What is functional dentistry?

Functional Dentistry: A Whole-Body Approach to Oral Health

Your mouth is more than just a gateway to enjoying delicious foods; it's a reflection of your overall health. Functional dentistry, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of oral health and total body wellness, aims to identify the root causes of dental problems rather than simply addressing symptoms. Let's explore the innovative world of functional dentistry and understand its significance in today's health-focused society.

Functional Dentistry: The Basics

Functional Medicine Dentistry is a paradigm shift in the world of dental care. Rooted in the principles of functional medicine, it considers the oral cavity as an integral part of the body's entire system, recognizing that problems in the mouth can have far-reaching effects on overall health. To practice functional dentistry, a dentist would have completed their conventional dental training and pursued additional specialization in this holistic approach.

Functional vs. Conventional Dentistry

Conventional dentistry is largely reactive, often treating problems after they've become advanced, such as cavities, gum disease, or tooth infections. In contrast, functional dentistry is proactive, seeking to understand the underlying causes of these issues and addressing them holistically.

For example, while conventional dentistry might treat gum disease with a scaling and root planing procedure, a functional dentist might also assess a patient's diet, stress levels, sleep patterns, and gut health, recognizing the role these factors can play in oral health.

The Mouth-Body Connection

Contrary to what many might think, the mouth isn't isolated from the rest of our bodies. A disturbance in oral health can trigger problems in other areas, and vice versa. Here are some critical connections:

  • Oral Microbiome: Just as our gut houses a plethora of beneficial bacteria that influence our health, our mouth is home to over 800 identified bacterial species. An imbalance in this oral microbiome can influence systemic health, as these microbes can migrate to other parts of our body.

  • Metal Toxicity: Many people have metal fillings or dental appliances. But did you know that these metals can leach into our systems, potentially leading to health issues? Functional dentists often emphasize using biocompatible materials to minimize these risks.

  • Airway Health: A functional dentist might be your first line of defense against sleep apnea or chronic snoring, recognizing how airway obstructions can influence sleep quality and, by extension, overall health.

Specialized Tests in Functional Dentistry

One significant aspect of functional dentistry is the range of tests that practitioners might use to get a more comprehensive view of your health. These tests can include:

  • Oral Microbiome Testing: Understanding the balance of bacteria in your mouth can shed light on potential oral health problems and even hint at broader systemic issues.

  • Micronutrient and Vitamin D Testing: Nutrient deficiencies can play a surprising role in dental health, from weakening tooth enamel to causing gum issues.

  • HbA1C Testing: This test, commonly associated with diabetes, can also indicate the health of your gums. Elevated blood sugar levels can contribute to gum disease, making this a vital test in a functional dental setting.

Finding the Right Functional Dentist

If you're keen on exploring this holistic approach to dental care, it's essential to find a dentist with the right training and philosophy. Many organizations, such as the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT) and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM), can provide directories to assist in your search. Don't hesitate to ask potential dentists about their approach, the materials they use, and the tests they offer to ensure you're on the same page.

You can also check out our Dentist Directory to see offices that are using Bristle Health to offer root-cause oral health and care!

In Conclusion

Functional dentistry recognizes that our bodies function as interconnected systems, where an issue in one area can impact another. By understanding and addressing the root causes of dental issues, functional dentists aim to provide care that benefits not just our mouths, but our entire well-being. If you're someone who values a holistic approach to health, this might be the dental philosophy you've been searching for.

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