Holistic dentistry also called biological dentistry, biologic dentistry, alternative dentistry, unconventional dentistry, or biocompatible dentistry is the equivalent of complementary and alternative medicine for dentistry. Holistic dentistry emphasizes approaches to dental care said to consider dental health in the context of the patient's entire physical as well as emotional or spiritual health in some cases. Although the holistic dental community is diverse in its practices and approaches, common threads include strong opposition to the use of amalgam in materials in dental fillings, nonsurgical approaches to gum disease, and the belief that root canals may endanger systemic health of the patient through the spread of trapped dental bacteria to the body. Many dentists who use these terms also regard water fluoridation unfavorably.
Many practices and opinions among alternative dentists are criticized as not being evidence-based by the mainstream dental community and skeptics of alternative medicine in general. Generally speaking, such dentists charge far more for the same dental treatment compared to mainstream dentists, as they consider themselves to be providing special care.
The Holistic Dental Network defines the field as: "an approach to Dentistry that promotes health and wellness instead of the treatment of disease. This approach to Dentistry encompasses both modern science and knowledge drawn from the worlds great traditions on natural healing...Holistic Dentistry acknowledges and deals with the mind, body, and spirit of the patient, not just his or her "Teeth". And lays out the following basic principles:
- Proper nutrition for the prevention and reversal of degenerative dental disease
- Avoidance and elimination of toxins from dental materials
- Prevention and treatment of dental malocclusion (bite problems=physical imbalance)
- Prevention and treatment of gum disease at its biological basis
The Holistic Dental Association writes of that organization's founding: "In 1978, concerned, dedicated dentists came together to share their common interest in treatment modalities that were not included in dental school curriculum. Some of these modalities were very new and others were very old; the one thing that they shared in common was they offered additional options for treatment. These dentists wished to establish an organization that would provide a forum for the development and sharing of health promoting therapies. A shift from the early emphasis of the dentist on modalities to a consideration of the attitudes and feelings of the patient and the dentist has occurred. But the primary goal to teach and to learn has not changed since the founding members first met."
Practitioners of holistic or biological dentistry can vary a great deal in terms of the techniques and services they offer, and there is merit to different preventative approaches to dentistry. However, holistic dentistry as a whole has been criticized by conventional dentistry and skeptics for the widespread integration of questionable alternative health practices. These practices include, but are not limited to: homeopathic therapies, herbal remedies, craniosacral therapy, and acupuncture.
Dentistry, like medicine, is grounded in thorough scientific research. A significant part of the critique of holistic dentistry is related to the unsubstantiated use of certain services and treatments, many of which have either been investigated and found ineffective, or have not been researched enough to be declared safe and effective for practice. For example, herbal remedies are often recommended in the form of mouthwash and toothpaste in order to prevent or treat certain dental conditions. They are supposedly safer products because they are ‘natural’. However, there is a lack of scientific research which supports such treatments, and in fact herbal remedies have been found to impact the safety of more invasive or prolonged dental procedures, and can lead to additional complications if they interact with a patient’s current medications.
Similar reasons lay behind criticisms of the use of craniosacral therapy, homeopathic remedies, and acupuncture in dentistry. These treatments are promoted for dealing with various conditions, ranging from toothaches and bad breath to infections and pain relief. While, for instance, craniosacral therapy has far less scientific support overall than acupuncture, none of these techniques have sufficient well-designed studies which demonstrate their effectiveness.
Controversy and debate has arisen over the years regarding the use of alternative health practices in holistic dentistry, as critics claim that many of these practices involve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment outside of the scope of dentists.
Cynics of alternative dentistry also note that the fees charged by such practitioners are generally several orders of magnitude higher than those of mainstream dentists. It is claimed that alternative dentistry is merely the exploitation of niche health beliefs and gimmicks to justify higher fees. A potential example of this is the Cavitat, a non validated ultrasound device purported to be able to detect alleged lesions described "cavitations" (see: neuralgia-inducing cavitational osteonecrosis), or the non evidence based utilization of breathing apparatus by certain "biologic dentists" during removal of amalgam fillings, intended to reduce mercury toxicity by eliminating inhaled airborne material.
- Root canal
- Dental spa
- Gum disease
- Alternative medicine
- Focal infection theory
- Weston Price
- George Meinig
- Dental amalgam controversy
- "What is Holistic Dentistry?". Holistic Dental Network. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- "Holistic Dental Association - About Us". Holisticdental.org. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- Goldstein, B.H. (2000). "Unconventional dentistry: Part I. Introduction.". Journal of the Canadian Dental Association 66: 323–326.
- Thakur, N.; Bagewadi, A.; Keluskar, V. (2011). "Holistic dentistry: Natural approaches to oral health.". Journal of International Oral Health 3 (2): 9–12.
- Goldstein, B.H.; Epstein, J.B. (2000). "Unconventional dentistry: Part IV. Unconventional dental practices and products.". Journal of the Canadian Dental Association 66: 564–568.
- Little, J.W. (2004). "Complementary and alternative medicine: Impact on dentistry.". Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, and Endodontology 98 (2): 137–145.