The term “holistic” is like many words these days – it starts off standing for something, having a meaning that resonates with most people, and as its use becomes more widespread, the meaning of the word becomes diluted. Not slightly diluted – actually muddied and even somewhat ambiguous.
Holistic: relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts.
How does this relate to dentistry? What is HOLISTIC dental care?
Based on my reviews of marketing information, holistic dentistry appears to be largely about avoiding silver amalgam fillings, safe removal of silver amalgam fillings, sleep medicine (anti-snoring devices) and the engagement of allied health practitioners (such as chiropractors, physiotherapists and Bowen practitioners) that treat a multitude of “ailments” via their specialised field of knowledge. The balance of treatments offered by holistic dentistry is conventional dental interventions such as crowns, veneers, fillings, dental implants and dentures. I surmise that this is what I was referring to as dilution.
In reviewing the information surrounding holistic dental care, I believe in the following:
I don’t believe that amalgam is as toxic as it is portrayed. I haven’t used amalgam for almost 30 years – not because I think it is toxic – simply because the composite resin materials are a better choice of restorative material. If you believe that you have a sensitivity associated with amalgam – the solution is simple. Have your amalgam restorations replaced with composite resin ones using rubber dam – rubber dam is freely available in any dental practice. When placed competently, it reduces exposure to amalgam dust to virtually zero.
Sleep medicine is a legitimate medical speciality. If you suffer from this, get tested via an Ear Nose and Throat specialist who can advise you around both appliances as well as surgery.
Stress is a significant factor in our world. Everyone’s response to stress (and life in general for that matter) is different. Our bodies don’t come with an instruction manual-part of the joy and challenge of life is to discover and understand ourselves – all ourselves – our physical, our emotional and our spiritual selves. This takes work. I once read that ‘life’ is irritable. It is this very irritability that drives us towards growth. Sometimes, what we perceive as stress (or discomfort), is our body’s awareness of the potential for growth – the ‘irritation’ associated with the stress is a signal to enter a ‘space’ that facilitates growth. Please note: I am NOT suggesting that allied health practitioners are quacks. They are invaluable in assisting our learning about ourselves. I have used them at pivotal points in my life, and yes, they have helped me. I’m just not sure what it has to do with dentistry.
I believe that minimal intervention is a primary tenant of any holistic care. There are still a significant number of dental techniques that carry a high biologic cost. Cutting away healthy body tissues and replacing them with inferior ‘modern’ dental materials is NOT holistic. Holistic is about augmenting ourselves – not cutting away huge sound portions of ourselves. Instead, gently and thoughtfully removing those parts that have decayed or are chipped and broken and adding a repair that carries us forward. This kind of measured augmentation (in combination with our developing understanding) IS about being holistic. This is what I believe to be the fundamentals of modern dental care.
In summary, all health practitioners should be holistic. Being holistic is not a speciality; it’s at the core of all medical and allied medical interventions. It facilitates growth in both the practitioner AND the patient. We’re living longer and have ever-increasing expectations of our physical being which can be supported thoughtfully and conservatively by the health profession.
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