Dentist,  Health

Functional Dentistry – What is it?

Key Facts

  • Functional dentistry is an approach to dental care that focuses on treating oral health as an integral part of overall health
  • It looks at the underlying causes of dental problems rather than just treating the symptoms
  • Functional dentistry takes into account how oral health impacts and is impacted by other systems in the body
  • It employs a patient-centered approach, tailoring treatment plans according to individual needs and circumstances
  • Functional dentistry often incorporates a holistic approach, considering lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors
  • It seeks to use the least invasive and most natural treatments wherever possible
  • This approach can help in the prevention and treatment of dental issues and also contribute to the overall well-being of the patient

What is Functional Dentistry?

Functional dentistry is a relatively new and evolving approach to dental care that recognizes and emphasizes the interconnections between oral health and the health of the rest of the body. Traditional dentistry has primarily focused on treating the symptoms of oral issues, such as cavities, gum disease, and misalignment. In contrast, functional dentistry seeks to identify and address the root causes of these issues, understanding that the health of the mouth is indicative and influential of overall health.

The tenets of functional dentistry include:

  • Individualized Care: Recognizing that each patient is unique, functional dentistry offers personalized care plans tailored to individual health needs and goals.
  • Holistic Approach: Considering the whole person, including lifestyle, nutrition, stress, sleep, and other factors that might affect oral and overall health.
  • Prevention and Education: Prioritizing preventive measures and educating patients on the importance of oral health as part of their overall well-being.
  • Minimally Invasive Treatments: Opting for the least invasive and most natural treatments, and avoiding unnecessary procedures.
  • Integration with Other Health Practices: Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to ensure a comprehensive approach to the patient’s health.

Functional dentistry considers issues such as how nutrition affects the health of the gums and teeth, how bite alignment affects physical health, or how infections in the mouth can be a detriment to systemic health. Through an understanding of these relationships, functional dentistry seeks not just to treat oral issues, but to improve overall health and wellness.

The Problems with Conventional Dentistry

While conventional dentistry has been effective in treating oral issues to a large extent, there are some limitations and problems associated with its approach.

  • Symptom-focused: Traditional dentistry often focuses on treating the symptoms without necessarily addressing the underlying causes. For instance, filling a cavity addresses the immediate issue but doesn’t explore what led to the cavity in the first place.
  • Segmented Approach: Conventional dentistry sometimes treats the mouth in isolation, not taking into account how oral health is intertwined with other systems in the body.
  • Over-reliance on Surgical Interventions and Medications: Often, conventional dentistry resorts to surgical interventions and medications, which can sometimes be avoided or complemented with more natural approaches that are conducive to long-term health.
  • Lack of Preventive Focus: While not always the case, traditional dentistry sometimes places less emphasis on prevention, focusing more on treatment after issues have already arisen.

Functional dentistry provides a more integrative and holistic approach to oral health. By focusing on the root causes of dental problems and recognizing the relationship between oral health and overall wellness, functional dentistry seeks to not only treat but also prevent dental issues through a more comprehensive understanding of health. It is an evolving field that promises to contribute positively to the way dental care is understood and practiced. Patients and practitioners alike can benefit from incorporating the principles of functional dentistry into their healthcare routines and practices.

Functional Dentistry vs. Conventional Dentistry

While both functional and conventional dentistry aim to promote oral health, their approaches and philosophies differ significantly. Here’s how:

Approach to Treatment

  • Functional Dentistry: Focuses on identifying and treating the underlying causes of oral health issues. It seeks to understand how various factors such as nutrition, lifestyle, and overall health contribute to dental problems.
  • Conventional Dentistry: Primarily focuses on treating the symptoms of oral health issues. It usually addresses problems as they arise rather than focusing on the root causes.

Holistic Consideration

  • Functional Dentistry: Considers oral health as an integral part of the body’s overall health. It looks at how issues in the mouth can affect the rest of the body and vice versa.
  • Conventional Dentistry: Often treats the mouth in isolation and may not always take into consideration how oral health is connected to overall health.

Patient Involvement

  • Functional Dentistry: Encourages patient involvement in the treatment process. It educates patients on how lifestyle choices and other factors affect their oral and overall health.
  • Conventional Dentistry: May not always involve the patient in the same way. The focus is often more on treating the issue rather than educating the patient.


  • Functional Dentistry: Puts a strong emphasis on prevention. By understanding the causes of oral health issues, it aims to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
  • Conventional Dentistry: While it does include preventive measures like cleanings and exams, it does not always emphasize preventive care to the same extent.

Treatment Methods

  • Functional Dentistry: Prefers to use the least invasive and most natural treatments wherever possible. It often incorporates alternative treatment methods.
  • Conventional Dentistry: Tends to rely more on surgical interventions and medications.

How to Find a Functional Dentist

Finding a functional dentist involves a bit more research and consideration compared to finding a conventional dentist.
Here are some steps to help you find a functional dentist:

  • Use Online Resources: Use online directories such as the International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM) or the Holistic Dental Association to find a functional dentist in your area.
  • Ask for Recommendations: Ask friends, family, or your healthcare provider if they can recommend a good functional dentist.
  • Read Reviews: Check online reviews for the functional dentists you are considering. This can give you insight into other patients’ experiences.
  • Check Qualifications and Training: Ensure that the dentist has the appropriate qualifications and has undergone training in functional dentistry.
  • Book a Consultation: Before committing, book a consultation with the functional dentist to discuss your needs and to get a feel for their approach to treatment.
  • Ask Questions:i During your consultation, ask the dentist questions about their approach to treatment, what methods they use, and how they incorporate functional dentistry into their practice.

Finding the right functional dentist is an important step in taking a more holistic approach to your oral and overall health. It’s important to find someone who aligns with your healthcare values and can provide the level of care you are looking for.

How to Apply Functional Dentistry On Your Own

While it’s important to have a functional dentist guide your dental care, there are several steps you can take to apply the principles of functional dentistry in your daily life:

  1. Focus on Nutrition: Proper nutrition is fundamental in functional dentistry. Incorporate a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Limit the consumption of sugary and acidic foods that can be detrimental to dental health. Ensure your diet contains enough calcium and vitamin D for strong teeth and bones.
  2. Maintain Oral Hygiene: Consistent oral hygiene is crucial. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush. Floss daily and consider using an oral irrigator. Additionally, use a mouthwash that is free of alcohol and harsh chemicals.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drinking water is beneficial for your overall health and your oral health. It helps to wash away food particles and bacteria, and it aids in saliva production which is essential for maintaining the pH balance in the mouth.
  4. Use Natural Oral Care Products: Opt for oral care products that contain natural ingredients. Many toothpaste and mouthwashes contain harsh chemicals that can affect the oral microbiome. Look for products with natural antibacterial agents like tea tree oil or eucalyptus.
  5. Manage Stress: Stress can have a negative impact on oral health, contributing to conditions like teeth grinding or gum disease. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
  6. Avoid Tobacco and Limit Alcohol: Refrain from using tobacco products and limit alcohol consumption as they can both negatively affect oral health.
  7. Consider Oral-Systemic Links: Be mindful of how oral health is connected to other health issues. For instance, if you have diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels is crucial for maintaining oral health.
  8. Educate Yourself: Continually educate yourself on the principles of functional dentistry and the latest research on oral health.

Bottom Line

Functional dentistry provides a more holistic and integrated approach to dental care. By understanding the intricate links between oral health and overall well-being, and by adopting lifestyle practices that promote health in both areas, you can be proactive in maintaining not just a healthy mouth, but a healthier you. While applying functional dentistry principles on your own is beneficial, it is also important to collaborate with a knowledgeable functional dentist who can guide you in making informed decisions about your oral and overall health. A partnership between patient and practitioner, grounded in the principles of functional dentistry, can be the cornerstone of a lifetime of healthy smiles and vibrant living.

This article is complete and was published on August 7, 2023, and last updated on August 7, 2023.

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