Google Alerts occasionally delivers articles that make us smile – like this recent piece  on “one of the latest fads in dentistry.”
The “fad” in question? Holistic dentistry.
In fact, holistic dentistry has been around since at least the early 1970s – a time when more dentists began to question things like the wisdom of filling decayed teeth with mercury amalgam; when they began to study and incorporate aspects of Eastern and energetic medicine with Western clinical practice; when they began to understand the mouth in relationship to other structures, organs, and systems in the human body.
If it’s a “fad,” it’s a fad that’s now lasted nearly 50 years.
But the good doctor – an orthodontist – who wrote the article did touch on one critical truth: Holistic dentistry isn’t a recognized dental specialty such as periodontics or prosthodontics. Truly, anyone can call their practice “holistic” if they want to. There’s no regulation of the term.
The same trouble dogs the phrase “biological dentistry,” though as we’ve noted before , despite the rivaling definitions you can find online, the phrase actually does indicate a very specific approach to oral health care.
Biological dentistry is far more than just “a philosophy” or “attitude.” It is rooted in what’s known as regulative medicine, where dental situations are viewed in the context of a person’s total toxic burden. Healing from dental problems such as infected root canal teeth, cavitations, or mercury toxicity first involves addressing dysfunction in the body’s biological terrain – its internal environment, also known as the extracellular matrix or milieu.
The terrain is what drives health or illness , resilience or vulnerability. It determines how effectively – or not – the body can keep itself in physiological balance, or self-regulate.
If your regulative system is out of whack – due to toxicities, injuries, and environmental and lifestyle factors – just treating the dental situation may be of little help. It certainly isn’t “addressing the root cause,” to use one of the favorite marketing phrases. It’s merely addressing one burden while the rest of the body’s needs go effectively ignored.
In fact, it’s called “biological dentistry”  because it adapted the principles of German Biological Medicine, which focuses on supporting the body’s ability to self-regulate and heal itself. The term was suggested by Dr. Walter Sturm, an important mentor to Dr. Verigin and his colleague Dr. Ed Arana as they formed the organization now known as the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine  back in 1985.
“Biological dentistry” was born with that group of dentists seeking a more comprehensive way to care for their patients, to support their oral and systemic health alike.
It’s a shame that there are so many rivaling definitions out there. It’s confusing to patients, as well as dentists who are just learning about the approach. Biological dentistry is so much more than just concern with mercury or fluoride or “treating the whole person.” It’s a completely different paradigm focused on removing and preventing barriers to healing – physical, mental, spiritual – while nurturing the body’s own healing mechanisms.
And the terrain is the key. The terrain, in the famous words of French physiologist Claude Bernard, is everything.