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Holistic Dentistry

Dentistry has been traditionally taught as treating dental disease that is diseases of the mouth – mainly tooth decay or gum disease. The public understanding of a dentist working, is the use of a drill and working only inside the mouth. At Crescent Dental Health we believe when a dentist lifts a drill, it should be the last line of treatment, and especially where children are concerned.

I never like the title of Dental Surgeon, as surgeon suggests someone who operates to cut out or remove, I feel as a profession we are moving towards being Oral Physicians

The mouth is the start of the alimentary canal, your gastrointestinal tract (G.I. tract).  It is unique in that it is the only part of the G.I tract containing a hard surface, the teeth, which are the hardest elements contained within the body.

As the opening portal to the G.I. tract it is vitally important to your overall health. Disease in the mouth can have  wide-ranging, and increasingly researched and understood effects elsewhere in the body.  Gum disease is linked to several other major diseases, similarly, systemic illness will impact on the mouth. As stated by the US Surgeon General “A person cannot have good general health without good oral health”

Just as every other part of the G.I. tract has specialist doctors that work as a team to provide health a dentist should be considered as a specialist doctor treating the mouth, one part of the body, the start of the G.I tract.

The G.I tract is a 30 foot long tube (as long as a telephone pole) that starts at the mouth and ends in our pants. The lining of the G.I tract (which has the same surface area as 4 tennis courts) is our interface between the outside world and our inside world.

Everyone knows the maxim “you are what you eat”, this is not exactly true it would be more accurate to state “You are what you absorb” but it does underly the truth of what the G.I tract accomplishes, Whatever we eat, the G.I tract then breaks down to its constituent parts, decides what is needed to maintain, replenish and refuel our bodies, protects us from any toxins, allergens and disposes of the waste.

To do this the G.I tract is equipped with it’s own nervous system, contains 70% of our immune system and is home to 5-8lbs of bacteria, hopefully mostly friendly.

The work of the gut is so important it has its own functioning brain, the Enteric Nervous System (E.N.S.).  Half of the nerve cells in our body reside in the gut, with more nerve cells in the gut than in the spine. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that pass information through the nervous system. There are as many neurotransmitters found in the gut as in the brain and each class of neurotransmitter found in the brain can also be found within the gut.

We always think of the brain controlling the entire body, again this isn’t true, the gut is the only system in the body to have it’s own nervous system. This works independently of the brain but is in constant two way communication with the brain, so the gut knows when you are happy, sad, depressed, stressed or in fear and so the adage of “gut feelings” are true!

The gut also houses trillions of bacteria (500 different species) and 10 times the number of cells in our bodies, we are more bug than human, fortunately these are friendly bacteria that help us break down the food and destroy and eliminate any toxins contained within our food. But like any good relationship, we need to look after our partners, protect them and keep a healthy gut that provides a safe shelter.

Bacteria can be our best friend or worst enemy, as a result of poor diet, the G.I tract will often suffer bacterial overgrowth, leading to imbalance within the gut and poor health. An example of this would be the presence of Lactobacillus, it is very important in the stomach and seen as a sign of a health, however, it’s presence in the mouth it is one of the main indicators/causes  of active rampant decay

Our bodies have an amazing ability to heal. The vast number of common diseases are caused by lifestyle choices. A heart attack can be the result of enduring an unhealthy  lifestyle which is down to personal choice and not reflective of the body’s inability to maintain health,  similarly, a cavity in a tooth is the long term result of poor choices we make.

The lifestyle choices encouraged for  oral health are exactly the same as those advocated  for  better general health. It is useful to think of disease, not as something we acquire, but as an absence of vital health, caused by an imbalance in our life. We have evolved over millions of years to have a body that repairs itself and keeps itself healthy. Food is medicine, your diet should provide all the raw materials to support the G.I tract and allow the body to fuel and repair, It is delusional to think that we can eat any type of food and maintain health. The modern processed diet is laden with sugars, salt , additives and devoid of fibre or the necessary micronutrients and vitamins, and so a fork combined with a poor diet becomes a weapon of destruction.

In trying to set up a preventative and minimally invasive practice it is necessary to look at all aspects of lifestyle including diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation. Good oral health is  intimately linked to good general health. If this sounds very new unfortunately I was beaten to it by Hippocrates who said “Leave your medicines in the chemists pot if you can heal your patients with food” modern medicine tends to be interventionist without giving patients the chance to alter their diet and lifestyle again from Hippocrates “Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in it’s work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Let thy food  be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food” All this from the 3rd century BC