Integrative or holistic dentistry involves looking at how the structure and function of the teeth, gums, mouth and muscles of the head and neck interact with the whole body and vice versa. Our doctors take pride in understanding the signs and symptoms they see in the oral structures and then relating them to overall health. In practice, this involves considerable continuing education to stay current with the latest research. There are a number of theories out there, but we as doctors want to make sure we are treating based on credible research and not theory.
The other portion of integrative dentistry is having a strong referral network of physicians, sleep specialists, nutritional therapists, DME suppliers, physical therapists and other health care providers to work with as a team to provide comprehensive treatment.
Here's an example of how this works:
A new patient moved to Boise a few years back and had not seen a dentist since the move. He came to the office with considerable pain, redness and bleeding in the gums. This condition persisted no matter how well he took care of his teeth and gums and was likely due to an autoimmune reaction. This had been going on for quite some time and he had tried a number of rinses and treatments with no relief. Eating was painful and he had just accepted that this was the way it was going to be. On his health intake form we noted he was tired during the day, was on blood pressure medication, diabetes medication, cholesterol medication and had a problem with teeth grinding. He had surgery a number of years back on his soft palate. This helped his snoring, but he did not go back for follow-up analysis with a sleep study.
We started with a comprehensive examination (as we always do!) to assess the condition of his teeth, gums, head and neck. This involved gingival measurements, digital radiographs, an oral/head and neck cancer screening, chewing muscle assessment and, of course, looking at the teeth and their relationship to one another.
Several red flags also let me know this gentleman was at risk for sleep apnea, so we asked him to fill out a more comprehensive sleep screening form. This, too, suggested a sleep apnea consultation with a sleep specialist and his sleep study revealed significant sleep apnea. Our patient opted to try a CPAP machine first and was able to tolerate it quite well. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea has been shown to have a very inflammatory effect on the body. Treatment has been shown to not only help patients sleep better, but lower blood pressure in many cases and reduce inflammation in the body.
Also, at the initial examination we found 2 abscessed teeth and periodontal disease. Both of these situations are causes of inflammation and stress for the body. Treatment with periodontal cleanings and removal of the abscessed teeth were performed as soon as possible. We also recommended our patient use a Waterpik to help irrigate the deeper pockets and showed him an essential oil rinse he can add to further reduce the bacterial counts. This treatment was highly important considering the blood pressure problems that already were present.
Finally, we referred our patient to a functional pharmacologist. He utilized traditional medications at first to get our patient out of pain and then assessed his diet and recommended natural products to help further reduce the inflammation. Hopefully our patient will be able to transition to more natural products in the future on a full time basis.
This is one example of how integrative dental care works. We look at the patient as a whole person and see how we can achieve the best outcomes for each situation. The process involves education for our patients and a dedication to continued education on the part of the doctors. We believe your mouth is an integral part of your overall health and we strive to provide personalized care to each of our patients.