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Holistic or Biological Dentistry

Tom Escott
— By Tom Escott on October 14, 2023

Holistic dentistry is one of the oldest forms of dentistry. It is also referred to as biological dentistry, alternative dentistry, or biocompatible dentistry [1]. Holistic dentistry is based on the principle that the health of your mouth profoundly affects your overall health (and vice versa).

Holistic dentistry is one of the oldest forms of dentistry. It is also referred to as biological dentistry, alternative dentistry, or biocompatible dentistry [1]. Holistic dentistry is based on the principle that the health of your mouth profoundly affects your overall health (and vice versa). In other words, it is said that: ‘The mouth is a mirror of health’ [2]. Your teeth are much more than just bones in your mouth, but rather living tissue, which is connected by nerves and blood vessels to the rest of the body.

There are six core components of holistic dentistry: (1) Biocompatibility; (2) Bioesthetics; (3) Biochemical balance; (4) Biomechanics; (5) Bioenergetics; and (6) Bioethical care. The main principles are as follows [3]:

  • Proper nutrition to prevent and reverse dental disease
  • Avoidance and elimination of toxic dental materials
  • Prevention and treatment of dental malocclusion (misalignment of bite)
  • Prevention and treatment of gum disease

A biological or holistic dentist takes a natural, nontoxic, and biocompatible approach to the treatment and prevention of dental conditions. Holistic dentistry integrates conventional clinical dentistry with the addition of natural healing modalities such as ayurveda, aromatherapy, nutritional therapy, acupuncture, and more [1]. All holistic approaches aim to promote health and eliminate the root cause of disease rather than simply addressing isolated symptoms [1].

On the other hand, conventional dentistry simply deals with the teeth, gums, and oral cavity without significant consideration of the impact that oral health, certain procedures (such as root canals), and toxic dental materials can have on general health, and even in the onset of chronic diseases, such as cancer [1] [3].

While there is currently no clinical research on holistic dentistry as a practice and its direct effect on cancer in patients, there is significant scientific research on the association of poor oral health and cancer risk [4]. Large-scale epidemiologic studies have shown a strong correlation between periodontal disease (gum disease), overall cancer risk, and also certain specific types of cancer (as well as other serious chronic diseases) [4].

Historical Perspective of Holistic Dentistry

Holistic dentistry is not a modern concept, but rather a practice that can be traced back to as early as 1800 [1]. For over 200 years dentistry has undergone many changes, some for the better and some for the worse [5]. In 1850, the National Dental Association recognized that mercury-containing dental amalgam used to fill cavities in teeth could have detrimental health effects [1]. After that, the organization, and many other countries, banned the clinical use of amalgam in patients [1]. However, currently, the FDA considers dental amalgam to be safe without known health risks and only recommends certain high-risk populations to avoid amalgam [6].

In the early 1900s, Dr. William Hunter introduced the idea that dental infections were the root cause of diseases [5]. Others built on his theories, such as Dr. Frank Billings, and the term ‘Focal Infection Theory’ was coined [5]. Billings noticed that the focus of infections normally occurred in the head and in teeth that had excessive dental work [5]. Dr. Edwin Rosenow continued research into Focal Infection Theory and came to the conclusion that root canal procedures should not be carried out and were detrimental to health [5]. The dentists and doctors of the time that subscribed to Focal Infection Theory were known as the “one hundred percenters”. They would take drastic measures and often remove all teeth in patients to prevent diseases ranging from allergies to Schizophrenia [5].

Dr. Weston Price was probably the most prolific and meticulous of the dentists of this era [5]. Dr. Price worked with renowned luminaries and continued research on Focal Infection Theory for over 25 years [5]. He had a research team of sixty scientists from various branches of medicine and dentistry including bacteriology, pathology, rheumatology, immunology, chemistry, cardiology, and surgery [5]. Price conducted impeccable research on root canals and their causation of many diseases [5]. He demonstrated this by removing a patient’s tooth and placing it into a rabbit [5]. Whatever disease the patient suffered from, the rabbit would manifest the same symptoms of disease. Price was able to replicate his findings thousands of times [5].

Certain early holistic dental theories, such as Focal Infection Theory, were eventually dismissed as flawed despite strong scientific evidence of validity and are only now being re-evaluated [5]. Current scientific research shows that many diseases originate in the mouth [4]. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified dental disease as a global pandemic with over half the world's population affected [5]. Many common conventional dental procedures such as root canal treatments, dental implants, nickel braces, and tooth extractions are being investigated as potential causative factors of a range of different diseases [5].

Research on Holistic or Biological Dentistry

There is currently no clinical research on holistic dentistry as a therapeutic intervention for cancer prevention or treatment. However, there is large-scale epidemiological evidence involving hundreds of thousands of people, which reveals a strong association between poor oral health and the development of certain diseases, including specific types of cancer.

A 2022 study published in The Lancet evaluated the correlation between poor oral health and the risk of developing or dying from cancer in over 500,000 adults in China [7]. Poor oral health was assessed from a self-reported questionnaire. It was defined as rarely brushing teeth and always having bleeding gums. The researchers found that poor oral health was associated with higher risk for cancers (especially digestive system cancers).

A 2020 review on periodontal disease (gum disease) and cancer suggests a positive association with overall cancer risk and specific types of cancer [4]. Based on available epidemiological data, the authors state that periodontal disease and cancer is strongly linked with an even higher risk of developing cancers in sites close to the oral cavity (such as the esophagus and upper gastrointestinal tract).

In 2022 a study was published on periodontal disease, tooth loss, and the risk of esophageal (throat) and gastric (stomach) cancer [8]. The researchers evaluated data from two large-scale studies involving nearly 150,000 people over a follow-up period of 22 to 28 years. The studies revealed that individuals with gum disease had a 43% and 52% increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma and a 50% and 68% greater risk of gastric adenocarcinoma.

A 2019 study conducted by Queen’s University in Belfast analyzed over 469,000 people in the United Kingdom [9]. It investigated the association between self-reported oral health and the risk of gastrointestinal cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. The researchers did not find an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancers. However, they found that there was a 75% increased risk of liver cancer in those with poor oral health. Another study from 2017 also pointed towards a link between poor oral health, periodontal disease, the microbiome of the mouth, and pancreatic cancer [10].

Research shows a significant association between poor oral health and cancer. Therefore, a holistic approach to dentistry that supports both oral health and general health may provide certain benefits for cancer patients or those wishing to reduce their risk of developing disease. However, scientific research and clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the potential benefits of holistic dentistry in cancer care.

Potential Applications of Holistic Dentistry

Holistic dentistry is an ancient yet also emerging field of healthcare, which can be defined by its application of a natural, non-toxic and biocompatible approach to dental treatment [3]. It applies various traditional treatments as well as modern alternatives for oral health conditions [3]. The intention of a holistic approach to dental care is to remedy the root cause of disease rather than firefighting symptoms. A holistic dentist will identify areas in need of treatment and endeavor to provide patients with less stress and pain. They will investigate hidden infections of dental origin and evaluate whether it is contributing to overall health problems [3].

Oral health is defined by the WHO as: ‘the state of being free from mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infections and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychological well-being” [11].

Oral health-related quality of life is an important part of general health and has been studied under three main dimensions: (1) physical; (2) emotional; (3) social [11]. Poor oral health can cause stress and negatively affect any or all of these areas. It may result in a range of symptoms that manifest on a cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral level [11].

Holistic dentistry is based on six basic pillars, which dictate the treatment approach of a holistic dentist [11]:

  1. Biocompatibility: materials used must not have toxic or harmful effects on the body. Suitability of materials can be determined with energy testing.
  2. Bioesthetics: dental function and visual attractiveness must be harmonized.
  3. Biochemical balance: pH of saliva and bacteria must be balanced to promote healthy oral tissues.
  4. Biomechanics: addresses the occlusal force (power of contact between teeth) resulting from biting or grinding teeth, which can disturb sleep or damage tissues.
  5. Bioenergetics: physical and psychological therapies that promote well‑being through the release of blocked mental and physical energy.
  6. Bioethics: treating patients with honesty and care.

The basic principles that a holistic dentist would follow in their treatment include [3]:

  • Proper nutrition to prevent and reverse dental disease
  • Avoidance and elimination of toxic dental materials
  • Prevention and treatment of dental malocclusion (misalignment of bite)
  • Prevention and treatment of gum disease

Teeth are very similar to vital organs such as the liver, stomach, or intestines with their own blood and nerve supply [2]. In the case of teeth, they have a cranial nerve with an autonomous nervous system [2]. Furthermore, they are the organs that are closest to the brain. However, in conventional dentistry highly toxic materials are routinely placed into this sensitive area under the guise of technical durability, which often has serious detrimental effects on the entire body and a person’s overall health.

Dental mercury amalgam contains around 50% mercury, which is a known neurotoxin [5]. Nickel braces are often called ‘stainless steel’ as are nickel crowns. Nickel is considered to be carcinogenic [5]. These commonly applied dental materials pose a risk to both patients and dentists alike [5]. Holistic density aims to eliminate such toxic materials and apply more natural biocompatible alternatives.

Holistic dentistry includes a wide range of therapeutic modalities that help to prevent and treat oral disease. For example, the practice of holistic dentistry may involve the following and more [11] [12]:

  • Fluoride-free practice
  • Mercury-free practice
  • Metal-free tooth implants (Zirconia)
  • Non-surgical periodontal treatment
  • Avoidance of root canal treatments
  • Digital x-rays and CT scans ( 90% less radiation)
  • Ozone therapy
  • Essential oil therapies
  • Microlight therapy
  • Nutrition plans
  • Aromatherapy
  • Ayurveda
  • Homeopathy
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbology

Holistic dentistry may serve to improve health, reduce exposure to toxic materials, and combat disease or infection in the mouth, which could negatively affect general health and well-being. However, there is currently no scientific evidence to determine the direct benefits or risks of a holistic approach to dental care for cancer patients.

Risks and Side Effects of Holistic Dentistry

There are no specific scientific studies evaluating the risks and side effects of holistic dentistry as a practice. Therefore, there is a lack of reliable information available.

Each individual treatment or therapy that forms a part of holistic dentistry whether conventional practices or alternative therapies will come with its own risk-benefit profile.

Further research is needed to better understand and determine the risk-benefit profile of holistic dentistry and the different alternative approaches that it includes.

From the standpoint of conventional dentistry some sources suggest that holistic dentistry may be unsafe if you have [12]:

  • A history of tooth decay: it is purported that the avoidance of fluoride may increase risk of dental cavities.
  • Severe dental infection: a holistic dentist may recommend removing an infected tooth rather than preserving it with a root canal procedure.
  • Prescription medication: some drugs may interact with herbal remedies.
  • Chronic illness: there is no scientific research to evaluate the safety of holistic dentistry for people with chronic conditions.

The conventional viewpoint errs on the side of caution due to a lack of scientific evidence regarding safety and efficacy. However, it is worth noting that, from a holistic perspective, a more natural and biocompatible approach to dentistry is believed to prevent and address factors that may actually cause certain chronic diseases. Further research is still needed to determine the safety and efficacy of holistic dentistry in cancer care.

Frequently asked questions about Holistic or Biological Dentistry

What is holistic dentistry and how does it relate to cancer?
Can holistic dentistry prevent or treat cancer?
Should I see a holistic dentist if I have cancer?

The Best 19 Integrative Cancer Treatment Centers that offer Holistic or Biological Dentistry

References of Holistic or Biological Dentistry

[1] Vigarniya, Monika M., and Manu Rathee. "A Literature Review on Holistic Dentist_ry." Journal of Oral Health & Comm_unity Dentistry 12.3 (2018).

[2] Nischwitz, D. Biological dentistry The dental contribution to chronic disease - endotoxins 24/7. _DNA Health & Aesthe_tics.

[3] Sami, R. ‘Holistic Dentistry’: A Natural Approach To Dental & Oral Heal_th–Review Article. European Journal of Mol_ec_u_lar & Clinical Medicine, 7(2), 2020

[4] Nwizu, N., Wactawski-Wende, J., & Genco, R. J. (2020). Periodontal disease and cancer: Epidemiologic studies and possible mechani_sms. Periodontology_ 2_00_0, 83(1), 213–233.

[5] Tibau, A. V., & Grube, D. (2020). Biological dentistry - whole body health shifting the paradigm in the 21st cent_ury. Glob J Otolar_yn_go_l, 22(1), 556079.

[6] Author Unknown. (2021). Dental Amalgam Fillings Recommendations – Gra_phics. U.S. Food & Drug Admi_nistration.

[7] Zhang, X., Liu, B., Lynn, H. S., Chen, K., & Dai, H. (2022). Poor oral health and risks of total and site-specific cancers in China: A prospective cohort study of 0.5 million adu_lts. EClinicalMed_ic_in_e, 45, 101330.

[8] Lo, C. H., Kwon, S., Wang, L., Polychronidis, G., Knudsen, M. D., Zhong, R., Cao, Y., Wu, K., Ogino, S., Giovannucci, E. L., Chan, A. T., & Song, M. (2021). Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and risk of oesophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma: a prospective st_udy_. _Gu_t, 70(3), 620–621.

[9] Jordão, H. W., McKenna, G., McMenamin, Ú. C., Kunzmann, A. T., Murray, L. J., & Coleman, H. G. (2019). The association between self-reported poor oral health and gastrointestinal cancer risk in the UK Biobank: A large prospective _cohort study. United European Gastroente_rology Journal, 7(9), 1241-1249.

[10] Bracci, P. M. (2017). Oral health and the oral microbiome in pancreatic cancer: an overview of epidemiological studies. The Cancer Journal, 23(6), 310-314.

[11] Nayak, A., & Tamgadge, S. (2021). Holistic Dentistry-Tooth as an Anchor to Mind, Body, and S_oul. Journal of Integrated Health Sciences&#x_A6_;_ Volume, 9(2), 95.

[12] Nunez, K. (2020). What to Know About Holistic Dentistry. Healthline.

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