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A holistic approach: The road to becoming a biological dentist

May 11, 2024
This dentist explains how she transitioned into biological dentistry, the benefits it has for her patients and team, and some of the protocols she has implemented to support her practice model.

If you’ve ever embarked on a personal wellness journey—through diet, meditation, or fitness—you may have been surprised by how much a small, positive change could impact other areas of your life. The same principle can be applied in dentistry.

Why wellness?

Though “wellness” is a popular buzzword, it’s more than just a trend. As disillusionment mounts with insurance--driven standards of care, people are questioning traditional methods and seeking out alternatives. Instead of masking symptoms, patients increasingly want to tackle their health issues at the source—and rightfully so. The wellness movement is here to stay, and dental practitioners have an exciting opportunity to be a part of it.

When I discovered biological dentistry, I was already living a healthy lifestyle. Having kids made me conscious of organic ingredients, clean eating practices, and what was going into my body and theirs. I knew there must be a way to marry intuitive wellness practices with science-backed literature. As a graduate of the Kois Center in Seattle, Washington, I prioritized ongoing learning and openness to shifting paradigms in the interest of improved patient outcomes and personal growth.

What is biological dentistry?

With roots in biological medicine and holistic dentistry, biological dentistry is an individualized approach to dental care that makes the connection between oral health and overall well-being. Instead of isolating the mouth in treatment, biological dentistry considers it as one part of a greater whole.

Biological dentistry emphasizes minimally invasive techniques, natural remedies, and biocompatible materials. While biological -dentists still engage in routine checkups, teeth cleanings, and fillings, they also seek to restore balance to the natural physiological processes of the body through lifestyle changes, supplementation, and monitoring markers such as:

  • Inflammation
  • Diet
  • Hydration
  • Airway function
  • Sleep quality

The oral cavity is a window into the interconnected systems of the body. Through robust diagnostic protocols, biological dentists put together pieces of the puzzle to see a bigger picture.

Leading with wellness has paid off for me, both emotionally and financially. I get to live out my purpose every day, knowing I am helping my patients heal from the inside out. I also get to work with people who are ready to invest in themselves.

Who benefits from this practice model?

Everyone can benefit from exploring wellness, and the dentist’s office is a great place to begin. I see patients of all ages, from young children who are just starting to learn about oral hygiene all the way up to grandparents who want to feel a sense of vitality as they age. Wellness is built into the mindsets of millennials and Gen Z, but older generations are catching up too. I stand by the saying that the best time to start was 20 years ago, and the second-best time to start is now. The body has an amazing capacity to heal itself when given proper support.

Your team can also benefit from a wellness-centered office space. For example, the Reiki table and sauna I use to help my patients relax before and after appointments can also be used by team members (and myself!) during lunch breaks. Additionally, the Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique (SMART) makes mercury removal safe for my patients reduces hazards for my team.

Characteristics of a biological dental practice

Here are some of the items and protocols I incorporated as part of my transition to becoming a biological dental practice:

  • Advanced gingival health program: At my practice, we use a microscope chairside to screen our patients’ biofilm at every hygiene visit. Salivary analysis through the HR5 test by Direct Diagnostics and SimplyPERIO by SimplyTest allows us to further identify and quantify high-risk pathogens that contribute to inflammation, periodontal disease, caries, and systemic diseases. Follow-up swabs and testing allow us to evaluate patient compliance and treatment efficacy.
  • Airway-centric dentistry: For many providers, becoming aware of airway disorders and sleep fragmentation is their gateway to biological dentistry. Often patients are already struggling to manage various issues that are rooted in compromised sleep and breathing—diabetes, cardiac problems, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and recurring caries, to name a few. At my practice, we screen every new patient for airway and sleep issues.
  • SMART protocol: Many patients seek out SMART-certified dentists, so they feel safe when having their existing mercury fillings removed. Mercury exposure is risky, so we use special PPE, air-filtering equipment, and environmentally appropriate disposal methods.
  • Ozone: I use ozone-infused water, oil, and gas to help heal surgical sites and gum infections. Ozone can even desensitize teeth and harden affected dentin that approaches the pulp, promoting nerve healing.
  • NuCalm: Since we eliminated nitrous in our office, we now use neuroacoustic technology to help our patients relax in the chair. NuCalm combines noise-cancelling headphones and an eye mask with a disk that goes on the patient’s cardiothoracic acupressure point (on the wrist). The soundwaves have a calming effect, similar to a sensory deprivation tank.
  • Cleaner product options: We don’t use products containing fluoride in my office. We recommend and carry several product lines, including RiseWell, Boka, and StellaLife, encouraging patients to look for pH-neutral, minimally abrasive toothpastes with nanohydroxyapatite as an ingredient.
  • Collaborative care: As I have grown in my role as a biological dentist, I have continued to expand my network of like-minded health-care and wellness providers, including functional/integrative medicine providers, ENT doctors, myofunctional therapists, mental health professionals, acupuncturists, and bodyworkers. Taking a team approach to whole-person care has improved treatment outcomes and enriched my patient referral base.
  • Amenities room: Helping patients feel at ease leads to higher treatment acceptance, reduced anxiety, and less postoperative pain. We have a heated Reiki table and an infrared sauna to help our patients feel their best, and we serve a custom-blended tea before and after their dental appointments.

What to consider

Biological dentistry is not for everyone, but incorporating aspects of wellness can make your practice more appealing. While I do market myself online, patients often seek me out instead of the other way around. The truth is: People want to engage with wellness. They want to feel seen and heard by a compassionate and open-minded dentist.

My job is to remain curious and think like a detective when it comes to complex health challenges. If I hit a roadblock, I can research more or ask a colleague in my network. I am proud to say I haven’t prescribed a narcotic in almost 10 years. I have helped my patients overcome brain fog, sleep apnea, chronic fatigue, and all sorts of diseases. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone with a problem no other medical professional was able to solve.

The profession is constantly evolving

Our knowledge of wellness and biological dentistry is constantly evolving as new research and methods emerge. In my view, being a biological dentist means making a lifelong commitment to learning. Transitioning to a wellness--focused practice has reaffirmed my mission as a health-care provider and allowed me to help people in a way I never could have before. It has also enabled me to continuously evaluate and improve my own lifestyle—ultimately, we must practice what we preach!

Wellness sells itself—not because there is manipulation involved but because patients recognize that investing in their health saves them time and money in the long run by avoiding disease. In turn, biological dentists find that providing an elevated level of care boosts their business and builds a deeper level of trust with their patients.

You can learn more from organizations such as the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and the International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine (IABDM). When in doubt, build a community of support. I was able to do this through the Guiding Leaders program at Glidewell, and now I have a network of individuals for support and the confidence I need to continue my pursuit of biological dentistry. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the May 2024 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Preeya Genz, DDS, is a 2007 graduate of Baylor College of Dentistry and a 2017 graduate of the Kois Center. She is founder and owner of The Whole Tooth, a boutique holistic practice focused on dentistry for total body health. She is a clinical consultant for Dental Advisor, a blogger for the Dallas Moms Blog, and serves on the board of HHM Health, a. nonprofit center providing high-quality health-care services to the Dallas community. Find her on Instagram @thewholetoothtexas.

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