Up until now, dentistry has been “conventional”. However, dentistry in the future may be quite different from dentistry in the past. In the future, I see dentistry broadening and deepening its approach of treatment. The conventional way of “doing things” may begin to embrace current unconventional ideas of functional medicine and other progressive healthcare modalities.
Conventional means “something that is based on what has been done or believed in the past”. Dentistry is a profession which has been practiced for the most part in a conventional manner. The role of dentistry has been to repair the damages done to the mouth.
The far majority of mouth damage has been a result of periodontal disease and tooth decay. Other damage has been the result of trauma to the mouth, developmental abnormalities, and diseases other than tooth decay and periodontal disease.
The problem with conventional dentistry as well as conventional medicine is a lack of insight. Conventional thinking has not been aware that there are “outside factors” causing cellular damage. which eventually could cause various dental and chronic diseases. The overwhelming problem is that conventional healthcare professionals have not been able to prevent disease because of ignorance of the underlying causes.
Unconventional is the opposite of conventional. Basically, unconventional means “something that is not based on, or conforming to, what has been generally done or believed”.
The unconventional modalities that I believe will gain traction in the practice of dentistry are related to understanding and putting into practice the “outside factors”, which eventually affect every cell in the body. There will be a more holistic and integrative means to understand what is happening in the mouth and the rest of the body based on functional medicine concepts.
Environmental factors, diet, and personal lifestyle are the “outside factors” that cause the body to be either healthy or unhealthy. Functional medicine attempts to identify and address these root causes of disease. Functional medicine practitioners view the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by dental and medical specialties. This unconventional medicine delves deeply into discovering and treating the actual causes of disease and not just treating the symptoms of disease.
Conventional Meets Unconventional
The unconventional methods of functional medicine are providing evidence that there is more to dental health than just brushing and flossing. Environment, diet, and lifestyle have a huge effect on the health of the gut, the mouth, and the rest of the body.
The body and the mouth are intricately and intimately connected. Whatever affects one cell in the body ultimately can affect every other cell in the body. This includes human cells and microbial cells. All cells communicate with each other. They do this by emitting biological chemicals and electrical frequencies that can travel within the fluids and nerve tissues of the body.
Almost all chronic diseases, including dental diseases, have their origin in the gut. Processed foods, added sugars, excess carbohydrates, environmental toxic substances, stress, poor sleep, and lack of exercise as well as excess exercise have been shown to be insults to the gut. These “insults” are the “outside factors”.
These insults can cause the trillions of microbes in the gut to become out-of-balance, allowing unhealthy bacteria to overgrow. This condition is known as dysbiosis. Dysbiosis creates inflammation in the gut and damage to the lining of the gut (which is only one-cell-layer thick).
Damage to the gut lining will create small holes in the gut. Toxic substances and undigested foods in the gut can then leak into the bloodstream through these holes (often called ‘leaky gut”). Once this occurs, the immune system will try to eliminate the substances that are invading the bloodstream by creating inflammation. Too many invading substances over an extended period of time create excess and continuous inflammation known as chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation begins to weaken the overall immune system. Both of these can damage other organ systems. A person’s inherited genetic code will determine which organ system may suffer. The result is the manifestation of various chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, dental diseases, and many other auto immune diseases.
In addition, these insults can prevent essential nutrients from either being available to the body or being absorbed by the body. Healthy cells require essential nutrients to survive and thrive.
In the mouth, a compromised immune system, lack of essential nutrients, and systemic chronic inflammation can cause a healthy balance of bacteria to become out-of-balance and unhealthy. Then, poor food choices like unhealthy carbohydrates can feed these overgrown unhealthy oral bacteria. In turn, these pathogenic bacteria could flourish and begin to create periodontal disease and dental decay.
Dentistry in the Future
Dentists will become students of the effects from the environment, diet, and lifestyle on the health of the body. Dental professionals will begin to integrate this knowledge as they treat the mouth. They will begin to educate their patients about these factors and will help patients modify them to improve their mouth as well as the rest of their body.