Alternative dentistry, sometimes referred to as holistic dentistry, involves nontraditional methods of therapy to treat the underlying cause of symptoms. An alternative dentist's approach is based on the belief that a patient's oral health is connected to his physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. If the alternative dentist recognizes that oral problems are interconnected to other health issues, he may refer the patient to a practitioner that specializes in that field. Holistic dentists also practice alternative methods for filling teeth, such as the use of composites instead of mercury. Unlike traditional dentistry, alternative dentistry may involve the recommendation of specialized diets to promote healthy teeth and gums.
Similar to the practice of holistic medicine, alternative dentistry may involve therapeutic healing. Acupuncture is one of the common therapies involved in alternative dentistry. Some dentists use this practice to ease a patient's anxiety or to overcome fear. This technique is also used in place of more traditional methods such as general anesthesia.
Hypnotherapy is also used in the practice of alternative dentistry, although there is some controversy regarding the effectiveness of this method. Hypnosis is believed to help raise awareness in certain individuals, as well as help to control pain. Most commonly used for patients undergoing oral surgery, hypnotherapy may help reduce post-operative pain without the use of narcotics. This technique may be performed by a doctor of alternative medicine who is specially trained, or a licensed hypnotherapist.
Some people refer to alternative dentistry as whole health dentistry, with the philosophy being that one's oral health may affect many aspects of his entire being. When a patient visits an alternative dentist, the doctor may prescribe vitamins or herbal supplements to promote better oral health. If there is a problem with the gums, the dentist may prescribe natural remedies that are taken at home. Some holistic dentists also provide counseling so their patients may receive knowledge on natural dental care.
Instead of standard drilling procedures, an alternative dentist may use dental lasers to fill cavities. In most cases, alternative dentistry will not allow the use of mercury fillings or hazardous sterilization products. Many specialists will use porcelain crowns in place of the traditional metal type, as this is believed to be a safer alternative. An alternative dentist may also perform holistic dental implants in patients that require the replacement of several teeth. Protecting the oral immune system is another fundamental aspect of holistic dentistry.
Many holistic dentists work in conjunction with general practitioners or internists. If the alternative dentist believes there is an underlying cause for a dental problem, he may consult with the patient's family doctor. Before he prescribes a course of oral therapy, he will usually document the patient's medical history and perform a medical evaluation.