Principles of Holistic Dentistry
At Top Down Dental, we emphasize three main principles of holistic dentistry:
- Materials used in dental treatment should be biocompatible or bio-inert
- Choosing equipment, materials, and protocols that are safe for patients, the dental team, and the environment
- Acknowledge the interconnectedness of the body to promote whole-body health–practice comprehensive dentistry
Following these principles allows us to provide our patients with the best possible dental care.
What Is Comprehensive Dentistry?
Comprehensive dentistry means looking at the full spectrum of impacts your oral health can have on your body. At Top Down Dental, our comprehensive dentistry starts with six screenings:
- Health Risk Assessment: How is your oral health impacting your body?
- Head and Neck Exam: Cancer screening in the mouth and outside the mouth.
- Airway Health Screening: Looking for signs of an obstructed airway and sleep disordered breathing.
- Occlusal Screening: Making sure the teeth fit together for healthy, efficient function.
- Restorative Screening: Checking that teeth aren’t decaying or damaged.
- Periodontal Screening: Checking the health of gums and jawbone.
Utilizing these screenings helps ensure that we are addressing your oral health holistically. We examine all aspects of oral health and its impacts on your overall health and wellbeing.
Natural Dentistry or Holistic Dentistry?
In general, the terms “natural dentistry” and “holistic dentistry” are used interchangeably. Some people prefer one phrase, and some people prefer another. There are individual differences between dentists about what these terms mean, but these differences aren’t consistent. And two dentists that use the term holistic dentistry are likely to be as different from one another as a dentist who practices natural dentistry and one who practices holistic dentistry.
Truthfully, some parts of our practice might be better described as natural dentistry. For example, our tendency to let the body heal itself using its natural mechanisms could be considered natural dentistry. But we think that overall holistic dentistry is a better description of our practice at Top Down Dental. It emphasizes our comprehensive approach to dental care.
Healthy Dental Restorations
We believe strongly that dentists should not introduce toxins into the body if it can be avoided. This includes the mercury that is part of the metal amalgam fillings that have for so long been the standard treatment for cavities.
Instead, we use a combination of tooth-colored fillings, either composite resin fillings or ceramic fillings. We know these fillings don’t release toxic mercury into the body, and that they provide for attractive, durable, healthy restorations.
Dr. Nehawandian is a member of the International Association of Mercury Safe Dentists (IAMSD), an association that prescribes not just the avoidance of mercury fillings, but also their safe removal. Dr. Nehawandian can remove mercury fillings without exposing you or the environment to toxic mercury.
Using the Body to Heal Itself
Of course, it’s important to remember that the body has mechanisms for repairing itself, and any holistic dentistry approach needs to utilize these mechanisms. One of the most important mechanisms is the body’s natural remineralization abilities. Saliva contains minerals that help your teeth to repair themselves, and we have to make sure your body is able to utilize this mechanism in its own defense. This means staying hydrated so your body can produce saliva, eating nutritious foods so that your body has the vitamins and minerals to make healthy saliva, and avoiding sugar-rich foods that feed destructive parasitic bacteria. Saliva is also your body’s natural antibiotic, so following the above advice can also help reduce your risk of gum disease.
Ozone is another resource for encouraging the body to heal itself. Ozone kills harmful bacteria that causes damage to the teeth and gums. In the process, it also neutralizes damaging acids, creating an alkaline environment where the body’s mechanism for restoring minerals to teeth is activated. This can reverse the decay process and potentially repair small cavities–without fillings.
The DNA Appliance is a holistic approach to treating sleep apnea that aims to correct the underlying cause of the condition and establish an attractive and healthy bite structure. What makes it different than your traditional oral appliance is that it actively works to reshape the jaw so your airway is naturally more open, effectively growing airway! Then, hopefully you won’t need CPAP or an oral appliance in the future.
Another way that we utilize your body’s natural strengths is through NuCalm relaxation dentistry. Although sedation dentistry is effective for dental anxiety, we prefer it if we can get the same effects without the need for drugs that can disrupt your body’s natural functions. Instead, NuCalm uses your body’s own mechanisms to achieve a relaxed state.
Your Body Is Interconnected
Finally, the most central concept in holistic dentistry is that your body functions as a whole, and that dysfunctions in one part are dysfunctions elsewhere, too. We see this very clearly in the impact gum disease has on your health, contributing to your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pregnancy complications, and cancer.
We also see this in the impact of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). This jaw dysfunction can contribute to problems you might notice elsewhere in the body, from headaches to back pain to tingling and numbness in the fingers. You might notice sleeping problems, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and more. That’s because the jaw exists at an important crossroads of the body, where vital nerves, muscles, bones, blood vessels, and airways meet. TMJ disrupts your jaw joint and potentially everything around it, too, which is why it manifests with such disparate and widespread symptoms.
And, of course, the connection goes the other way. If you have diabetes, we want to know so we can watch out for related increases in gum disease and tooth loss. We want to know about arthritis elsewhere so we can watch out for it in your temporomandibular joint. And we need to know about medications you are taking so we can watch out for dental complications that may occur.
Psychological conditions are also important in holistic dentistry. Bulimia and other eating disorders can lead to unhealthy behaviors that can damage your teeth. Depression can cause you to neglect oral hygiene as well as other self-maintenance tasks. And stress can lead to teeth grinding (bruxism) and unhealthy eating habits.
Because of the numerous important ties between oral health and overall health, we practice comprehensive dentistry to ensure the best results for our patients.
Tracking Down Mysterious Illness
We can help if you have illnesses or allergy symptoms that your doctor can’t explain–or thinks they can explain, but can’t treat. Many of these illnesses are related to surprising causes. In addition to the regular TMJ symptoms, the condition can create a cascade effect through the body. It may contribute to the development of chronic pain conditions like migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Often, treating TMJ is an important component of treating these conditions.
Other times, your illness may be related to oral infections. An oral infection increases the body’s bacterial load and stresses the body’s immune system. This can make you more susceptible to illness, and can increase your risk of autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms you may notice include chronic fatigue, regular illness, or allergy-like symptoms. Gum disease, infected teeth, and failing root canal treatments can all be sources of oral infection with systemic consequences. The use of Biolase lasers to disinfect treated areas helps us thoroughly treat oral infections to reduce symptoms and the risk of recurrence.
Other times, your allergies may be related to dental materials. Many people’s bodies respond in this way to metal amalgam, the metals used in porcelain fused to metal, or even the metals in so-called noble metal fillings and crowns.
Your San Jose Holistic Dentist
Dr. Nancy Nehawandian is one of the best-educated and most highly experienced dentists in the San Jose area, which includes extensive education and experience in holistic dentistry. She is a member of two leading holistic dentistry societies: the IABDM and the IAOMT. IABDM (International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine) and IAOMT (International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology) promote the use of nontoxic diagnostic and treatment methods, especially avoiding the use of mercury and excessive fluoride. To learn how she can help you with her comprehensive approach to holistic dentistry, please call (408) 354-5600 for an appointment at Top Down Dental in Los Gatos.