gums. And, aware that the consequences of neglecting such problems won’t be confined to our mouths, we want a dentist who understands our concerns.

When you go to a Holistic Dentist, you have another person on your team who cares about your complete wellness…someone dedicated to helping you achieve and maintain lifelong good health.

Your resulting bright, beautiful, healthy smile is a wonderful byproduct of that careful, caring process.

Ellen Lovinger Eller is a free-lance writer living in Shelburne Falls, MA. In addition to writing for Wisdom, Ellen also writes weekly for The West County News.

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