Holistic Dentistry Gaining in Popularity.

Position:ORAL CARE

For a growing number of patients, a trip to the dentist is not what it used to be--and that is how they want it. Rather than just a routine "drill-and-fill" for a cavity, they may receive a head massage, meditative advice, and diet suggestions that would seem more befitting a gastroenterologist. What they will not receive are traditional amalgam fillings--about 50% of these are composed of mercury, which has been associated with numerous health issues and is considered an environmental hazard.

This emerging branch of dentistry--which dental professionals say largely is patient-driven--is called "holistic" or "holistic biological." Holistic dentists believe that poor oral health leads to poor physical health. They perform traditional procedures, but take the entire body into account--diet, lifestyle, emotional heafth--when treating teeth. They also focus on using what they consider to be safer materials.

Says Nammy Patel, who operates a practice called Green Dentistry, San Francisco, Calif.: "Holistic dentistry is looking at and addressing the underlying causes for gum disease and cavities. For example, is it your diet, hormonal changes, or acid reflux? For many years in the dental profession, it was assumed that your oral health had only a tangential effect on your overall health. We now know better."

Patel, author of Age With Style: Your Guide to a Youthful Smile S Healthy Living, provides five reasons holistic dentistry is trending up as a treatment approach by patients:

* "The practice looks beyond symptoms to find root causes for dental issues while expanding methods of preventive care. Ifs a deeper look at a patient that offers them numerous benefits when considering diet and lifestyle and how it all connects with oral hearth."

* The focus is on...

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