Holistic health care, based on the philosophy of holism, is a system of concepts, principles, and multidisciplinary approaches which together promote, maintain, and optimize a person’s physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and environmental levels of well-being and which prevent and treat illness in any of these dimensions. A state of high- level wellness exists when there is within a person a balance among these interdependent dimensions and between the individual and the environment. A state of disease/illness exists when such a balance is lacking.
Holistic health care is concerned with three main areas: promotion, prevention, and treatment. Whenever possible utilizing forms of treatment which are natural, non-invasive, self-directed, and which complement or supplement conventional health care approaches.
It is the presence of these values and the form they take which creates a unique dental practice and an equally unique experience for my clients.
The usual perception of a “ holistic “ dental practice is one that does not utilize silver amalgam. This is true in my practice, but that definition doesn’t begin to define holistic as I see it. I believe that the concept of a holistic dental practice is framed within a much broader context.
One of the first differences that you will notice is that I will use the word client instead of patient. In my opinion patient refers to someone who is ill and needs to be taken care of by a health care professional. The word is symbolic of the traditional medical model where the medical professional knows more about the problem than the patient. The medical professional assumes responsibility for the cure. A client, on the other hand, is someone who participates in the process and is actively involved. There is an investment in the process of creating a shared responsibility for the attainment of health.
I believe that each client is the expert on his or her self. Almost always my clients have a very good idea about what is good for them and what they would like to achieve. Many times clients would answer that they don’t have a clue about what they would like. “ That’s why I’m here – you’re the doctor.” I once had a gentleman in for a cleaning. The hygienist asked this client if there were any medical or dental changes to which he replied that there had not been any. Upon examination of his oral cavity I noticed a tooth that had broken in half. I asked him how this had occurred and he said that he did not know . He then said, “ you’re the doctor you tell me.” I asked him what he thought might have caused it. He replied, “ possibly this was the result of gritting my teeth or something like that.” I then asked him if he did “grit” his teeth. He answered, “ since my heart attack four months ago I have been very nervous and under a lot of stress.” If I had not asked this client what he thought, I would never have uncovered not only the cause of the broken tooth, but also a rather significant development in his medical history. Even though upon initial questioning he replied that nothing had changed it became obvious that a great deal had changed for this gentleman.
At first glance this may seem contradictory; but it is this seeming paradox that forms the nucleus for a unique experience in my practice. It is through the establishment of a trusting nonjudgmental relationship that allows direct, honest communication, ( not the usual monologue that we have all experienced with a health care provider ).
This is a process. It is not something that usually happens in an instant. Often this takes time and commitment. Establishing a relationship is effective but not necessarily efficient. Once a trusting honest relationship begins to take shape – and be very clear that this is a process that continues every time any client has contact with my practice – the client and I or my staff can begin to explore outcomes the client would like to achieve. In a few instances it has taken years before clients have explored, clarified, and prioritized outcomes that they would like to achieve for themselves.
This begins at the first visit. We begin a dialogue exploring history, feelings, expectations, and perceptions. In a sense your biography becomes your biology. Everything you have experienced in the past contributes to your present state of health or disease. It is not uncommon for a new client to present himself or herself in a condition where many teeth require a lot of work. Upon conducting an initial dialogue, it becomes painfully evident that this client has chosen to avoid the dentist. As a child or young adult, when they were having restorative work done, they told the dentist that they were experiencing discomfort. The dentist not only informed them that it was not possible that they were experiencing pain but continued with his work regardless of their feelings. It becomes important to communicate to these people that they are in charge. I do not force anyone, (including children), to receive any treatment they do not want, (even if their parents request that I restore a tooth against the child’s wishes).
Sorting through all of this requires the ability to really be present and listen to the client – an immense undertaking. A very detailed medical history is discussed as well as the feelings and attitudes that the client has. I believe in the old medical maxim that it is more important to know the patient that has the disease than the disease that has the patient. Research conducted in the homeopathic field has postulated that the extensive interview conducted by the homeopathic practitioner works principally by engendering a powerful placebo effect on the grounds that the careful attention to the patient engenders a strong positive relationship between them. Like traditional Chinese medicine we treat the client not the disease. Thus four clients with the same condition may receive four different treatments.
It is through this process that we can assist our clients to help clarify and prioritize the outcomes they would like to achieve for themselves. I am best able to utilize my professional recommendations when I understand the client. Besides the normal continuing education and professional organizations that you would expect a normal restorative dentist to acquire; I have accumulated a vast diverse knowledge and organizational memberships that upon first glance would appear to be unrelated to dentistry. This diverse sea of knowledge serves to “inform” my work. It provides a spectacular kaleidoscope, which presents a myriad of perspectives on a single issue. These perspectives form a fertile groundwork from which innovative, refreshing, and creative, recommendations are formulated to meet the unique conditions presented by my clients.
For example my training in Cranio- Sacral Therapy, Osteopathic Manual Medicine, Myofascial Release, Rolfing, Trager, Chiropractic Techniques, Chirodontics, and Massage Therapy, have allowed me to view chronic head, neck, and TMJ pain from a biomechanical view point which visualizes the involvement of the entire physical body. It has also vividly illustrated the immense power of therapeutic touch in addition to theintegrity of the human body. I insist clients who are being treated for biomechanical dysfunction also consider: Physical therapy; osteopathic manual medicine; chiropractic; massage; Trager; Rolfing; Cranio-Sacral therapy; and or accupuncture.
My involvement with the Price Pottinger Nutritional Foundation; seminars in vitamins, minerals and their relationships in blood chemistries; and Trace Mineral Analysis (hair analysis); have illuminated the importance of nutrition in the healing process. I request blood work and subjective symptom surveys in order to understand the underlying biochemical status and its relationship to the presenting condition.
My affiliation with the International Academy of Oral medicine and Toxicology has reinforced my belief about the importance of the biocompatibility of restorative materials I utilize in my work. I have witnessed rather dramatic physical changes when a restorative material that was biologically toxic to a particular client was removed and replaced with one that was more biocompatible
I have branched out considerably in my continuing education. As a result I am able to offer my clients a diverse reservoir of information, suggestions, and opinions regarding their condition. I am able to offer new and refreshing solutions from a variety of perspectives. I am able to offer unique solutions tailored to meet the specific needs of each client. I believe that client’s want to make informed decisions about their health. I also believe that they would like the support and input of an informed professional. If I do not know the client I am not able to assist them in the best possible manner.
I see my job as a knowledgeable and skilled resource to my clients. Ultimately it is the client who chooses the path they wish to travel. Sometimes it is a path that I would not recommend; nevertheless I support my client in their journey to health.
These are the values that my practice is built upon: a belief that the client is the expert on themselves; a belief that a structure committed to open, direct, honest dialogue with clients is the most effective means enabling the client to clarify and prioritize their objectives and assume a different role in their health process; a belief that as a health professional I must be as knowledgeable and skilled as possible in order to inform and assist my clients; and a belief that the client is the expert on themselves and I must respect their choices and support them in their journey.
I have witnessed the implementation of these values in a clinical setting and I can tell you that I have seen clients whose life was changed as a result of the process they experienced in my practice. It is through these values that my office can offer the possibility for people to change their life.