Functional Dentistry

Despite spending more than $3 trillion on healthcare, the United States still loses nearly one million people to preventable diseases each year. For this reason and others, more people have been integrating preventative, functional medicine into their wellness routines. Functional dentistry builds on this idea, applying a holistic approach to oral and dental care. Functional dentistry is not a new concept, in fact many of the effective and healthy strategies used were used for centuries by our ancestors to keep their mouths healthy.

Functional dentistry is an approach to dental care that:

  • Emphasizes prevention of oral disease such as oral microbiome management, treatment of sleep-disordered breathing, and dietary recommendations
  • Aims to use non-toxic, or the least toxic materials available when treating dental issues
  • Focuses on the root causes of oral disease
  • Promotes an all-body approach to dental health, recognizing that the health of the mouth reflects in someone’s overall health

In functional dentistry, a dentist doesn’t just treat tooth decay, bad breath, or gum disease. Dr. Chamberlain knows that these are merely outward symptoms of larger problems and looks to address those instead.

Functional Dentistry vs. Conventional Dentistry

Let’s compare the approaches of functional dentistry and conventional dentistry to common dental issues.

Cavities

It’s common for dentists to blame tooth decay on poor hygiene, or a failure to brush and floss enough. In reality, brushing and flossing are small parts of the equation when it comes to demineralization* and the formation of dental caries. Dentists practicing functional dentistry know that eating the right foods is the best way to prevent cavities and even heal some that already exist. The proper diet is rich in healthy fats, high-quality proteins, vitamin K2-rich foods, and leafy greens. It also contains minimal processed foods, sugar, grains, and acidic foods and drinks—if it contains any at all. Dr. Chamberlain can help you better understand how food choices contribute to bacteria growth and cavity formation.

* What is demineralization? Minerals such as calcium and phosphate help make up tooth enamel, along with bone and dentin. These minerals also prevent tooth decay and subsequent cavities. Over time, you can lose the minerals in your teeth. This may be caused by eating sugary and acidic foods. It also occurs when bacteria accumulate in your mouth. It is possible to help replenish these minerals with lifestyle changes and home remedies before tooth decay occurs. This process is known as remineralization. There are also things you can do to help stop or prevent demineralization.

Fillings

Amalgam fillings (which are silver in color) contain mercury, which over time can leach from the fillings into the body and help make it toxic. Additionally, some alloys contain nickel, which can cause inflammation. We provide composite fillings that are a healthier solution and are also tooth colored, so they are also much less distracting to a beautiful smile.

Mouthwash

So why are conventional mouthwash products so bad? Well, they’re great at killing the harmful bacteria in your mouth, but in the process, they also destroy the beneficial bacteria needed to support remineralization and fresh breath. Your mouth requires a balance of good bacteria in order to fight bad breath, cavity formation, and oral disease. Practices like thorough brushing (especially with a nano-hydroxyapatite toothpaste), tongue scraping, flossing, and simply eating a more Paleo-like diet can all support a healthy bacterial balance within the mouth.

If you struggle with bad breath, mouth taping (which promotes nasal breathing and prevents dry mouth) and tongue scraping can help.

Root Canals

The best way to tell a functional dentist from a conventional one is to consider their approach to root canals. Sometimes the procedure is necessary, but a dentist should present all options beforehand, while also discussing what can be done to prevent them in the future (other than brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash).

Root canals can be a necessary component of functional dentistry. But functional dentists are also likely to provide a list of alternative options, while also teaching you how to properly care for your teeth so that you don’t need another root canal in the future.

The concern with a root canal is that there is no such thing as a 100% clean root canal. Likewise, you need to understand your options before opting for an implant to replace a missing tooth. You should be given the choice to weigh the pros and cons of having the tooth pulled and replaced with an implant instead of having a root canal.

Periodontal Health

When plaque builds up along the gum line, and the bacteria in that plaque begins to release toxins, gingivitis and gum disease can occur. Root planing and scaling are treatments that address these conditions by cleaning underneath the gums.

Your mouth doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is closely related to the health of your body as a whole. In functional dentistry, there are two main components of treating a patient with gum disease.

1) Evaluate for any physical trauma to the gum tissue and evaluate the alignment of the teeth and bite to determine whether this is causing breakdown and/or recession of the gum tissues.

2) Evaluate the root of the problem — even beyond diet. Gum disease is sometimes related to autoimmune disease, high blood sugar, or chronic levels of total-body inflammation. There are times when Dr. Chamberlain will refer patients to a general practitioner for blood tests and extensive follow-up to determine whether any of those issues are at play.

How to Apply Functional Dentistry At Home

There’s much you can do at home to take a preventive approach to your oral and dental health.

The following are the most important things you can do to have a healthy mouth and prevent cavities, bad breath, gum disease, and other issues:

  • Keep your mouth moist and avoid mouth breathing. Try mouth taping to see if you’re actually breathing through your nose at night, and to fix the problem if you aren’t. You should also drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated throughout the day.
  • Follow an 80/20 rule with your diet. Eat remineralizing foods and avoid demineralizing foods at least 80 percent of the time. A Paleo or ketogenic diet is a healthy solution for your mouth and body.
  • Practice proper dental hygiene. Brush at least two minutes in the morning and at night (with hydroxyapatite toothpaste), making sure to brush softly in a circular motion and remembering to replace your brush every 1-3 months. (You can also purchase a subscription with an electric toothbrush company that will deliver replacement heads to your doorstep at regular intervals so you don’t have to remember). Be sure to also scrape your tongue and floss daily.
  • Take helpful vitamins and supplements. Dr. Chamberlain recommends vitamin D3, vitamin K2, vitamin A, calcium, oral probiotics, and trace minerals. These can be especially helpful for remineralizing cavities.
We’re here to provide care that promotes your vitality as well as the brightest, healthiest smile possible.

Request an appointment online using the “How Can We Help” form below or give us a call to schedule an appointment at (816) 452-9700.

Vitality Family Dental - Kansas City Northland