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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. 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 specialized 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". They attempt to coin the following basic principles as being unique to holistic dentistry:
- 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. While many conventional dentists recognize there is significant merit to different preventative approaches to dentistry, some of these dentists have criticized holistic practices for lack of efficacy of approach and false marketing in their practices.
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. However, some traditional herbal dental techniques, such as the use of the Miswak stick has been shown to be of possible effectiveness. However, the realm of herbal dental hygiene remains a largely understudied realm, and further rigorous scientific evaluations will be necessary to determine the efficacy of different methods.
Some critics of holistic dentistry practice also note that the fees charged by such practitioners are generally several times higher than those of mainstream dentists. Some claim 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. However, others argue that such practices are not representative of the entire field of holistic dentistry.
- 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. Archived from the original on 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
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- al-Khateeb TL, O'Mullane DM, Whelton H, Sulaiman MI (2003). "Periodontal treatment needs among Saudi Arabian adults and their relationship to the use of the Miswak". Community dental health. 8 (4): 323–328. ISSN 0265-539X. PMID 1790476.