I know, it sounds like a science-ridden term, but there’s a very real reason why you should care about biological dentistry.
The American Dental Association defines dentistry as: “The evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (non surgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. . .”
That sounds pretty straightforward, right?
But here’s the interesting thing: that definition relieves dentists of taking all of the body’s systems into account and focusing on overall health.
On the flip side, biologic dentistry recognizes that oral and systemic health are not separate. In fact, there are multiple studies demonstrating how your physical health can affect your oral health, and vice versa.
Biologic dentistry is defined as: “The dental medicine that partners the patient and dental practitioner to develop and integrate biologically safe, effective, established, and emerging treatment modalities. This allows for treatment that is not subservient to any one school of dental thought.”
It’s an entirely different, holistic, and approach to dentistry that partners the practitioner and patient to find a system-wide solution. As an example, it’s been proven that chronic infections in the mouth can cause coronary artery disease (source)!
Here are some fundamental differences between a dentist and a biological dentist:
1. Diagnostic Tools
Biological dentists focus on getting the right diagnosis, sourcing the problem, and being as preventative for future problems as possible. This starts with trusted technology that is accurate and consistent. A biologic office is more likely to use clear diagnostic tools to check for decay- things like the Diagnodent, or Spectra technology. These tools use light and wavelengths to image each individual tooth checking for areas of early decay. Using light-assisted technology can help tremendously in early detection!
2. Digital X-rays
Yes, as biological dentists still take, and require x-rays. The only way to catch small lesions early is by taking radiographs. Unfortunately, they are impossible to see with the human eye, and are much easier to treat and address when small! But, the digital radiographs biological dentists use are 90% less radiation than film radiographs. If a cavity isn’t caught early, it can become large enough to infect the nerve and snowball into some serious, even life-threatening problems.
So please let your dentist take radiographs — it can save your teeth! If you’ve had cavities before, radiographs every 12 months is ideal. If you’re not cavity prone, 18-24 months may still be safe if you’re still getting regular dental cleanings and exams.
3. 3-D Conebeam
Like I mentioned above, a biologic office is still going to take radiographs(full mouth series of 18 images, and approximately once a year 4 bitewing radiographs.) But they will partner them with another incredible piece of equipment — the CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) machine. This technology gives a much clearer view of the anatomical structures, bone, and roots of teeth. The cone beam will also image the patient’s airway, which is very important in addressing sleep-disordered breathing or any possible apnea. CBCT will eventually be the gold standard because it is a 3-D image instead of traditional radiographs which are only 2-D.
4. Airway Crowding
A biologic office will have the technology, and the education to evaluate a compromised airway and have functional methods of treating. The connection between insufficient oxygenation and compromised health is well understood by biologic dentists. To address airway crowding a biological dentist might use the CBCT for visualization of the airway, and an additional home sleep study to evaluate clenching, grinding, and apnea episodes. They would then create a functional treatment plan to slowly expand the airway, which can include a variety of appliances made custom for each patient.
5. Safe Amalgam Removal
The silver colored fillings that dentists used to use are called amalgam fillings, and they are over 50% liquid elemental mercury, the remaining ingredients are powdered silver, tin, and copper. Yuck! Since mercury is one of the world’s most dangerous neurotoxins, more and more people are looking to have their old fillings removed. However, during the removal process, the speed and heat of the drill turn the mercury into a vapor, which is more dangerous to tissues than the liquid form. A biological dentist certified through IAOMT will follow the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique to safely remove amalgam fillings.
6. Root Canals
Now, root canals are kind of a grey area in biological dentistry because much of it is dependent on the patient’s constitution, health, and genetics. However, research shows that root canaled teeth harbor bacteria and infection, and directly cause inflammatory health diseases such as CVD, and autoimmune diseases. (source 1, source 2) A biological dentist will talk through your options with you and find a solution that keeps your overall health in mind. Finding a biological dentist with a 3-D imaging system, or CBCT is another way to make sure there are no silent chronic infections that can be causing systemic health issues.
Ozone, also known as O3, is gas that is 30,000 times stronger than bleach, and incredibly powerful when used in and on the human body. After removing a cavity, prior to restoration, ozone gas can be used to reduce sensitivity, and kill bacteria. If decay has already gone into the nerve during a cavity removal, medical grade ozone is the perfect substance to use.
Because of its power, Ozone may prevent the nerve from becoming infected or prevent penetration of bacteria into the nerve. Anytime bacteria gets into the nerve it causes nerve death which leads to a chronic tooth infection with options being extraction or root canal. It can also be used after anesthesia to reverse numbness, increase blood flow to the area, and decrease the chance of swelling. A biological dentist will employ O3 as needed.
8. Biocompatibility Testing
Some patients want individualized testing to see what materials work best in their body. There are two well-recognized options when it comes to biocompatibility testing – MELISA and Clifford Biocomp testing. Both tests require a blood draw and can be several hundred dollars. The first, and best option for bio-compatibility testing is MELISA because it evaluates the innate immune system and type IV hypersensitivity reactions. The Clifford Biocomp test only checks the adaptive immune system (B cells), whereas MELISA testing checks the T cells (innate immune system)! Since tests can be rather expensive, if testing is not within the realm of possibilities, at least check to make sure the materials your dentist is using is BPA and metal free! To read more about MELISA testing click here. Currently, there are no MELISA labs located in the US, so finding a provider may be a bit of a challenge, and also explains the elevated cost.
9. Health Consulting
This is one of the best parts about biological dentistry. You can find a dentist who will sit down with you and review diet, labs, lifestyle, and health! They will operate understanding that so much of oral health is connected to systemic health (and vice versa.) In fact, dental decay is actually a systemic connection — which explains why you’re still getting cavities even after brushing 2-3 times per day and flossing. Read more here!
Because of those reasons, it’s critical to find a dentist who understands how all the aspects of your health factor in. Your oral and general health is worth the switch! Head over here to find a biological dentist near you.