What is Holistic Dentistry?

As an holistic dentist (and former “traditional” dentist and dental school professor) I frequently get asked about the differences between “traditional” and “holistic” dentistry. While there are a few distinct differences that categorize dentists and dental practices into one group or the other, the truth is that every dentist is different and to place one dentist in the “holistic” group and another in the “traditional” group is not a good method of segmentation.

The Background of Holistic Dentistry

How is holistic dental care different?

Holistic Dentistry Focuses on Whole-Body Wellness that Starts with the Mouth

Before we can get into depth on the differences, I think it’s important to look at what the word “holistic” really means. The word holistic is not a reflection of the practices and techniques used by the dentist, but of an overall philosophy of the role of oral care. The word itself comes from “wholistic” meaning “the whole.” Truly holistic dentists will educate patients on the importance of overall health and how dentistry can play a role in the overall health.

All dentists to some extent see the importance of the mouth in the overall health of an individual. For instance, studies have concluded a link between gum disease and heart health, diabetes, and pregnancies. However, many dentists are not trained in the long term effects of what dentistry does (or could possibly do) to the whole body. Hence the reason the field of holistic dentistry was formed.

Truly holistic dentists are dentists who perform dentistry that is good for the body as well as the teeth and gums.

There are dentists who call themselves holistic (for marketing or differentiation reasons) but the only thing “holistic” about them is that they don’t place mercury fillings. On the flip-side, there are conventional dentist who perform complex, comprehensive dentistry that involves more than the teeth and gums… it involves the face, head, neck…. the whole body… hence the “wholistic” nature of what they do, yet they don’t call themselves holistic. To say that a dentist is one or the other is not always accurate.

At The Center for Natural Dentistry, we have put emphasis on a more natural or holistic approach to dentistry. But what does this mean? What are the nuts and bolts of the differences between truly holistic dental practices and more traditional dental practices? What are the topical differences?

The Issues

When most people think of holistic and natural dentistry, they think of mercury fillings. But there are many more issues that divide most traditional and holistic dental practices. (Please keep in mind that many “traditional” dentists practice under the philosophies of the “holistic” side and vice-versa. This is why labels don’t work. But for simplicity’s sake, I’ve divided the issues below.)

Mercury Fillings:
Traditional dentistry espouses the longevity of mercury amalgam fillings and the fact that insurance will typically cover the cost of placement. They will also point to the ADA and FDA’s statements that the mercury in the fillings is stabilized and safe, leaking only tiny amounts of mercury. They are also typically easier for the dentist to place than composite fillings.

Holistic dentists understand that mercury is a toxin and even small amounts are too great a risk to the body and your overall health. While amalgam fillings last longer than composites, they put extreme pressure on the tooth and often cause weakening of the tooth — meaning that the filling may outlast the tooth it was placed in. Truly holistic dentists do not place mercury and meet or exceed safety guidelines for removal.

Root Canals (or Root Canal Therapy):
Most traditional dentists will recommend root canal therapy as a means to save a tooth that has suffered severe decay and has already or will soon die completely. They argue that the procedure has been done for centuries and has been proven safe and effective as a means to keep a natural tooth.

Holistic dentists point to the research that says root canal therapy cannot be effective unless the canal is 100% sterilized and cleaned of bacteria, and the repeated studies have shown that it is 100% impossible to completely sterilize the canal. They also argue that the chemicals used for sterilization are toxic (formaldehyde is one such chemical) and that the bacteria left in the canal can lead to adverse health affects down the road, including breast cancer, heart disease, and more. Holistic dentists typically do not recommend root canals.

Traditional dentists are in favor of using fluoride in both a topical and ingested form. They argue in favor of fluoridating water supplies and recommend fluoride drops for infants. They point to research showing a decrease in cavity rates in areas where the water is fluoridated.

Holistic dentists typically argue against any form of ingested fluoride, arguing that research has linked ingested fluoride to cancer and various bone problems while other research has shown no benefit to the teeth from ingested fluoride. They also argue that too much fluoride can cause fluorosis and that fluoridating public water supplies is forced medication of the general public. Some holistic dentists are for topical fluoride and some are against it.

Biocompatibility of Dental Materials:
Most traditional dentists don’t believe in biocompatibility testing and will not test you to see if the materials they use will cause a reaction when placed in your body. Most traditional dentists do not explain the differences between different composite filling materials nor do they give you a choice on which materials will be used for your cavity.

Holistic dentists believe that what goes into your mouth can affect your entire body and many have on-site equipment to test for biocompatibility of the materials they use. Most holistic dentists use a variety of different composite filling materials as well as different materials for other procedures (bridges, crowns, etc.).

Summarizing the Differences

The above is a partial, topical list of some of the philosophical differences between traditional and holistic dentists. The fact remains that many traditional dentists will fall onto the side of holistic dentists in the above instances, and vice-versa. The differences between the two aren’t necessarily topical in nature (although topical differences are easy for us to understand, and easy to pinpoint, so they make a tidy way to differentiate).

The true differences between holistic dentistry and traditional dentistry is philosophical: traditional dentistry is the practice of treating the symptoms in the teeth and gums and attempting to prevent such problems from reoccurring. Holistic dentistry is the practice of treating the underlying problems that cause symptoms in the mouth, attempting to eliminate those problems (and, hence, preventing the symptoms from reoccurring) while ensuring the work done in the mouth does not have an adverse affect on your overall health.

So How Do You Know Which to Choose?

So, if the differences are philosophical how do you find a dentist that’s right for you — a dentist whose philosophies match your own? Ask good questions! Ask questions such as “How do you determine which type of filling is right for me?” and “If I get cavities in one area of my mouth, can you tell me why?” If you want a truly holistic dentist, their answers will revolve around your entire body and he/she will discuss the role your oral health plays in your overall health. If you want a traditional dentist, look for answers that talk more about the topical symptoms and ask questions about cost/benefit and insurance coverage.

You always have the right to ask questions and know what’s going on. You never have to implicitly your dentist. While most dentists are good people who want to look out for your best interests, the fact remains that no two people have the same “best interests” and their are alternatives out there. It’s more than just your right to ask questions of your medical and dental advisers, it’s your duty. It is, after all, YOUR health we’re talking about.

About The Center for Natural Dentistry:

The Center for Natural Dentistry focuses on natural dentistry that’s good for your whole body as well as your mouth. Are primary focus is your health and we emphasize that disease can be prevented with proper nutrition as well as proper daily oral hygiene. We believe that proper education about the role of oral health in your overall wellness will help you stay healthier longer and help you make informed decisions about your health.

We are located in Encinitas, California, in San Diego County and serve patients from around the world. To schedule an appointment or request more information, please contact us by phone at (888) 825-5351 or via email at info@naturaldentistry.us. We can be found online at http://NaturalDentistry.us and http://AmericasHolisticDentist.com.


  1. I have had 4 root canals. All failed. Teeth were pulled. Now I have implants. The implant area is sore. The area aches. Is it possible I am allergic to implant material. I am very environmentally sensitive. Suffer severe migraines. Tired of tooth issues. But, concerned about implant removal. And what if I am allergic to material used for dentures. I had to quit using mouth guard for grinding teeth due to growing intolerant to mouth guard. Can anyone explain how to test for allergy to dental implant material or crown materal?

  2. I had severe toothache on a tooth on sunday that I can not afford to lose (already other removed side by it plus the wisdom teeth in another side). I went to a dentist on monday and she said it is very likely that the tooth is inflamed (it’s not sinusitis, that was examined). I refused and now it’s thursday and I’ve been oil pulling with coconut oil plus oregano oil and avoided sugar. It’s not as severe, mostly feeling discomfort (pressure). Is the tooth going to die I’m asking to myself and do I trust the dentist about this. It all was so sudden and there are no cavities on that tooth. I’m wondering how did the inflammation got there and would it be reversible if I keep on taking good care of my tooth now. I can not afford implants so at the moment I’m playing with time and see what happens. Any ideas/perspective of course appreciated.

    • Inflamation is an indication that your body is trying to do a jab in order to heal.If you keep interrupting the body natural processes you are bound to trouble and further complication in the area or the symptoms woill expread to some other areas to letthe toxins out of you system .FAST FOR A FEW DAYS AND NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE.iF YOU CAN NOT DO A WATER FAST DO IT ON GREEN HUICES TO PROVIDE A CLEANING REACTION IN YOUR DOMAIN,LISTEN TO YOUR BODY HE ALWAYS HAVE THE RIGHT APPROACH FOR HEAKING NATURAldo no interrupt your symptonsthe desease is normally the cure.good luck.it is the best i know.use your free woill and comun sense!

  3. I totally agree. I had all of my fillings removed and replaced and use no flouride. I do nothing from a cow. There is a test you can get done which tells you what dental products you are sensitive to. Also i avoid root canals, use oil of oregano in a subgingival irrigation bottle and do my gum lines 3-4 xs a week. Im 66 and still have all my teeth.

  4. You have all missed an exciting way of doing dentistry. Go to https://www.calciumtherapy.com/ and learn something.

  5. I’ve heard a bunch about holistic dentistry, I really think I want to get into it, I just started taking holistic medicine and its been great

  6. colleen Says: June 23, 2017 at 2:38 am

    are there any wholistic dentists in south africa? I would prefer using this method.

  7. My son recently had his braces removed but I’m just noticing now that they kept a top and bottom metal retainer in the back of his mouth.
    the braces alone made me uncomfortable and now knowing he still has metal in his mouth is making me uneasy.

    any suggestions….?

    and why am I feeling uneasy..?

    • Dr. Sherry Sami Says: June 17, 2017 at 3:59 am

      Canevacross your question and hope it’s ok that I respond to it. I’m an integrative and wholistic pediatric dentist and orthodontist. The fixed retainers in the back of the mouth, not only interfere with something called cranial rhythm which in osteopathy is a motion and movement of cranial bones (the bones in your head) with cerebral spinal fluid pump. This is a simplified explanation. The front part of the cranium literally gets stuck and doesn’t move fluidly and long term effect can create issues in the rest of the body. Also leaching of these metals over the years is my other concern. And I’m not sure if there has been studies about it. I am completely against permanent retainers in the mouth.

    • I would like like to know too. Same here with my son. Did anyone ever respond?

  8. keep your body slightly alkaline where it should be, barley grass etc. (more calcium than milk) and complete protein, chlorophyll is a potent antibacterial, typical american diet is a death sentence – anything from cows,

    • I totally agree. I had all of my fillings removed and replaced and use no flouride. I do nothing from a cow. There is a test you can get done which tells you what dental products you are sensitive to. Also i avoid root canals, use oil of oregano in a subgingival irrigation bottle and do my gum lines 3-4 xs a week. Im 66 and still have all my teeth.

  9. […] have harmful long term side effects for our body. To know what holistic dentistry is you must first understand how this specialization differs from your typical run of the mill dentist. Holistic dentists do not use several products that could […]

  10. Dr Ian van Zyl Says: March 24, 2017 at 6:53 am

    You are fear mongering out of balance and misleading the public. Take a course in evidence based dentistry before you harm yourself and others.

  11. […] in your teeth and your mouth be connected with diabetes? Keep reading and find out what Seattle holistic dentists have to […]

  12. […] all dentists follow the traditional philosophy when treating their patients. Some take a more holistic approach to dentistry. This is heavily influenced by the medical beliefs that Eastern Medicine preaches to it’s […]

  13. Hello, I have been thinking about getting into a dental hygiene program. My main concern is that I believe more in a holistic approach. I feel the program will teach a more traditional way. I am worried this will be a disadvantage to me. How would I go about studying to become a holistic dental hygienist? Is it a different type of degree to become a holistic dental hygienist? or is it something you need to go back to school for after finishing the initial dental hygienist program?

    • Concerned Mom Says: December 16, 2017 at 5:09 am

      I really wish someone would respond to this! My daughter plans to study dental hygiene and I know she has the same preference.

    • Holistic Dental Assistant Says: May 14, 2018 at 9:43 am

      I hope you did go forward with your plans as a Dental Hygenist. The schools do only teach “traditional” dentistry. The holistic dental community is very small and growing in my belief and will need someone interested in holistic dentistry. Unfortunatley, you will have to walk the walk on traditional dentistry to graduate and at that point you can start your journey into holistic and be a great asset to all of your patients.

  14. Doraline Moore Says: December 12, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    I had a root canal done two months ago. Since then I have been having trouble eating. It hurts to chew. Many times I have trouble opening my mouth all the way before it hurts. I have gone to two dentists and a specialist. It seems I still have an infection on the root of the tooth that had the root canal. Before this I could eat anything I wanted without a problem. I live near Austin Texas. Is there a holistic dentist near me?

  15. […] This is becoming a popular subject of interest for a lot of patients, we found many articles on the background of Holistic Dentistry that are quite informative. You can also learn more by visiting the Holistic Dental Association […]

  16. […] you can see holistic dental Jacksonville is not always the easiest to find, but it is the most popular to date. That is why we […]

  17. HEIDI PINDELL Says: October 28, 2016 at 7:55 am

    This is exactly what I am looking for to bad I live in Niota Illinois. This treatment is what people need. The public needs to know how they are jeopardizing their health. When no other options are offered in this area it is sad to see so many people go thru the same old motions because that is all they know and do not question the old ways of dentistry. People instead of thinking for themselves & their children are falling into the hands of the greedy. If these dentist had a heart and would look at people as if their life was as important as their own, perhaps they would not be so at ease to using such primitive treatments that are the cause to so many health problems. The point is you truly have something amazing going and hopefully some day you can open some offices here. Technology and health options are a very sad situation around here, unless you can afford to fly or drive and have time off to accomplish the task of reaching the health care you so desperately need you fall into the same trap as everyone around you. Going to a Dr. or Dentist that every bone in your body is telling you is wrong. God Speed in the work you do!!!!!!

  18. Looking for a Center for natural dentistry like in California here in new jersey

  19. […] What is Holistic Dentistry? […]

  20. I would like to recommend Groton Wellness – A Holistic Wellness Center including a 16 Chair Dental Practice (Holistic/Biological Dentistry), with 11 Practitioners in their Integrative Medical Wing, A Detoxification Spa and a Clean Food Cafe. Also offering a huge variety of Holistic Wellness Courses. Located in Groton Massachusetts – Visit GrotonWellness.com

  21. im a dental student my c.i want me to report guys about hollistic dentistry is okay to discuss about fluoride? what should i do ? thanks

  22. guys if im goin to report about hollistic dentistry what topic im goin to discuss?

  23. Wonderful post! As a dentist, I believe that we need to put the needs of our patients first and if that means supporting them in exploring other approaches. This is actually the first time I have heard of this method and it got me curious. I still would like to note that different people may actually respond differently as well to methods and we need to let people decide on their own. At Image Dental, we treat our patients like family and we make sure that we are honest with them, you could check our Facebook page on how they view our clinic: https://www.facebook.com/MyImageDental

    This is still a very helpful and curious post, would love to know more about holistic dentistry.

  24. Is there any Holistic Dentists in Louisiana

  25. Help, I’m 67 years old, ohip insurance only, & have 4 root cannels, crowns, Family history of Breast Cancer Already have had 3 molars removed years ago. What do you suggest I look into. Do not want ca but also don’t no teeth for chewing food.

  26. Hello,
    I got a root canal done about 8 years ago or so. For a few years now I have had headaches that I know are connected with it as I feel it connected to the molar. I had a lot of pressure and discomfort in the molar and complained to many dentists for years. In the past year I went to an endodontist and he told me I had an abscess. He retreated the root canal twice and months later I still have the headaches and discomfort in the tooth. I have also battled with Chronic Fatigue for many years and now after reading this website I am wondering if it this is all connected as no other doctor can find anything out. I would like to go to a biological dentist for my future dental needs. However, I am wondering if it would be sufficient for the purposes of getting my molar out with the root canal at no cost to go to the endodontist that did my re-treatments as he told me if it did not work this time he would remove the tooth. I would really appreciate feedback. Thank you for your help.

    • Is there any Holistic dentist in Louisiana that you would recommend????

      • Gracie, you’re so close to Mexico. Why not go there?

      • Renee Skarda Says: November 1, 2016 at 4:46 am

        The holistic office where I work is located in Keller, Tx in the DFW area. We have people come from other states and countries to have cavitation surgery. You may have to travel but well worth it!

    • I had the similar problem with my root canal. I removed the infected root all together and the headaches stopped.

    • Iris, why don’t you give oil pulling a try. You take a teaspoon of coconut oil and swish it in your mouth for 20 mins. Do this every day, until your pain goes away. Oil pulling draws toxins and bacteria up from underneath your gums. Plus coconut oil is a strong natural antibiotic. It’s worth giving it a try before you have the dentist take the tooth out completely.

    • You may have a fracture in the tooth. You could have a CBCT scan of the area, but if it was retreated, it has a poor success rate.If you do want to have the tooth removed, look into having it removed and bone grafted with PRF. That gives you a 6-9 month window so you can see how you feel. It also gives the body sufficient time to heal the infected area, and then if you do proceed with an implant, you have a solid foundation to place an implant with a high success rate. I still like Titanium implants better then Zirconia, but I am constantly researching and giving options to patients. I am a Biohorizon advocate.

  27. Hi I have so many questions about what just happened to me at the dentist plz contact me plz I need advice badly thank u

  28. […] How holistic dentists are different from traditional dentists […]

  29. […] How holistic dentists are different from traditional dentists […]

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