What Is Functional Dentistry?

Functional Dentistry addresses the root cause of disease rather than simply treating symptoms, and it addresses the entire body as a system rather than as unrelated organs. For example, whereas conventional dentistry might aim to simply treat decay with fillings, Functional Dentistry goes well beyond this to learn what factors encouraged the decay in the first place.  Once risk factors are identified, specific steps can be taken to mitigate those risks, fight disease, and create a state of health that requires no further intervention.  When considering risk factors and symptoms, Functional Dentistry looks beyond the mouth and considers other systemic diseases and other ways to encourage total-body health, not just oral health.  It is not enough to simply treat the symptoms we see; we must correct the root cause to prevent any future disease.

How do we do it?

What does it take to practice dentistry at this level?  Remaining at the forefront of Functional Dentistry and dental technology requires constant education and study.  Students of Bioesthetics commonly devote one week a month to continued study and improvement of their practice.  In 1997, Dr. began reserving one week a month for study and development, and Drs. Brown and Nasakin have continued this practice.  And what about the rest of the staff?  Our hygienists and assistants are also students of Bioesthetics and Functional Dentistry and can be found right alongside our doctors at continuing education courses across the country and the globe.  This is what it takes to bring you the very best that dentistry has to offer.

Growing trend of Functional Medicine

Did you know that Dr. Brown’s alma mater, UCSF, recently established the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine?  The rise of integrative medicine, functional medicine, and holistic approaches to health is poised to revolutionize medical care, combating the current paradigm of matching diseases to pharmaceutical and surgical interventions.  Our office is committed to fostering this trend in dentistry and working to establish a better paradigm—a paradigm of wellness.

Functional Dentistry Approach to Occlusal Disease

Recognizing the role of occlusion (the way the teeth come together)in the process of oral and systemic disease is paramount to Functional Dentistry.   Occlusion can affect a broad range of symptoms and diseases, including:

  • Joint pain or TMD
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Ear aches and dizziness
  • Neck and back pain
  • Sleep apnea and sleep-disordered breathing
  • Gum disease
  • Dental decay

It can also affect various aspects of your appearance:

  • The aesthetics of your smile and your face
  • The function of your teeth during speech and chewing
  • The size and appearance of your teeth
  • The size of the muscles in your face and jaw
  • Wrinkles around your eyes, forehead, neck, and mouth

Occlusal dysfunction is often overlooked in a typical dental practice.  In fact, occlusal dysfunction has been called the “most neglected area of dentistry.” (Gordon Christensen, DDS, JADA 2005).  If the bite is not considered and addressed, patients will continue to suffer needless disease in the mouth and in the body.  But once occlusal dysfunction is identified and addressed, the progression of disease can slow or come to a halt, and true health and healing can commence.

Functional dentistry and Bioesthetic dentistry

Bioesthetic dentistry is a natural partner to functional dentistry.  Bioesthetic dentistry is a model of dental treatment based on the model of health found in nature. You can read more about it in the “Bioesthetic Dentistry” section of our website.

Functional Dentistry Approach to Periodontal Disease

It is tempting to think of your hygienist as a housekeeper for your mouth.  But this approach severely limits your hygienist’s potential to promote your health.  The health of your gums affects the health of your entire body, and the health of your body affects the health of your gums.  By taking into consideration your entire health picture, our hygienists are able to better address your periodontal health and your total health. Your hygienist should function as your lifestyle coach to determine the best prevention strategies for your oral and total-body health. It is our goal to maximize preventive and non-surgical interventions so that our patients do not have to resort to aggressive treatments.

Here is a partial list of what our hygiene team does to stay on top of your periodontal, dental, and total health:

  • Specific training in occlusion with OBI (Orthognathic Bioesthetic International)
  • Continuing education on the role of Nutrition and periodontal health with the  American Academy of Oral Systemic Health
  • Continuing education on the link between periodontal health and systemic health with the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health
  • Training in DNA diagnostics to determine your genetic risk factors (genotype) and identify the strains of infectious bacteria in your mouth (quantitative DNA PCR)
  • Training in the use of oral probiotics to establish a healthy oral microbiome
  • Training in advanced periodontal instrumentation at the USC school of dentistry
  • Training in the use of Perio Protect Trays for non-surgical bacterial reduction therapy
  • Certification in the use of lasers for bacterial reduction and laser decontamination of soft tissues
  • Training in Caries Management by Risk Assessment (CAMBRA) with Dr. Featherstone at UCSF for the prevention of dental decay

History of Nutrition and Periodontal Disease

The role of nutrition in dental decay, periodontal disease, and the growth and development of the jaw was first identified by Dr. Weston Price in 1939 in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  Dr. Price traveled all over the world to visit “primitive cultures” and populations who were eating their native diet.  He found that people who ate their primitive diet had no oral disease, including no need for orthodontia.  But once the Western diet was introduced to a community, the disease process immediately commenced, even among kids in the same family and of the same generation.

Functional Dentistry Approach to Dental Decay

Patients are often frustrated by repeated bouts of dental decay.  They are admonished for inadequate brushing and flossing and advised to “do more.”  But most patients who develop decay are actually doing what they are told: they brush and floss and often take other steps to keep the mouth “clean.”  The guilt trip from the dental industry does very little to help them.

But the risk factors for decay, and how to combat them, are well established and have been understood and accepted for decades.  When Dr. Brown graduated from UCSF in 2003, her curriculum included instruction from Dr. John Featherstone, whose preventive protocol, called CAMBRA (Caries Management by Risk Assessment) was developed after decades of research in cariology—the study of how decay develops and progresses.  Continued study of disease and wellness with the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health has enabled out team to develop even more strategies to combat decay.

Here are just some of the strategies we employ to keep our patients decay-free:

  • Control of occlusal forces to prevent fractures and premature failure of restorations, both of which allow decay to progress into the tooth
  • Use of antimicrobial rinse and natural antimicrobial products to reduce pathogenic bacteria
  • Use of oral probiotics to cultivate the oral microbiome and prevent re-infection with pathogenic bacteria
  • Assessment and modification of dietary practices to limit carbohydrate intake and promote tooth re-mineralization
  • Use of fluoride and non-fluoride re-mineralization products to heal and re-mineralize teeth
  • Use of minimally invasive restorative practices, such as air abrasion and interproximal smooth surface sealants, to halt dental decay without collateral damage to teeth
  • Coaching to develop protective practices and stop damaging habits
  • Use of silver diamine fluoride to halt the decay process in teeth that are already affected by to decay