Although dentists in the Netherlands must follow the same years-long university education and register with the Dutch government in order to provide care, not all dental care is equal.
Dentists in the Netherlands may approach dental care differently: experienced dentists will recommend and provide care based on what they’ve seen works best, and they may prefer one technique or tool over another. One such difference can be seen in the overall philosophy of care, such as in holistic dentistry. Expatica explains the difference between conventional dentistry and holistic dentistry in the Netherlands, and how it can benefit patients.
What is holistic dentistry?
Holistic medicine focuses on more than just medically treating an ailment in a specific part of the body; instead, it focuses on the whole person, including the body and mind, and how they interact with one another to affect overall physical health. This approach to medicine is not new, and neither is it in the field of dental care.
Some point to the early 19th century as the birth of holistic dentistry, also called biological dentistry or alternative dentistry, after the American Society of Dental Surgeons declared the use of dental amalgam, a material used in fillings that contains mercury, to be malpractice. Since then, the debate over whether mercury is an appropriate material for dental work has continued. The latest consensus from an EU committee, however, is that dental amalgam is still an acceptable material for dental fillings.
The committee goes on to say that the choice of material — which now includes resin-based composites, glass ionomer cements, ceramics and gold alloys — should be based on numerous factors, and they called for the development of alternative materials that have a higher degree of bio-compatibility — a step in the direction of holistic dentistry. Many patients looking for more natural (i.e. holistic) medicine will search for mercury free dentistry, but that is only one sign of a holistic dental practice.
Other characteristic philosophies of a holistic dental practice include the preference for nonsurgical treatments, especially in regards to periodontal diseases, and the apprehension with which they view traditional root canal treatments. Some holistic dentists also do not recommend fluoride treatments.
Holistic dentistry does exist on a spectrum: dental practices with holistic philosophies may eschew those only-natural practices, instead integrating more conventional dentistry but pair it with more thoughtful, all-encompassing care.
Benefits of choosing a holistic dentist
Holistic dentistry has not been without its critics: any “alternative” medicine is often met with strong opposition, such as the case with the replacement of dental amalgam. Medicine is rooted in scientific knowledge, and some holistic remedies have no researched and proven evidence to back up the claims. However, there are some clear benefits of holistic dentistry.
Providing comprehensive dental care
Some very traditional dentists will examine teeth and fix problems as they arise — filling cavities or performing root canals — and perform all the regular cleanings, but they never address the reasons these patients may require treatment beyond simple cleaning.
Holistic dentists will use complementary medical treatments such as acupuncture and orthomolecular medicine, the therapeutic use of dietary supplements, to treat the underlying cause of any dental conditions or diseases, as well as to maintain healthy teeth. In addition, they are more thoughtful about “standard” dental treatments, such as fluoride — while fluoride does strengthen teeth for patients that have poor diets or high levels of stress, too much can be harmful and is not necessary in those in good health.
Choosing the right materials
Besides just dental amalgam, holistic dentists will avoid using any metal in the mouth, including braces, frames and implants. Holistic dentists work with carefully selected, hypoallergenic materials such as ceramics, as they believe that any rust that may develop of metal braces can travel into your body.
Additionally, in the past few years, plasticizers have become a contested topic for their use in dental fillings, as their chemical composition can cause hormonal disruptions in the body. For this reason, holistic dentists prefer to use composite fillings without plasticizer-containing plastics such as BPA or HEMA.
Helping patients lead healthier lives
Holistic dentistry looks at patient’s whole picture of health, with the belief that oral health is directly related to the health of the entire body. Holistic dentists will look at even the smallest lifestyle changes, such as breathing through your nose instead of your mouth, a small but important recommendation to prevent dry mouth and bacterial growth, or avoiding aggressive mouthwashes in favour of oil pulling.
Eating the right foods, managing stress levels and using the right products and techniques for a dental routine are all parts of a holistic dental approach, which many dentists in the Netherlands are moving towards.