A Functional Medicine Approach to Dentistry

by 
Dr. Shawn Greenan, DACM, CFMP®
A Functional Medicine Approach to Dentistry

We have all heard that health starts in the gut, but some studies suggest it begins in the mouth. Functional Medicine Dentistry may be the latest weapon in identifying a person's risk for metal toxicities, inflammatory markers, and cardiovascular disease.

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What is Functional Dentistry

Functional Medicine Dentistry is a holistic approach to dental care that emphasizes the prevention of oral disease while aiming to use the least toxic available materials when treating dental issues. Those practicing functional dentistry attended dental school and then further specialized in functional dentistry by continuing education.  

Functional Dentistry vs. Conventional Dentistry

The most significant difference between functional dentistry and conventional dentist is their approach to overall oral health.

Conventional dentistry focuses on brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and visiting a dentist twice per year for cleanings.

Functional dentists examine their patients' eating and lifestyle habits to uncover the root cause of oral microbiome imbalances.

Things That Could Be Making You Sick

Inflamed gum, root canals, crowns, fillings, and retainers can all be culprits affecting your overall health. You might not realize it, but each of your teeth is a living organ. Although your tooth may look solid, it's actually made up of microscopic tubules through which fluid flows. Being a dark, moist, and low oxygen area, this is the perfect environment for pathogens to thrive.

Root Canals

There is a lot of back and forth if root canals can make you sick. The thought is that bacteria can become trapped if not properly eradicated during the treatment. Once trapped and sealed, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply.

Although root canals may be a necessary component of functional dentistry, functional dentists are more likely to provide a list of alternative options while teaching you how to properly care for your teeth so that you don't need another root canal in the future.

Metal in Your Mouth

A common issue with metal dental devices and amalgam fillings is heavy metal toxicity. Saliva serves as an excellent medium to break down these metals into metal ions. Research has shown that teeth can absorb some of the mercury, nickel, chromium, and iron in stainless steel in silver fillings, dental crowns and permanent metal retainers.

Functional Medicine Labs

Some functional dentists will use specialty labs to test for heavy metals and inflammatory markers in their patients as an add-on service. These tests are commonly out-of-pocket costs but well worth the information that comes with them.

If your dentist doesn't offer these tests, you can ask your integrative medical practitioner to order them. It's always important to let your provider know of any permanent metal devices or gum inflammation you have so that they can keep track of your symptom and test you annually.

How To Find a Functional Dentist

You may be able to find a functional dentist in your area by using different search terms online. If functional dentistry doesn't give you the results you are looking for, try similar search terms, including "biologic dentistry" or "holistic dentistry."

Another option is to look at certifying schools as they will typically have a directory of graduates.

Before making an appointment with a new dentist, you should put together a list of questions to ensure they are the right fit for you.

Some important questions you could ask before making an appointment include:

  • Do you use mercury-free fillings in your dental office?
  • What are your dental procedures for removing mercury fillings?
  • What alternatives to root canals do you offer?
  • Do you use digital x-rays instead of film?
  • Do you offer alternatives to metal implants?
  • Do you offer ozone treatments?
  • Does your office offer alternatives to antibiotics or nontoxic alternatives to pain medication?
  • Does your office offer alternatives to drill-based oral cavity treatment?

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References

Dr. Shawn Greenan, DACM, CFMP®
Website
Acupuncture Physician Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner®
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