Optimizing health in integrative dentistry: whole-body approach

Dr. Saynur Vardar explores how the connection between the body and mouth can affect the implant practice

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Dr. Vardar’s personal journey to integrative and functional medicine

Is it possible to bridge East and West? At first they may seem very different from each other, but in fact, they are “two sides of the same coin.” Even though they appear to be opposites, in truth, one does not exist without the other. Together they make one — together they are the whole.

I was born and raised in Turkey, a place where East definitely meets West, a place where these two worlds live together in harmony. I have known this my whole life, and I believe it is my path, my dharma, to bridge these two worlds — both personally and professionally. So it is natural for me to ask the question, Can we apply this integrative approach to dentistry? Can we blend conventional, modern (Western) dental techniques with complementary (Eastern), holistic practices? Can we look at today’s dentistry in terms of whole-body wellness?

I had been practicing conventional dentistry and periodontics for several years until I became sick and personally experienced the healing benefits of an integrative and functional approach. I was diagnosed (through the lens of conventional medicine) with 10 different diseases and left with no answers, many questions, and bottles of pills. I went to numerous specialists, and every one of them suggested that the cause of each illness was something totally separate from the others. There was no one who could connect the symptoms and give me a more satisfying “big picture” answer.

So I started searching for answers. I thought about whether these diseases were actually connected. I took an integrative and functional medicine approach. I changed my diet, did detox programs, increased my yoga and meditation practice, began to exercise daily, and got rid of as many negative influences as I could control — and I started to feel healthy again. It worked — without pills and without “symptom band-aids.”

Changing what I ate, how I breathed, how I relaxed, and how I detoxed, and putting back what my body was missing cured me. It was so amazing that I knew I wanted to share this with my patients. I started taking classes on integrative and functional medicine. I got certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine on “Applying Functional Medicine to Clinical Practice.” I became a yoga and meditation instructor and became certified in hypnotherapy. I took courses on dental homeopathy. I started working with amazing healthcare practitioners who were committed to integrative and functional medicine. And as I continued to learn, I started sharing my discoveries with my patients. Eventually, this journey led me to the concept of integrative dentistry.

Our mouth is not separate from the rest of our body. Everything is connected. What happens in one part of our body affects all the other parts of our body. There is not only a physical connection through the blood stream, digestive tract, or nervous system, but also these systems are all connected energetically through meridians or “energy highways,” which is the basis of acupuncture. Oral bacteria can travel through the body and is found in the plaque in the heart, in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women, and in colorectal tumors. The integrative and functional approach to health and wellness considers the person as a whole-body being and strives to support natural healing activities and restore balance across the mind, body, and spirit.

Gaining more attention and recognition in the healthcare industry, integrative dentistry combines conventional modern dental techniques with complementary, whole-body modalities and practices. In the integrative approach, the focus changes from “disease” to “health” so that the ultimate goal is overall quality of life and well-being — not just “disease-free.”

Gum disease is one of the most common chronic diseases. It has been reported that 47.2% of the U.S. population has perio-dontitis, which is a form of gum disease that causes bone loss around the teeth and ultimately results in tooth loss. Periodontitis prevalence is approximately 70% in adults over 65 years old and is still the No. 1 reason for tooth loss.1 To prevent tooth loss due to periodontal disease or to restore lost teeth with dental implants and maintain healthy tissues and jaw alignment is crucial for overall quality of life and well-being; 47.7% of the U.S. population has at least one chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.2 Chronic diseases are considered lifestyle diseases by an integrative and functional approach, and periodontitis is related to many of these chronic diseases. An underlying factor in every one of these chronic diseases is inflammation.

In the integrative and functional approach, we focus on underlying causes, not the symptoms. We guide our patients to make whole-body, lifestyle changes to achieve a healthy balance, while at the same time, we use state-of-the-art dental techniques to help the body heal better and regain natural balance.
At my practice, about 2 weeks before periodontal and implant surgery, we suggest that our patients start to prepare their bodies physically for the upcoming surgery by engaging in healthy nutrition that includes enough macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, drinking enough water, eating protein, and taking some of the supplements in deficiency.

Nutrition in general plays an important role in the wound-healing process. Adequate protein intake is essential to successful post-surgery healing since the body uses it to create healthy tissue. Lean protein is definitely the way to go, and it can be readily found in eggs and meats like fish, chicken, and turkey or in beans, nuts, quinoa, and leafy greens. It’s important to eat whole food and stay away from canned and processed food to reduce the detoxification process, so energy and minerals can be available for regeneration and repair in the healing process.

We recommend adding probiotics and fiber to your diet before and after oral surgery. Administration of antibiotics can cause an imbalance in the gut microbial flora. Use of probiotics can positively influence post-operative health by stabilizing the intestinal barrier, enhancing overall immunity, and reducing the incidence of infections.

We also suggest that our surgical patients take 1-2 gm of vitamin C per day during the healing period. Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, proteoglycans, and the organic components of the intracellular matrix of tissues, such as bones, skin, capillary walls, and other connective tissues. Taking high dosages of vitamin C for a 2-week period before surgery and during the postoperative period will ensure that a high blood-level of vitamin C is maintained to aid the healing process. Some hospitals even administer high doses of vitamin C intravenously in the emergency room.

As well as traditional periodontal techniques and treatments, our integrative approach extends to the materials we use such as metal-free, zirconia implants and a de-emphasis on conventional painkillers. Instead of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, we primarily use homeopathic remedies for pain and swelling, which work via vibrations — without side effects or drug interactions.

In an integrative holistic approach, we suggest biocompatibility material testing for patients who have allergies and auto-immune diseases to make sure that they do not have reactions to materials used in their mouth, even though we know all the materials used in dentistry are tested in hundreds of patients. This way there is no guessing; rather, it is customized and tested that materials are biocompatible for that individual because every person is different. A simple blood test can be done for dental materials.

We also focus on preparing our patients mentally for surgery and healing. We introduce them to breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and guided imagery to reduce anxiety and increase healing potential by engaging their mind for healing. Research shows that patients who undergo guided imagery and relaxation techniques before surgery heal faster, need less pain medications, and leave the hospital sooner than control groups. We also use electro-magnetic BioRegulation therapy devices routinely to help accelerate healing and optimize recovery by tuning the cells in a balanced electromagnetic energy field.

Through this whole-body approach, patients can manage their oral health with better healing and less complication risk as well as improve their overall wellness with the ultimate goal of health and happiness.

Saynur Vardar-Sengul, DDS, PhD, Board Certified Periodontist, of The South Florida Center for Periodontics and Implant Dentistry (https://www.flsmile.com) in Boca Raton, Florida, provides integrative and functional periodontal and dental implant services. With more than 15 years as a practitioner, researcher, and educator, Dr. Vardar-Sengul combines a range of natural and holistic modalities alongside state-of-the-art dental techniques, providing patients with customized treatment plans that approach dental health as an integral part of a whole-body wellness program. Dr. Vardar-Sengul also teaches at Nova Southeastern University, College of Dental Medicine, Postgraduate Periodontics as an Associate Professor.

  1. Eke, PI, Dye BA, Wei L, Thornton-Evans GO, Genco RJ. Prevalence of periodontitis in adults in United States: 2009 and 2010. J Dent Res. 2012;91(10):914-920.
  2. Global Spa Summit, SRI International. Spas and the global wellness market: synergies and opportunities. Presented at Global Spa Summit. May 2010. 1-91. https://www.sri.com/sites/default/files/publications/gss_sri_spasandwellnessreport_rev_82010.pdf.

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