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Natural Awakenings Indianapolis

Holistic Dentistry

by Jenn Willhite

Many are likely familiar with the term “holistic health,” but may not know what it means to be holistic when it comes to one’s oral health.

Holistic dentistry is essentially the treatment of the whole patient, instead of just their dental problems, says Katie Orr of Dr. Katie Orr Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, in Indianapolis.

“It is based on prevention and looks at the needs of the patient’s entire body,” she adds.

Orr, who studied dentistry at Indiana University, says her interest in holistic dentistry has deep roots. Raised by a mother that had interest in Eastern medicine, Orr recalls being raised with a holistic approach. When she became a dentist, Orr says she took what she knew and what she had learned through her formal training and blended the two together.

And it is that melding of Eastern and Western philosophies that fuels her passion for offering patients a less invasive approach to dental health.

As with other holistic health modalities, Orr acknowledges there are misconceptions regarding exactly what constitutes a holistic approach to oral health.

Orr is one of several dentists in the Indianapolis area who offer patients dental treatment that is enjoying more and more scientific support.

For example, growing research suggests that the amount of pH in a person’s saliva can affect the acidity in one’s mouth. Essentially, the higher the pH, the greater the risk of demineralization and decay of tooth enamel.

Individuals that have periodontal disease, or are in the beginning stages, can benefit from the use of holistic remedies that reduce inflammation, such as mouth washes infused with cilantro and garlic, Orr says.

Holistic dental treatment is highly individualized and can be tailored to fit anyone’s oral health needs, Orr says.

Practitioners, such as Orr, also make it a priority to establish and maintain open communication with a patient’s healthcare providers so all those that are caring for the patient are on the same page.

Ted Reese of Indianapolis Dentistry likewise takes a holistic approach to treating his patients.

One dental modality his office offers is the safe removal of amalgam fillings, which contain mercury, he says. Oftentimes, if the filling is not removed safely, patients are at risk of experiencing recontamination, he says.

Another area of concern is root canals, he says, which are currently a point of controversy.

“The biggest question we get from patients is, ‘Are their root canals causing them poor health?’” he says. “And the best answer to that is, ‘Possibly.’ Not always, but possibly. It is not a root canal is bad, but a bad root canal is bad.”

Traditional root canals are considered an invasive procedure designed to eliminate infection and essentially save a tooth from having to be extracted. However, during the procedure, it is possible to introduce bacteria, which can cause problems.

“If bacteria is involved during a root canal and is put back in while the tooth is being cleaned, the root canal will fail,” Orr says. “We had a technology that was great for saving the tooth [with a root canal], but now we have technologies that are less invasive, like implants, which lessen the risk of introducing bacteria.”

Between dental check-ups, patients are encouraged to use natural oral hygiene products to keep their dental health in shape. Many holistic practitioners offer natural toothpastes and mouthwashes designed to help to maintain overall oral health, Orr says.

It basically comes down to the fact that holistic approaches to oral health are overall less invasive and healthier for the patient in the long run, Orr says.

“I would urge people to give it a try because they will see and feel the results,” Orr says. “Dentistry is rapidly evolving. To be a provider for 20 years, like I have, and not keep your mind open to new ways of dentistry is damaging to the patient.”

For those who are considering seeking out a holistic dentist or are entertaining the idea of taking a more natural approach to their oral health, Reese recommends doing one’s homework.

“Be open minded, but do your own research too about recommendations,” Reese says. “Find a dental practitioner who is knowledgeable and invested in their patients’ health as well.”

Local Resources

Katie Orr, DDS, Family & Cosmetic Dentistry, 5430 E. 86th St., Indianapolis. 317-598-8500 or visit

Dr. Ted Reese, DDS, MAGD, Indianapolis Dentistry, 7218 U.S. 31 S., Indianapolis. 317-882-0228 or visit

For more information on Holistic Dentistry, visit the Holistic Dental Association at; the International Academy Of Biological Dentistry and Medicine at; and the International Academy Of Oral Medicine and Toxicology at
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