Holistic dentistry, also known as alternative dentistry, treats the patient’s dental issues within the context of the entire body. Sometimes within holistic dentistry, the patient’s emotional or even spiritual well-being is corralled within the context of mind-body solutions to dental setbacks. The core dogma of holistic dentistry posits that environmental pollution or emotional stress may adversely affect the gums, teeth, periodontal membrane, and substratum root, blood vessels, or nerves leading into the tooth structure. As the vascular system snakes throughout the entire body, it makes sense to assume that dental issues play by the same rules as other areas of the body.
Raison d’être of Holistic Dentistry
In many ways, the existence of holistic dentistry is attributable to modern dentistry as much as a search for less invasive solutions to dental predicaments. As an example, holistic dentistry seeks to avoid amalgam “mercury” fillings due to toxicity concerns. Another reason these amalgam fillings are sidestepped is that filling a cavity in the ADA prescribed manner does not actually bolster the integrity of the tooth’s structure. In fact, conventional fillings severely worsen the ability of the tooth to heal itself and form new secondary dentin. By going to a conventional dentist, you are really putting a band-aid on a more serious, and potentially recurring, problem. So what solutions does holistic dentistry offer?
Origins of the Holistic Dental Network (HDN)
The Holistic Dental Network defines holistic dentistry as a tack that promotes the wellness and underlying health of the patient rather than the mere alleviation of painful dental events. As such, holistic dentistry solders today’s science with yesteryear’s proven folk knowledge for promoting general well being and eradicating dental problems from arising in the first place. The concept behind holistic dentistry is actually well-founded from a historical standpoint.
In the middle of the twentieth century, Dr. Weston Price wrote a controversial text called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. In the book, Dr. Price chronicles his experience among indigenous peoples and notes their relative immunity from tooth decay, among other common Western ailments, and extraordinarily vibrant levels of health. By comparing the indigenous diet to the traditional Western diet, Dr. Price found that mineral-rich and fat-soluble laden foods, which the natives ate in abundance, increased resilience to tooth decay. Price’s research on holistic health also demonstrated that calcium and phosphorous, along with protein, aided in stabilizing blood sugar and preventing vascular problems in and around the mouth. Effectively, Dr. Price had disproved the ADA presupposition that dental problems are constrained to oral issues.
In addition to this nutritional breakthrough and clarion call for holistic dentistry, Price enhanced the case for core beliefs under-girding today’s holistic dentistry, namely: proper nutrition can subside degeneration dental issues; the avoidance of certain foods is essential for sound dental health; gum disease can be corrected on a biological or nutritional basis; and, finally, the avoidance of toxins is essential for continued immunity to tooth decay and gum disease. The remainder of this article will focus on holistic dental strategies to curb tooth decay via nutrition.
Cure Tooth Decay
Perhaps the most helpful modern text for halting or even reversing tooth decay is Ramiel Nagel’s book, Cure Tooth Decay. The book is given an imprimatur from Holistic Dental Association President, Timothy Gallagher, and effectively extends Dr. Price’s original research linking nutrition with integrity of the teeth. As such, Ramiel Nagel talks about foods high in calcium, phosphorous, fat-soluble vitamins and myriad minerals that assist in remineralizing the teeth to previous or unprecedentedly high levels of strength and resilience.
The important thing to bear in mind while reading Nagel’s book is that minerals work in tandem with one another. For instance, vitamin D, which is actually a hormone, helps to assimilate calcium, phosphorous, and numerous other hormones in the body. Eating foods rich in vitamin D, like cod liver oil and salmon, is crucial for maintaining adequate hormonal health and blood sugar stability. As an added bonus, minerals and hormones like calcium and vitamin D help the teeth to remineralize. For practical purposes, this means that you may feel less pain due to a cavity as fresh dentin is created to buffer the pulp from the enamel, which is directly above the dentin and diluted with mineral-deficent diets.
It’s a medical fact that blood sugar fluctuations worsen tooth decay. Consider the reality of many Western diets: they are not only low in minerals, but they lack agents to keep the blood sugar stable. On the latter note, holistic dentistry has repeatedly demonstrated that protein helps to stabilize blood sugar while processed sugar serves to unmoor blood sugar to dangerous spikes and troughs. Foods differ on the effect they have on blood sugar levels though. The worst offenders are white and processed sugars, like high fructose corn syrup. Processed or refined sugar can negatively impact blood sugar for up to five hours after consumption. The solution is to avoid refined sugar and take in good proteins, found in grass-fed meats and cheeses, to promote stable blood sugar. In addition, unsoaked grains and certain plants should be avoided, as they contain substances like phytic acid. Phytic acid is a grain toxin known to block minerals essential for tooth remineralization, such as zinc and magnesium. The solution is proteins close to nature and mineral-rich vegetables like carrots, broccoli, zucchini, celery, and good saturated fats found in avocado oil, cod liver oil, or even olive oil.
Environmental and Personal Factors
While someone’s environment might not entirely be in their control, the personal food choices they make on a weekly basis usually rely less on chance or circumstances. With the exception of rare cases, you control what you eat! For this reason, eating foods that contribute to tooth remineralization is a crucial strategy for maintaining tooth and gum health. When the blood sugar is too high or too low, your body sends out a hormonal message to stop tooth remineralization. By making sure to consume foods rich in calcium (cheese) and phosphorous (most seafood and grass-fed beef), limiting refined sugar intake and eating foods rich in fat-soluble vitamins A and D (cod liver oil), you can be assured that your blood sugar remains more stable and tooth remineralization ensues! With every meal, your body is deciding whether to remineralize or to forgo tooth remineralization. Make sure to consume time-tested foods advocated by holistic dentistry and avoid foods that cripple tooth remineralization and negatively impact emotional and somatic wellbeing.
For further reading, please see Dr. Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration as well as Ramiel Nagel’s more recent text on tooth remineralization and holistic dentistry, Cure Tooth Decay. Your dental health is worth the investment!