Functional Medicine Approach to Oral Health

In a Functional Medicine approach to oral health, physicians concentrate on the root causes that underlie disease to help patients improve overall health. This includes systemic health as well as oral health, as everything in the body is connected. If your systemic health is good, then so is your oral health.

Functional Medicine Defined

Functional Medicine asks how and why illness occurs and restores health by addressing each individual’s root causes of disease. Clinicians conduct comprehensive workups on a patient to help them identify factors that predispose, provoke, and contribute to pathological changes and dysfunctional responses in the patient. In asking detailed questions about a patient’s personal, family, social, and medical history and organizing the patient’s history chronologically, the clinician gains great insight into a patient’s health issues.

Through the process, providers establish great rapport with patients, including trust, and consequently, they can have a more candid conversation about unhealthy nutritional and lifestyle choices. Once the root causes of health problems are identified, patients are more motivated to make changes and participate in treatment and lifestyle modifications.

This Functional Medicine model can be applied across various health professions, including dentistry, to facilitate integrated care.

Functional Medicine Approach to Oral Health

Unlike the traditional disease-centered focus of dental practices, where dentists are merely treating symptoms and managing disease, the Functional Medicine approach to oral health addresses problems as close to their root cause, and in the process, creates a focus on wellness.

In Functional Medicine, the gut is where everything starts where it can lead you down the path of health or down the path of disease. Functional Medicine doctors work closely with Functional and Integrative Dentists, and between the two, they figure out what is causing oral and/or systemic issues.

Once your doctor knows the root cause, he may recommend changes to your diet, nutritional supplementation, various herbal therapies, and other things that can help you. Your doctor may even evaluate heavy metals in the mouth for mercury sensitivity, or the effects of previous root canals for possible signs of infection.

There are also many tests that Functional Medicine doctors can do to identify oral health issues.

Functional Medicine Testing for Oral Health Issues

Functional Medicine doctors, believe that testing can help you sort out what is wrong with a person and prescribe treatments accordingly. Many use the phrase: “Test, don’t guess.” With objective information from the labs, it helps providers address issues that may be affecting patient’s systemic and oral health. Doctors look at markers related to the immune system, innate immunity, acquired immunity to assess if this person has the genetic profile for periodontal disease. With such knowledge, providers can recommend treatments and lifestyle changes to patients to help keep their oral health in check.

Once symptoms and risk factors are identified, steps are taken to alleviate risks, treat the underlying disease, and create a state of health that requires no further intervention.

Things You Can Do to Improve Oral Health

Poor oral health has been linked to obesity, dementia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Functional Medicine Doctors and Functional Dentists agree that you can do things now to improve your oral health and minimize your risk of systemic illnesses.

For one, change your diet. Decrease your intake of ultra-porcessed foods and sugars, which offer little nutritional value. A diet high in starches and sugars causes dental caries (cavities) and feed the pathogenic bacteria in the mouth and the gut.

Additionally, you can

  • Chew Gum with Xylitol
  • Drink Water After a Meal
  • Watch for Ultra-Processed Carbs
  • Eat Lots of Prebiotic Fiber
  • Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily with Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste
  • Floss or Waterpik Daily (KEY!)
  • Use An Electric Toothbrush
  • Try Oil Pulling
  • Tongue Scrape Daily
  • Take Supplements (e.g., Oral Probiotics, Vitamin D3/K2, CLO, CoQ10, etc)

Good oral health can have a positive impact on your overall health.

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