A “Holistic” Approach to Dentistry

By Dr. Scott L. Rose

When I started out in dentistry, I wanted to practice in a manner that treated people like people, not just looking at teeth. Before dentistry, I worked in the hardware business. I learned that people did not want fertilizer, they wanted green lawns. They did not come to buy wallpaper, they wanted beautiful rooms. People don’t want fillings, they want health, they want to be pain free, they want a great smile, they want to eat, etc. Knowing this, I wanted to take a different approach.

Using the word “holistic” can be a problem in that its meaning is not the same for each person. It is impossible to cater to each meaning and perspective from different people. When I mean “holistic,” I mean looking at the person as a person, not just the mouth. This means putting together a treatment plan that will enhance their overall health, while addressing their specifi c needs and wants. Every person has a different and distinctive set of circumstances.

My goal is to look at each person as a unique individual and use my experience, skill and judgement in moving them in the direction of better health and a better life.

For some people this may be a cosmetic avenue, for some it is mercury removal, or treating gum disease. For others it is taking care of families with an emphasis on prevention. Other people are just interested in maintaining what they have, but doing so in a manner that will prevent them from larger issues down the road. Other patients are concerned about pain and addressing that is primary.

The point? It is my job to listen to the concerns of the patient and use all the skill, knowledge and judgement I have to address their issues. To do this, you have to put your patient first. I see so many times that health care professionals follow a cookie cutter approach, taking a unidirectional method. My father, who passed away many years ago, taught me that if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The goal is not to be a specific tool, but a toolbox. I have seen a converging clash of interests regarding this. Many patients come in so focused on one thing they have read on the Internet, they lose sight of the bigger picture. Or dentists who use catch words and phrases to market something they have little experience in. Unfortunately, under these circumstances, the goal of addressing the patients’ needs is not met. Not everyone needs eight veneers or treatment for TMJ/headaches. It’s not about “selling dentistry,” but doing the right thing for each patient. Sometimes the most minimal, conservative dentistry is the best approach.

The key is to develop treatment options for each patient’s circumstances and help them decide what is best for them. I have been practicing for over 30 years trying to refine this philosophy of patient care. I have
studied traditional dental/medical therapies, cosmetic, neuromuscular, airway, and learned alternative forms of healing such as energy medicine and homeopathy, among other healing modalities. It’s important to listen to each patient, understand their needs, and look beyond the teeth into the head, neck, airway, posture, habits, lifestyle, and systemic medical conditions. Only then can you put together something that not only addresses their chief complaint, but also a treatment that will help enhance and protect their overall health.

After suffering a massive heart attack, it was not about just restoring blood flow to the heart by placing stents and sending me off. It was also about stress levels, diet, exercise, meds, etc. Good dentistry is not about calling yourself “holistic” because you place white fillings. It’s about looking at the entire person, not just the teeth. It’s about listening to the patients’ needs, not your own. It’s about having a big toolbox of diagnostic and treatment therapies. It’s a unique mixture of art, science, technology, and psychology that blends together to meet the patient’s needs and wants. It’s about improving their health and enhancing their life.

Good Health Dental