Holistic and biological dentistry aren’t things that are taught in dental school. Rather, they’re ways of doing dentistry that practitioners pursue in addition to their standard training, involving many years of additional education in a wide variety of fields. Eventually, a knowledgeable biological dentist will come to hold one or more credentials in addition to their dental degree, usually in fields such as naturopathic medicine or nutrition. They get accredited by organizations like the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT) or certified by the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM).
Yet any dentist can say that they’re holistic or biological. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are. They can call their dentistry “natural” or “integrative.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that it is.
In fact, there’s a developing trend of entrepreneurial folks teaching “wellness dentistry” mainly as a way to make more money. They’ve seen growing patient demand for something better than dentistry-as-usual; a kind of dentistry that foregoes the use of toxic materials and problematic techniques; a kind of dentistry that supports their total health and well-being.
Yet many of the courses we’ve seen offered seem to be more about building up wealth rather than helping patients in need. They attract dentists with the promise of bringing in more patients while allowing them to work less so they can “live their best life.”
The result can be a dental practice that claims to be holistic or biological without really being all-in – a kind of practice Dr. Montgomery calls “fauxlistic dentistry.”
Such a practice may be mercury-free, for instance, without really being mercury-safe. They may not use fluoride in their hygiene treatments but place fluoride-releasing fillings and sealants. They may do questionable procedures such as root canals. They may be far too aggressive with their treatment plans. And these are just some of the things we’ve seen and heard about from patients who come to us after experiences elsewhere that failed to meet their needs and expectations.
One problem is that more than a few “fauxlistic” practices remain beholden to insurance companies. When you run an insurance-based practice, it means that a third party – the insurer – gets to interfere with making treatment decisions. It’s in their financial interest to pay out as little as possible. Many procedures that a holistic, biological dentist provides aren’t even covered by dental policies. Much of the costly extra equipment that we need to provide our patients with the best possible care – specialized lasers, a CBCT imaging unit, ozone generators, and more – is often not found in offices where insurance drives the decision-making.
And when insurance drives the decision-making, the outcomes can be less than desirable – and much more expensive for patients in the long run.
So how can you tell whether a practice is truly holistic or not, biological or not?
In all honesty, the term “holistic” doesn’t really tell you a whole lot about the kind of dentistry being done. It describes a philosophy of patient-centered care that, in dentistry, acknowledges the relationship between oral and whole body health, as well as the interconnectedness of body, mind, and spirit.
While not all holistic practices are biological, all biological practices are necessarily holistic.
Biological dentistry was established in the mid-1980s by two American dentists who were applying the principles of biological medicine to dentistry, seeking to support optimal total health through optimal oral health. The organization they formed to promote this kind of dentistry is what ultimately became the IABDM. Here’s how that organization describes the approach in their Standards of Practice:
Biological dentistry is concerned with the whole-body effects of all dental materials, techniques, and procedures. It unites the best clinical practices and technologies of western dentistry and medicine with a wide array of modalities beyond the horizon of conventional practice. For biological dentistry acknowledges, appreciates, and considers the complex and dynamic relationships between oral health and systemic health within the context of the whole person. These things are inseparable.
Optimal health and wellness are intimately related to which and how dental materials, techniques and care are provided. We intend to be minimally invasive yet appropriately active.
Biological dentists may be general dentists, periodontists, orthodontists, oral surgeons or pedodontists. In addition to training in their chosen specialty, they also have extensive training in both dental toxicology and specific [supportive] healing modalities…. Specific modalities will vary from dentist to dentist, but all are incorporated into treatment for the betterment of the patient. For the word “biological” refers to life. Any protocol followed must be one designed of components that sustain life or improve the quality of life for individuals pursuing treatment.
In short, biological dentistry is a comprehensive approach to health. Our focus is on identifying and treating root causes, not symptoms, both energetically and physically. Biocompatible materials and techniques reign supreme, along with therapies that support the body’s self-healing, self-regulating abilities.
Above all, the patient and their needs are at the center of care, with treatment decisions made jointly between doctor and patient, and the patient taking a more active role in their own health and well-being.
Yes, this kind of conscientious, whole body dentistry can be more expensive up front, but you are also getting much more of the doctor’s time, attention, and expansive expertise than at a conventional or insurance-based practice. You are getting more precise, individualized care.
Patients in a practice like ours will tell you plainly: They choose a holistic, biological dentist like Dr. Montgomery because they understand it as an investment in health, saving them countless dollars, pain, and trouble in the long run.