A look at holistic dentistry in Western North Carolina

“Would you like a cup of nettle?” asks Janna Gower,  office manager and the wife of Dr. Phil Davis, a local dentist. She hands me a chilled infusion of nettle root meant to naturally energize without producing the edgy nervous energy and acidity of coffee. A yellow smiley face at the mailbox marks the driveway for Healthy Smiles, Davis’ general dentistry practice, less than a mile from the Western North Carolina Farmers Market on Brevard Road.

(Article by Cindy Kunst)

Inside the renovated farmhouse, surrounded by organic gardens and a variety of large oak, elm and maple trees that shade the house, the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. The private patient rooms are spacious, with large windows that can be opened to let in fresh breezes during nice weather and the sound of birds in the trees. The kitchen, where staff members share lunch each day, is clean and bright. She pulls out a quart jar of dark tea from the refrigerator and pours me a cup. This is what one facet of local holistic dentistry is like upon first look.

Holistic dentists (also called biological or integrative dentists) offer all the services you would expect from any dentist. They have attended dental school, graduated with a doctor of dental medicine or a doctor of dental surgery degree and are licensed by the state Dental Board. However, at some point in these dentists’ experiences, they recognized systemic problems as distinct from “business as usual” practices of traditional dentistry — whether that be through doctor-patient interaction, type of treatment or the avoidance of certain invasive procedures.

Holistic dentistry holds that oral health is directly connected to overall health. There is a spectrum of different care strategies, ranging from a patientcentric ideal of care (from The Pankey Institute) to wearing a hazardous materials suit for silver-mercury amalgam filling removal. While traditional dentistry points to avoiding sugary snacks as well as brushing and flossing regularly, holistic dentists emphasize the importance of whole-foods nutrition and cavity prevention, while at the same time limiting the use of toxic chemicals and invasive dental procedures such as extractions and root canals. They embrace new technology in an effort to provide care for their patients that goes beyond the conventional wisdom of dentistry of the past 150 years. Because there is no single care philosophy for holistic dentistry, it is important to ask your dentist during your initial consultation about his or her particular postdoctoral specialties.

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