frothing up with herbal toothpaste isas far as most of us have ventured into caring for our molars more naturally. But if years of dreaded visits to a standard "drill, fill and bill" dentist have left you wanting more health-conscious care, be assured that alt-dental offices are increasing yearly. Holistic dentists are conventionally trained dental surgeons with a twist. They offer many of the same treatments as allopathic types but tend to look at patients from head to toe rather than homing in on the mouth as the birth place of all dental problems.
Posture, stress and back troubles are all taken into consideration when looking at bite and jaw problems like TMD (temporomandibular disorder). Minor chiropractic adjustments may be made, or craniosacral therapy (a practice that focuses on relieving tension in the skull's inner tissues) prescribed.
Complementary dental practices tend to be less invasive, leaning toward non-surgical gum treatments and less toxic materials. Ceramics are preferred over malign mercury fillings, and bio-compatibility testing is available.
When browsing for a more holistic dentist, note that many have their own specialty, be it homeopathy or acupuncture, and that not all use those techniques for the same reasons. Many dentists who market themselves as alternative offer little holistic care other than non-mercury fillings. Watch for offices that have digital X-rays: the new technology exposes patients to 90 per cent less radiation than conventional machines."If someone's really stressed out about being in a dental chair, we use reiki to relax them and get them past their fear. Reiki also helps heal the cause (of dental ills). Sometimes I'll use lavender, lemon or eucalyptus. Certain oils have inherent healing properties, stimulating the senses to ease breathing and reduce gagging. I also recommend mouthwashes without alcohol, which can be an irritant and desiccates the tissues.'
STEVE FOREMAN, doctor of dental surgery (DDS)
"I automatically ask someone with (chronic) ulceration or gum disease how their gastrointestinal tract is and if they're constipated. If they are, cleansing for constipation should accompany traditional periodontal therapy like scaling. Gum disease is a by-product of lacking minerals and vitamins, but if patients are constipated they can't absorb those nutrients. I use herbal remedies like myrrh, really excellent for healing the gums and soft tissue, and aloe vera for local applications to treat gum disease, ulcerations and laceractions. If a patient has an abscess and wants to postpone antibiotics, I'd start with the homeopathic belladonna 30. To encourage the swelling abscess to drain, there's hepar sulph 6 or 10.'
LEON TREGER, BSc, DDS
"We do root canals, though I know they're a no-no (with some holistics). The research on root canals was done 30 or 40 years ago. Our techniques have really changed. We use the conventional filling material but we also use something more holistic called Biocalex (or Endo-Cal). Biocalex is made of a base of zinc oxide (and calcium oxide) and is very compatible with the tissues around the tooth. I use it on people who might show sensitivity or who request it. Some patients really don't want to take regular antibiotics, so we do use holistic antibiotics like golden seal."
NELLY J. HIMELL, DDS
"Homeopathic remedies like arnica or hypericum are used when having fillings or extractions. They help the tooth or the gums recover from the trauma. Homeopathics are not painkillers - they stimulate a healing process. Remedies like aconite or gelsemium can help anxious patients. Chronic conditions like gum disease have to be treated by taking a full homeopathic history. We prescribe tissue salts like calcarea fluorata on occasion for sensitive roots - take one pellet twice a day for a week. Acupuncture can be used instead of freezing for people with a higher pain threshold, but it's not for everyone.'
GARY FORTINSKY, DDS
"Craniosacral therapy (CST) is an excellent manual treatment for most temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, in addition to physio. By releasing deep restrictions, the more superficial jaw muscles are able to relax and reposition, taking the pressure off the joint. In many cases, the entire spine and sacral-pelvic structures may need to be addressed as well, because there is often a whole-body postural component contributing to the imbalances of a TMJ sufferer. Other dental-related problems that CST can help include teeth-clenching or -grinding and bite disorders.'
HEATHER GORDON, physiotherapist
"We work with a whole new level of dentistry called neuromuscular dentistry. It looks at how our bite, jaw joint, neck, spine and posture are interrelated. I also look at nutrition, emotional components like stress and how the mouth interrelates with the body. An anodyne machine utilizes infrared diodes to help relax muscles so that at the end of a long appointment our clients' jaws aren't sore. We teach people how to massage their muscles so they can be in charge and are not co-dependent on us. All our clients receive fresh-squeezed organic carrot juice at the end of their visit."
DANA G. COLSON, DDS
"Supporting dental patients with issues that revolve around stress or nutrition is not inconsistent with conventional dentistry. We require members to consider whether treatments they're using (on TMD) have general scientific support. The most conservative treatments should be used before you would venture down a path that would cause irreversible changes to the patient. Craniosacral therapy is not taught by the dental school. Offering Eastern modalities as a complementary service to conventional dentistry (is accepted by the College) so long as the dentist is trained to do them. The stated position of the College is that amalgam (mercury) fillings are considered safe and effective. The use of Biocalex is not generally taught in mainstream dentistry."
MICHAEL GARDNER, registrar, Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario