“Wholistic” or “Alternative” Dental Care?

At Growing Beautiful Smiles, we perform some services differently from what is normally done at most dental treatment facilities. Such differences are sometimes called “wholistic,” “alternative,”  “biological,” or “integrative.”

For instance, the science that drives mainstream dentistry seems quite certain that the use of mercury in dental “silver” fillings is “safe.” The same type of interpretation of scientific evidence says fluoride is necessary and safe for (almost) everyone, and that root canal treatments offer no threat to general health. These are consensus judgements made by experts of the dental “establishment.” These consensus opinions form what is called the “standard of care” by which the dental profession governs itself.

Our view of these issues is different. We know that there is evidence that supports these judgements and other evidence that refutes them. We disagree with the criteria by which some evidence is accepted and other evidence discarded. We resonate to the observation made by the late Michael Crichton, MD

“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

There are, in fact, organizations of dental professionals (a minority of us, to be sure) which do not agree with some of these so-called consensus opinions. What those on both sides of these issues do agree on is the principle of “informed consent.”

Informed consent means that a patient should be provided with as complete an understanding as possible of the risks and benefits of any proposed dental procedure as well as the risks and benefits of other options or choices.

What we still disagree on seems to be what the risks and benefits of various treatments actually are. To the rescue, we hope, comes the “Oath of Commitment” taken by Ontario dental students which says, in part:

“I will respect my patients’ rights to make informed decisions about their care based on their personal values and beliefs.”

Surely that must mean that the patient’s values and beliefs can trump those of the dental “experts.” Nevertheless, we feel it is essential that if your treatment choices fall outside of the “standard of care” you must be made aware of that.

Despite our apparent greater open-mindedness, we have sometimes been asked to perform a service which falls so far outside our own values and beliefs, that we cannot in good faith agree to perform that service. If that happens, we’ll let you know.

Most of our patients seek us out precisely because we hold these unorthodox values in common. It sometimes happens, however, that we meet a patient who is surprised by the “strange” risks and benefits and choices we are telling her about. If you think you might be such a person, you might be more comfortable in a dental office that marches in lock-step with the mainstream.

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