Holistic dentistry is an alternative to traditional dental care. It’s a form of complementary and alternative medicine.
In recent years, this type of dentistry has grown in popularity. Many people are attracted to its holistic approach, along with its use of more natural remedies.
Essentially, holistic dentists are general dentists who use holistic techniques. Some may combine these techniques with conventional methods. But overall, their approach to oral care involves alternative treatments.
Continue reading to learn more about holistic dentistry, the types of treatments and materials that are used, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks.
What is holistic dentistry?
Holistic dentistry is a form of dental medicine. It’s also known as:
- alternative dentistry
- natural dentistry
- unconventional dentistry
- biocompatible dentistry
- progressive dentistry
- integrative dentistry
This type of dentistry approaches oral care from a holistic perspective. It considers how oral health affects the whole body, and vice versa.
Therefore, holistic dentistry treats oral problems by focusing on all aspects of health. This includes your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
How is it different to traditional dentistry?
Some holistic dentists may incorporate traditional methods. Still, there are key differences between the two types of dentistry:
The primary difference is the philosophies behind each practice. Traditional dentistry solely focuses on dental health. This consists of diagnosing and treating problems that affect the:
- areas of the head and neck (when affected by the mouth)
Holistic dentistry, on the other hand, treats dental problems by focusing on the entire person. It focuses more on the whole body compared to traditional dentistry. This stems from the idea that all areas of health are connected, including emotional and spiritual health.
Due its nonconventional philosophies, holistic dentistry treatments are also different.
In traditional dentistry, dental care primarily includes treatments that have been scientifically proven to be effective and safe like:
Holistic dentistry uses variations of these methods. Treatment may also include therapies like:
- nutrition education
- spiritual healing
For example, if you have gingivitis, a holistic dentist might discuss nutritional therapies to relieve your symptoms. A traditional dentist may also discuss nutrition with you, but a holistic dentist will place more emphasis on the effect of nutrition on oral health.
Also, holistic dentists do not perform root canals. They believe root canals aren’t totally safe due to the procedure and chemicals used.
Holistic dentists opt for “biocompatible” or natural materials instead of the types of substances used by a traditional dentist. Biocompatibility refers to the way substances affect your body. This speaks to the whole-body approach of the practice.
Before using certain materials, a holistic dentist will perform biocompatibility tests. This is said to help determine if the substances are compatible with your body and immune system.
The materials are all natural. For instance, a holistic dentist might give you an herbal mouthwash for gingivitis. But a traditional dentist may prescribe a medicated mouthwash called chlorhexidine, which is scientifically proven to reduce gingivitis.
Other examples of holistic remedies include:
herbal tooth powder
neem toothpaste (neem is a tropical plant found in Asia)
composite fillings (in place of mercury fillings)
But holistic dentists believe these fillings can be harmful, so they don’t use them. Holistic dentists may also promote removing mercury fillings if necessary.
Holistic dentistry also has a different view on fluoride.
Conventional dentists encourage using fluoride in the form of toothpaste or fluoridated water. (In fact the ADA recommends introducing fluoride to babies when their teeth first emerge, using a smear of fluoride toothpaste the size of a rice grain to brush infants’ teeth and gums twice daily.)
However, holistic dentists advise against this practice. Only some support the use of topical fluoride.
Frequently asked questions
What are the benefits?
Despite its popularity, there isn’t a lot known about holistic dentistry. There’s very little research on its safety, effectiveness, and long-term benefits.
You may prefer holistic dentistry if the following is important to you:
- natural remedies
- biocompatible materials
- whole-health treatment
- avoiding mercury or fluoride
- alternative therapies
More research is necessary to determine if holistic dentistry offers better dental care than the traditional kind.
Are there risks?
Holistic dentistry might be unsafe if you have:
- History of tooth decay. Since holistic dentists do not support fluoride, you may be at risk for more cavities since fluoride has been shown to prevent tooth decay.
- Severe dental infection. You may require emergency medical attention or a root canal. Holistic dentists may recommend pulling an infected tooth instead of saving it with a root canal.
- Prescription medication. Some prescription drugs can interact with herbal remedies.
- Chronic illness. There isn’t any research confirming the safety of holistic dentistry for people with certain chronic conditions.
Again, more studies are needed to understand the specific risks and side effects of holistic dentistry.
Is it suitable for children?
If you’d like to bring your child to a holistic dentist, look for one that specializes in pediatric care. Pediatric dentists specifically work with children. This means they’ll have the appropriate skills, knowledge, and tools to care for your child.
Is it covered by insurance?
If you have dental insurance, you might be able to receive coverage for holistic dental care. This depends on your insurance plan, along with the specific dentist.
Holistic dentists typically aren’t listed as such, though. Since they’re general dentists who practice holistic methods, they’ll simply be listed as “dentists.”
You may have to research dentists within your network, then look for ones that practice holistic techniques. You could also try searching for “mercury-free” or “fluoride-free” dentists.
Keep in mind that some alternative therapies might not be covered by your insurance. If you decide to see a holistic dentist, be sure to confirm what services are covered. It may help to get written proof first.