Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
July 8, 2019
Later in this article, I’ll list the 10 questions you should be asking your “biological dentist”. But first, I want to get the definitions correct about biological and holistic dentistry.
Biological Dentistry and Holistic Dentistry mean basically the same thing and are for the most part interchangeable. You can substitute the term “biological” for “holistic” and vice versa. They refer to an approach that integrates the best of conventional dentistry concepts with the knowledge that the entire body is interconnected. Whatever affects one area of the body can affect all other areas of the body. These concepts promote the use of non-toxic materials for dental procedures and emphasize the potential impact that dental procedures and infections may have on a person’s overall health. Likewise, what is going on within our body often is reflected in our mouth.
Unfortunately, you just can’t Google “biological dentist” to find who you really want. Any dentist could refer to himself or herself as a “Biological Dentist”. As a matter of fact, if you search a website called “Quackwatch”, you will find the opinions of Dr. Stephen Barrett are very negative on biological dentistry. He basically claims it is a fraud on the public. I strongly disagree with these comments by Stephen Barrett, MD who runs Quackwatch.
One big problem with the term “biological dentist” is that it is not a recognized specialty of dentistry. There is no approved postgraduate specialty program that offers a certification in “biological dentistry”. Since any dentist can call himself or herself a biological dentist, this is an area of “buyer beware!” There are many charlatans out there who try to jump on the bandwagon.
To complicate this further, there are organizations that a dentist can join that give the appearance to the public that this person is a specially-trained “biological dentist”. But any dentist can join these organizations and call himself or herself a “biological dentist”. The dentist only needs to pay the fee to be a member, and state that he or she follows some guidelines. That’s about it. There is no scrutiny by licensing authorities because there is no legal entity called a “biological dentist”, which would require regulation. However, dentists can learn biological dentistry through years of continuing education and researching the medical literature.
For me, well-educated biological dentists are the ideal professionals to treat dental issues. The mouth is not an island unto itself. How could anyone not realize that the blood that flows through the jaw is the same blood that flows through the heart and the rest of the body. What goes into the mouth eventually travels the entire digestive tract and will either be absorbed or not absorbed into the body. The bacteria in the mouth and the bacteria in the gut will affect the entire microbiome throughout the inside and the outside of the body. Infections in the mouth will cause systemic biomarkers to rise indicating systemic inflammation. The mucosal tissues in the mouth crosstalk with all other mucosal tissues throughout the body and influence the body’s immune response to antigens. So, how can the concepts of biological dentistry be dismissed as a fraud?
With all this in mind, how do you, as a concerned and discerning patient, know that your selected dentist truly understands and promotes dentistry in a whole-body fashion? The answers are that you will need to do some homework, and you will need to ask some pertinent questions.
Educate yourself about what biological dentists should be doing for you as a patient and for their entire office and staff. You can obtain much of this information from the websites of organizations that promote this type of dentistry. Start reading the articles on websites like:
International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology: https://iaomt.org/
International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine: https://iabdm.org/
Holistic Dental Association: http://holisticdental.org/
In addition, you can search PubMed.gov for peer-reviewed articles about the relationships between oral health and overall health.
It is important to be aware that some “biological dentists” promote methods that are not supported by evidence-based medical research. Anecdotal testimonials may make a treatment or procedure sound legitimate. But in my opinion, these treatments and procedures must be supported by some science, which can be repeated successfully by other clinicians with other patients.
10 Pertinent Questions
Interview your prospective dentist. Ask probing questions to understand how they make their office and treatments a health-centered environment. Some of the questions you should ask are:
1. How did you become a biological dentist? Your selected dentist should be able to describe to you the many post-graduate courses he or she has taken to gain knowledge and experience. Your dentist could not take a one-weekend course to qualify as a true biological dentist.
2. Do you place mercury fillings to restore decayed teeth? Your selected dentist should not be placing these toxic fillings in the mouth.
3. Do you recommend antimicrobial mouthwashes and toothpastes to be used by your patients on a daily basis? Your selected dentist should know that any antimicrobial product used daily will kill not only bad bacteria but also good and critical bacteria that are required for mouth health, gut health, and overall health.
4. Do you counsel your patients about nutrition? Your selected dentist should have an active program for children and adults that help wean them off of unhealthy food choices, which could damage the mouth and the rest of the body. These include added sugars, processed and refined carbohydrates, and all sodas as well as foods that contain chemicals that could damage the gut. The office’s nutritional program also should suggest substitutions to replace those bad food choices.
5. How do you remove unhealthy dental mercury fillings from patients? Your selected dentist should be able to describe in detail how he or she prepares and protects the patient from the mercury vapor that is released when removing these fillings. Also, the dentist should explain how the office takes care to remove any toxic fumes in the dental operatory and how the dental staff is protected from these fumes.
6. What is your rationale for doing a root canal on a tooth? Your selected dentist should explain the instances when a root canal might be successful. If there is infection at the base of the root or surrounding the root, the dentist should explain the potential hazards of a root canal procedure and the benefits of possibly removing the tooth along with the options of replacing the tooth or not.
7. What precautions do you take when extracting a tooth to prevent any residual infection in the bone socket? Your selected dentist should explain how he or she cleans out the socket completely of any foreign material and infected tissues as well as the measures he or she takes to protect the healing of the socket.
8. Do you use fluoride in the office? This is a controversial subject. But your selected dentist should explain the few benefits of fluoride and the many potential health risks of fluoride if it were to become systemic in the body. The dentist also should suggest alternatives to the placement of fluoride in the mouth.
9. How do you determine that a dental material is compatible with the patient? Your selected dentist should describe several biocompatibility tests that can help determine if a particular material will cause a biochemical reaction in your body.
10. What will happen if I do not do this procedure? Although this is not a particular question for a biological dentist, your selected dentist should honestly tell you the medical necessity of any procedure suggested to you. Knowingly diagnosing diseases and conditions that don’t exist is fraud. Knowingly providing unnecessary treatment is fraud. Overtreating just to run up the dental bill is fraud.
I believe all medicine should be practiced in a biological way. That means that the entire body should be considered, not just the manifestation of a single disease. Treatment should be proactive and not only reactive. Cure also must include prevention. Whatever affects one cell in the body will eventually affect all cells.
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