If you think going to a dentist is only about stopping a toothache or turning a crooked toothed grin into a dazzling Hollywood smile, think again. The condition of your teeth and gums can affect your entire body. Toxic teeth can be a source of illness and poor health. Holistic dentists are particularly interested in helping you ride your mouth of any toxins that may be taking a toll on your general health. That includes removing amalgam fillings, which contain toxic mercury, and replacing them with nontoxic gold or composite fillings. Holistic dentistry specialists also try to be less invasive in their treatments than other dentists are.Holistic dentistry is not a recognized specialty like orthodontics or periodontics. Most holistic dentists have had extensive training through continuing education courses, but there is no certification given by any state. There is a Holistic Dentistry Society, which most dentists who practice this type of dentistry would be a part of, and this is a good source for finding a list of holistic dentists.Practitioners of holistic dentistry approach the mouth as a microcosm of the entire body. Rather than using materials like mercury, which is believed to have adverse effects on the body, holistic dentists opt for more benign substances, like porcelain, gold or plastic for fillings and crowns. They also refrain from using fluoride and laughing gas, use x-rays sparingly, substitute homeopathic remedies for antibiotics or pain relievers and utilize vitamins or stress management techniques before resorting to surgery.Dental problems such as cavities, root canals and gum disease are commonly viewed simply as uncomfortable, anxiety producing annoyances. In fact, these can lead to a variety of infections in the body. The potentially harmful consequences are little known because conventional dentistry treats the moth as if it were separate from the rest of the body. The assumption is that once the problem is corrected there is no further cause for concern.Biological or holistic dentistry on the other hand, supports the view that infections of the teeth, gums and other areas in the mouth can spread bacteria, viruses and other toxins. This can depress the immune system, which, in turn can lead to disease. Conventional dentistry neglects these connections and treats only the symptoms of the overall problems.Teeth contain tubules, and these can harbor billions of germs. These microorganisms can then spread to infect the lymph, blood and nerve networks to activate severe illnesses anywhere in the body including the heart, kidneys, joints, endocrine system, nervous system and brain. Holistic dentistry practitioners therefore devote part of their attention to eliminating toxic dental materials, ensuring that infections do not emerge or remain in area where they often go unnoticed. They also work to minimize other stresses to the immune system. Of course, they also deal with common dental ailments.Holistic dentists represent a small but steadily growing number of dentists in the United States. More dentists are incorporating holistic approaches into their practices without necessarily declaring themselves to be holistic dentists. At this time, the American Dental Association does not recognize holistic dentistry as a specialty. Like most other dentists, the majority of holistic dentists work in private practice.Like conventional dentist, holistic dentists in all 50 states must be licensed. In most states, in order to take the test, you must graduate from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation and pass written and practical exams. Holistic dentistry is not presently considered a specialty, so only a general license is necessary for holistic dental practitioners.Holistic dentistry requires even more continual learning than conventional dentistry. All dentists are required to take 36 hours of continuing education every two years. Some holistic dentists may take as many as 125 hours per year to keep up with developments in areas such as homeopathy, aromatherapy, or nutrition in addition to conventional education.