Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Dentistry From a Whole-Body Approach

Aug 01, 2023 12:00AM ● By Dr. Udoka Holinbeck
The mouth is not its own separate entity; it is attached to the body. This relationship between the mouth and the body is called the oral-systemic connection. In recent decades, there has been a growing body of research supporting the notion that the oral-systemic connection is quite strong; therefore, the approach to dental and oral care should reflect this.

The whole-body approach is the philosophy that recognizes this strong oral-systemic connection. Dentists that embody this philosophy are known to have a holistic approach to care: considering the patient’s overall health, evaluating for oral signs of systemic disease, and being mindful that oral treatments can affect the entire body, thus focusing on using the least toxic materials to treat disease.

Udoka Holinbeck, DDS

One example of the importance of the holistic approach is the known link between periodontal disease (a chronic oral inflammatory condition) and heart disease. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, the disease-causing germs found in the mouth are also found in the heart, suspected to have traveled via the shared bloodstream.

Another example is the effect of nutrition on teeth. Research has found that nutritional deficiency comes into play in patients with persistent/rampant tooth decay, citing the lack of the following: vitamin C, vitamin D, coenzyme Q-10, folic acid, mineral cofactors and/or nitric oxide precursors. Additionally, sugars serve as a source from which disease-causing bacteria produce acids that dissolve tooth structure, allowing teeth to be vulnerable to bacterial invasion that ultimately leads to infection.

Oral-systemic correlation is also found in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Once only treated with prescription medication, the symptoms of ADHD are now being correlated to airway health, a parameter that is routinely evaluated by holistic dentists because the nasopalatine airway is dependent on the oropharyngeal anatomy, tongue function, jaw structures and the dental bite.

The implementation of the whole-body approach is not taught in dental schools. A dentist who wants to employ this philosophy must invest their time and financial resources into continuing education outside of the standard requirements. One such educational source is the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, which is a global network of researchers who provide and teach evidence-based information to providers, as well as to the general public.

Here are a few easy steps to ensure we are approaching our oral care from a systemic approach:
  • Practice proper daily total-body hygiene
  • Don’t skip our medical and dental visits
  • Address areas of toxicity in the mouth (e.g., infected root canals, mercury-based fillings)
  • Eat a healthy and well-rounded diet; minimize sugars and diary and prioritize proteins
  • Do not smoke; limit alcohol intake
  • Drink enough water (at least three liters per day) and be aware of our oral pH
  • Stay active with daily movements, walks and/or exercise
  • Understand our gut health; consider oral and gut probiotics

Udoka Holinbeck, DDS, has been placing metal-free dental implants successfully for the past seven years and has helped countless patients restore their oral function and improve their overall health and quality of life. She practices at Bionica Dental Wellness, 2566 Sun Valley Dr., Delafield. For more information, call 262-337-9745 or visit