The Whole Health Functional Dentistry Approach
- We shift the traditional disease-centered focus of dental practices to amore patient-centered approach, addressing problems as close to their root cause as possible, not merely treating symptoms and managing diseases.
- We spend time with our patients, listening to their stories and looking at the interactions among genetic, physiological, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term dental health and complex, chronic disease.
- We integrate the latest emerging research of the best medical and dental practices of conventional western medical with what is sometimes considered“alternative” or “integrative”medicine, creating a focus on wellness.
- We thoughtfully recommend botanical medicines, pharmaceutical drugs, supplements, movement, food, detoxification programs, therapeutic bodywork, energy healing and various stress-management approaches to help ignite the healing process.
- We bring the patient into the discovery process and tailor treatment to address the individual’s unique needs for better health and vitality.
- We value building authentic relationships with our patients that are grounded in deep listening, respect, honesty, options and education.
Functional Medicine Based Dentistry is the application of the principles and practices of Functional Medicine with the practice of the art and science of Dentistry.
Functional Medicine believes that a patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle are fundamental factors when evaluating a patient’s health. Examination and interpretation of a patient’s individual biochemistry and genetics can give clues and hence better understanding of a patient’s chronic disease.
When we apply these concepts in the course of dental examination, diagnosis and treatment, the “one size fits all” philosophy of standard American dentistry becomes outdated and dentists transform from “molar mechanics” to true “physicians of the mouth.”
The focus on prevention is one of the primary differentiators between functional dentistry and conventional dentistry.
In functional dentistry, a dentist doesn’t just treat tooth decay, bad breath, or gum disease. He knows that these are merely outward symptoms of larger problems and looks to address those instead. The goal of functional dentistry is to look beyond the mouth: How does the patient eat? Drink? Sleep?
This approach is completely different from traditional dentistry, which focuses on brushing, flossing, using mouthwash, and visiting a dentist twice per year for cleanings. To be clear, these things are important (well, except for mouthwash, which can destroy beneficial bacteria and create an imbalanced microbiome). But the real key to a healthy mouth centers around one word: DIET.
Like conventional dentists, the practicing functional dentistry use X-rays and dental exams to diagnose problems. The differences in the two disciplines are most evident in the treatment process, as functional dentists examine the eating and lifestyle habits of their patients in order to uncover the root cause of any issues (and to determine the best solution).
Common questions a functional dentist may ask include:
- How much of your diet is comprised of sugar, carbs, and/or highly acidic foods?
- Do you eat mints or candy throughout the day?
- Do you sip on a soda for an hour or longer while you study or watch TV?
- Do you breathe more through your mouth or nose?
These questions may seem unrelated to cavities or gum recession, but the truth is that they provide invaluable information about the state of a patient’s oral microbiome, as well as the dryness and pH level of the mouth. Each of these factors directly impacts the risk for tooth decay, gingivitis, and a host of other concerns.
A functional dentist will not only use a patient’s responses to questions like these to provide treatment. But he will also provide feedback on how to make adjustments to prevent these issues from recurring in the future.
Finding the root cause of disease – it’s all connected
The mouth is, was and forever will be is part of the body. The old model in traditional medicine of treating symptoms and body parts in isolation, is flawed. Pioneers in functional medicine like Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Mike Roisen, Dr. Axe, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Amy Doneen, Dr. Brad Bale, and a host of others are leading the charge in functional medicine. They do not ask questions like “what do we have, “but rather”why do we have it.” They understand that the body parts and organ systems are connected via the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system, the nervous system, the immune system-separation of organ systems and body parts does not exist. They understand that what happens in one part of the body, affects the entire being. The mouth is just one example, albeit a very potent one. In order to get to the basis of inflammation, which is a key driver of metabolic syndrome, one must address all sources of inflammation in the body. The most common site of inflammation, the most easily observed, and importantly – the easiest to treat, is periodontal inflammation. Periodontal disease is not a local disease, as it is often treated. For instance, evidence suggests that “periodontal changes are the first clinical manifestation of diabetes, “And “evidence indicates that periodontitis is a significant risk factor for poor glycemic control” (these quotes are from Relationship Between Oral Health and Diabetes Mellitus, October 2008, Lamster Et al.).
In clinical practice, we are guilty of overlooking a host of other oral signs of diabetes beyond gingival/periodontal changes, such is salivary Finding the root cause of disease – it’s all connected dysfunction, candidiasis, taste interference, neurosensory disorders, and oral infections. Enamel changes are often the first clinical manifestation of silent reflux.
Periodontal pathogens and the subsequent inflammatory mediators go off site throughout the entire body as is referenced in a variety of scientific, peer-reviewed literature. The consequences of periodontal disease are widespread and often devastating. To ignore this premise and the emerging research is putting our patient’s health and possibly their lives at risk. Therefore, it is up to all of us as healthcare providers to look for the signs and document changes, then be able to communicate those findings with patients. The mouth is the very best arena to identifying physical risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea, Xeriostomia from polypharmacology influences, Caries, erosion, chronic gingival inflammation and Candidiasis. Food sensitivities and allergies often show mucogingival manifestations before G.I. disturbances such as pain, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation and you just must be looking for those risk factors on every exam. As AAOSH team members, we have heard and read evidenced based research from scientists studying infertility and pre-term birth, heart attack and stroke prevention, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease prevention, cancer prevention, metabolic syndrome prevention and more. Every scientist has shown data that if we don’t treat underlying inflammation, we will not have long term successful outcomes of systemic disease.
This is a profound time in healthcare reform and it’s important to not only get informed on the latest knowledge and facts regarding oral systemic health but know what to look for and help our patients understand their role in treating and preventing disease.