Holistic Dentistry

Holistic Dentistry: The Mouth/Body connection.

The health of the teeth and gums is intimately connected to the health and function of the rest of the body.

Inflammation of the gums, tooth decay, chewing efficiency and jaw joint function, infections and even the chemicals that are found in filling materials can all have far reaching effects on overall health. Our belief in holistic dentistry looks beyond the minutiae of the teeth themselves in an attempt to ensure that the mouth and all that is expected of it is helping rather than hindering our clients on their health journey.

A few of the more basic aspects are filling materials, amalgam removal, gum health, eating/sleeping habits as well as personal oral hygiene habits.

Filling materials.

In dentistry there are a huge number of different filling materials that are or have been used over the years. Dentistry is one of the very few medical professions wherein a foreign material is placed in the body and left there for many years if not decades. That foreign material must therefore be as biologically compatible with the human body as possible. A description of each would be beyond the scope of this article, however a brief description of the most frequently used materials seems appropriate.

Mercury Amalgam.

This is a metallic filling material that has been around for many years. It is composed of roughly 50% mercury by weight with the rest mostly silver and other trace metals. Mercury is a known to be extremely toxic and although the current position of the New Zealand Dental Association is that it is safe to have this implanted in teeth many people feel differently. We never use amalgam, and in fact Dr Walsh hasn’t used it for over 20 years.

Composite.

This is essentially a composite of ceramic filler held in a resin matrix. It is a very strong filling material that can be used to definitively restore small to medium sized cavities. It is tooth coloured and can also be used to make cosmetic changes to front teeth. One of the concerns with composite is the presence of phthalates such as BPA, TEGDMA, and HEMA, all of which are known hormone disruptors. They are released from the fillings in trace amounts and are absorbed into the body. They eventually break down into CO2 but do release toxic by-products in the process. Dr Walsh imports, through his company Bioholistic NZ Ltd, a system which is free from these products and is in fact the only BPA-free composite system available where every component is HEMA and TEGDMA free.

Ceramic.

This is a totally safe biologically inert material that is probably the ideal filling material from a purely holistic standpoint. It is the strongest of the truly biocompatible materials currently available and is used to definitively restore large restorations or restorations where extra strength is necessary. These are situations such as where there is a very heavy ‘bite’, cracked or cracking tooth structure, a very large filling etc. It is a little more of a process to have ceramic restorations placed as they are custom made to fit individual teeth once the tooth or teeth have been prepared and scanned. This leads to a significant cost and time increase. The restorations are then cemented, or bonded to the teeth using a bonding resin, the content of which must once again be considered in the biology of the process.

Glass Ionomers.

These are relatively strong materials that continuously release small amounts of fluoride from them. While the Fl release does inhibit decay there are concerns in the holistic world about the ongoing exposure to this chemical.

Gum Health.

We’ve all heard how gum disease is connected to so many systemic imbalances and disease processes. Understanding how that connection occurs can be a great step towards truly knowing why we tell you to keep your teeth clean and gums healthy. Knowledge is power…and inspiration! Localised inflammation can have very far reaching effects on the rest of the body.

Eating and Sleeping Habits.

What and when you eat and drink as well as your sleeping habits can have a massive effect on the health of your teeth, their supporting tissues and by extension your overall health. The effect of these are far beyond simply avoiding sugar because of plaque, although this is certainly very important. Discussions along these lines can often be very enlightening and make terrific difference to long term oral health as well as overall well-being. You may be surprised to learn that holistic dentistry can possibly help with sleep as well. Snoring and disturbed sleep is not helpful on the road to health. Mouth breathing at night, which is often the case with snoring, also can have various consequences. There are often simple ways to help deal with these problems.

Oral Hygiene.

What is the safest toothpaste(s) to use? How does abrasion of toothpastes affect teeth over the long term? What is the long term effect on the body of ingested fluoride, titanium oxide, sodium laurel sulphate, calcium carbonate…all common ingredients in toothpastes? Should we be brushing after every meal? All worth a conversation.