In this podcast, Dr. Nammy Patel explains the basics of functional dentistry. She outlines how it takes a data-driven holistic approach. Then, she explains the differences between functional, holistic, and traditional dentistry, and she talks about why understanding the link between whole body and oral health can keep patients healthier.
John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, a founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental, health and whole body health. Author of the bestselling books, Age With Style: Guide to a Youthful Smile and Healthy Living, and Total Wellness: Understanding the Link Between Your Teeth and Your Health. Today, our topic is functional dentistry, What You Need to Know. Welcome Dr. Nammy.
Dr. Nammy Patel: Thank you, John. Nice to be here.
What Is Functional Dentistry?
John: Thanks. Great to see you, too. Dr. Nammy, what is functional dentistry?
Dr. Nammy: John, what functional dentistry is data driven dentistry. Functional medicine has been known for so many years, and the beauty of functional medicine is that we are data driven, number one. We test, we don’t guess, and we focus on prevention of diseases. We also look at the root causes.
Functional dentistry is the exact same thing. Let’s look at the root cause of the problem. What can we do to prevent disease? Also, instead of guessing and thinking, let’s make it measurable. We look at lab tests, we look at results, and we’re completely data driven, which is really nice because it’s no longer emotional or subjective. It’s strictly data driven.
The beauty of functional dentistry is that it actually opens the gateway to the entire body. It’s not just about teeth anymore. It’s not about, “If there’s a hole, let me plug it.”
It’s really about what’s really going on with you? How is your mouth related to the rest of the body? How can we prevent other diseases? What can we look at to help you live a long, healthy life? For example, it’s January. We all get a little sinus-y, or a little cold, or whatnot. What we really realize is that a lot of times patients are getting sick more often, because their sinuses are congested and actually, believe it or not, has to do with their teeth.
The way their dental arch is formed. We, as functional dentists, actually look at CT scans, look at their perinasal sinuses. We look at how can we help this person avoid disease dysfunction, and live a long, healthy life? How can we make an objective? If we’re going to expand the sinus cavities non-surgically, we would take a CT scan before, and we would take a CT scan after.
You can actually measure the difference and really see what result you achieved. That’s how we measure success, is by data. For example, if you came into my practice and you had gum disease, what we would do is we would do some testing to figure out what bacteria do you actually have in here? Believe it or not, there’s 500 species of bacteria in the gums, and some of them are resistant to cleanings, believe it or not. We have to employ a lot of different modalities in order to eradicate them. There’s especially five species of bacteria that are really, really horrific, and they’re the ones that wreak havoc on the body.
They cause heart attacks, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and everything we don’t want to have as we get older, or even now, even as we are alive now. We don’t want to have any of those bacteria or any of the diseases that it comes with. As functional dentists, we would test the saliva, then we would do the treatment, then we would test again to make sure that it’s been eradicated. Secondly, what we would do is we would also look at how to optimize you.
For example, “Well, how did you get these bacteria to begin with? Is it because you’re mouth breathing and you have oxygen de saturation? Or is it because you’re pre-diabetic?” We would work with your medical doctors. We would look at, how can we help you be your optimum self?
Functional Vs. Holistic Dentistry
John: Is functional dentistry the same thing as holistic dentistry?
Dr. Nammy: I would actually say that holistic dentistry is part of functional dentistry. The whole purpose of holistic dentistry is to look at the whole you, which is really wonderful, and to look at natural remedies to be able to support your body. Now, functional dentistry just adds a different layer. It just adds a data testing to it.
It’s really nice to know that holistic dentistry is part of functional dentistry, and that’s how I’ve been operating my whole life. In fact, I call my practice Green Dentistry, so eco-friendly, holistic dentistry and data-driven dentistry. We combine all of the things that are in biomimetic dentistry, biological dentistry, and holistic dentistry and functional medicine, and functional dentistry, and even Ayurvedic medicine, and that’s my specialty here, is combining all of those together into one concept.
When we look at different types of dentistry, it’s really looking at, what is the approach like? Holistic dentistry, like its approach is to look at root causes, which is wonderful, looks at the whole you, which is really wonderful. Now, Ayurvedic treatment would apply different natural modalities. Functional dentistry would apply data testing to it. It’s really nice to be able to look at all aspects of dentistry.
My favorite type of dentistry, I would have to say, would be green dentistry, which is the way I practice, because it combines everything together. What I want to do is when I look at a patient, or a person, or if you came into my practice, I would want to give you the best modalities that would work for you. I don’t really care where it came from. If it’s functional dentistry, if it’s a holistic dentistry, or Ayurvedic dentistry, or bio mimetic dentistry, or biological dentistry, or metal free, mercury free, all these different titles that exist, it’s all about treating you as a whole person.
Functional Vs. Traditional Dentistry
John: Are functional dentists different from other dentists? How do you know whether or not the dentist that you’re going to is a functional dentist?
Dr. Nammy: Are functional dentists different than other dentists? The answer is yes. Functional dentists approach things very differently. Again, you want to look at the root. If they’re asking you about root causes, if they’re looking at root causes, you know you’re in the right place. If you know that they’re testing, they’re not just saying, “Oh, we’re going to do A, B, and C.” If they’re giving you reasoning why what’s being done.
For example, if I said, “Hey, I need to do a salivary test on you.” I would tell you why. Am I looking for bacteria? Am I looking for a specific gene, or a genetic disposition that causes heart attacks, or whatnot. I would be giving you reasons why I am wanting to do a specific test or a specific procedure. That’s the whole thing behind functional dentistry is that it goes through the why, there’s indications for it, there are symptoms for it, and we’re really looking at the data, and analyzing the data.
How Functional Dentists Approach Dental Problems
John: What are some dental problems in particular that a functional dentist would look at it ,and look at differently, from a regular dentist?
Dr. Nammy: I’ll just describe what I do, so that way you can get an idea. When a patient walks into my practice, the first thing we always start with is a very thorough medical history. Even simple things, like anxiety, is important. Even simple things, like not being able to sleep, is really important, or, “I always get up at 3:00 AM because I have to go to the bathroom,” or, “I always wake up at 3:00 AM and I can’t go to sleep.”
That’s going to be an important thing, which somebody would think is really basic, but it’s actually really important for a functional dentist, because 3:00 AM wake-ups for women are actually because there’s a progesterone rise. It actually has to do with hormones. It actually is the reason why women wake up, because there’s a surge in that hormone that wakes them up, but then it takes time to bring their hormone back down, and they can’t go back to sleep.
We would address the hormone issue. That’s why the reason why we start with the medical history, number one, it’s a thorough analysis of all of our systems and also our lifestyle. Like, “Hey, I wake up and there’s bitter stuff in my mouth.” We would look at that, because that’s acid reflux, and that reflux usually is a result of mouth breathing, and not being able to get enough oxygen in the body majority of the times, or constricted airways. We would be really looking at each part of your body in detail. Then, what we would be doing is data testing. Figuring out nitric oxide, if you had acid reflux, we’d be looking at the amount of nitric oxide you have in your mouth. Then, we would also be looking at the bacteria, or the pathogens, that are in your gums.
We would also be looking at your sleep and your breathing patterns. Also, any history. For example, any history of cancer, any teeth extractions, believe it or not, are related to a lot of systemic diseases, and history of braces when you’re really young, because it doesn’t allow the jaws to grow properly. Even a lot of autoimmune conditions when teeth are extracted, and the jaw is shut, and so the entire skeletal structure doesn’t get to grow the way it’s supposed to grow. It actually creates a lot of stress, because our brain is a tissue, it gets squished, and it actually causes a lot of autoimmune disorders as well.
The most common ones we find are celiac disease, or any GI issues, hyperthyroidism. All of these are really common things that we find, and we actually look at that in depth as a functional dentist. Really, functional dentistry is really related a lot to functional medicine and really looking at how are these diseases related to the rest of the mouth, and that’s what we really focus our energy on.
How Do Patients Work on Health Issues With Functional Dentists?
John: When you notice that there are these issues that somebody has, whether it’s a hormone imbalance, or hyperthyroidism, or you have to do a CT scan of their airway, or something like that that you mentioned before, are you doing that yourself? Are you recommending that a patient go and see another doctor to work on those things, like the hormone imbalance? Are you working directly with the patient to work on those?
Dr. Nammy: Majority of the times, I’m actually working on it myself, because there aren’t a lot of natural remedies that we can provide that are very simplistic that we can utilize for someone. If there’s additional things that are needed, then I would refer to a functional medicine doctor, or a holistic health doc, naturopath or whatnot, or if the patient’s already working with someone, because I do have a lot of respect for their providers, what I would do is I would give them the data that I have and I said, “Hey.”
For example, let’s say you and I were treating the same patient, let’s say Jenny. Jenny comes into the practice. I see her, I discover all this information, I’ve done all the CT scans, I’ve done all this other testing. I discover a little bit more in depth with a lot of things. Then, you’ve already been working with her for the last five years or so.
What I would do respectfully is call you and say, “Hey, John. Jenny came to my practice. These are some tests that I did. Here’s the information. Here’s a lot of the data that I found, and this is the way I would treat it. I would love your insight, and support on this, so that I can treat her and make sure that I’m supporting you, as well.” What I like to do is we call that co-treatment and co-diagnosis, which means is that we are taking care of the patient. Yes, I have the knowledge and data, because my perspective is so different than the naturopath, or whoever they’re working with. I bring in my insights and then we work together to make sure the patient gets the best outcome.
Contact Green Dentistry in San Francisco
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. Thanks again for speaking with me today.
Dr. Nammy: Awesome.
John: For more information about Green Dentistry, you can visit the website at sfgreendentist.com, or call 415-433-0119.