What is Functional Dentistry?
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dental examination, diagnosis and treatment, the “one size fits all” philosophy of standard American dentistry becomes outdated and dentists transform from “molar mechanics” to true “physicians of the mouth.”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.