Dr. Nammy Patel discusses holistic (or wholistic) dentistry, what that is, and what it means to her practice at Green Dentistry in San Francisco, including how gum disease is related to heart disease, diabetes, decreased immunity, and even Alzheimer’s.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Dr. Nammy Patel, founder of Green Dentistry in San Francisco, California, helping patients recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health. Today our topic is holistic dentistry. Welcome Dr. Nammy.

Dr. Nammy Patel: Hi John. How are you?

John: Good, thanks. So, Dr. Nammy, you are considered a holistic dentist, right? You’ve set up a whole practice around holistic dentistry. Tell me about that and what that is.

Dr. Nammy: Well, John, what I always say, we’re “wholistic”, meaning W-H-O-L-I-S-T-I-C dentistry. The reason for that is we look at the entire body — it’s not just about the mouth or the teeth and the gums. It’s really about looking at your entire body and how everything is interrelated. For example, your mouth is the beginning of your gut. We sometimes forget that that is actually the beginning of our gut, and it’s really important to see that our immune system has a big impact with gum disease and our belly and the bacteria. Or our hormones — women with a lot of hormonal concerns will have problems with their gums. So these are the things that we really look at that traditional dentistry doesn’t even bother to even look at or consider.

It almost discounts everything that a holistic dentist does or looks at, because we’re more comprehensive and we look at you as a person, not just your teeth and not just your gums. Because gum disease is related to heart disease, diabetes, decreased immunity and all these things. Recently there’s been proven scientific data about how gum disease is related to Alzheimer’s.

John:     Oh that’s really interesting. Yeah, so when I go to my regular dentist, I don’t think that they really ask me questions about, “Well, what are you eating”? “What’s your overall health like”? But I could see where that could really affect things, like how my gums are doing.

Dr. Nammy: Yeah, and the most common, also, is really taking medications. We’re a society that is really focused on taking medications. For example, hypertension is so huge, or anti-anxiety pills and all of those things cause dry mouth, and dry mouth actually leads to more cavities and gum disease. If you go to the dentist, or a traditional dentist, they will fix the cavities and gum disease for you. But they’ll never ever speak to you about changing your diet to lower your blood pressure or figure out a way to help you find podcasts or ways to help you so that you’re not on the anti-anxiety meds or the anti-depression meds.

John: So those types of medications can actually affect your teeth and gums?

Dr. Nammy: Absolutely. It happens all the time and people never realize it. There’s a trend about vaping now and vaping does the exact same thing. People are vaping, especially in California — marijuana is legal now — so people do vape a lot for anxiety and for medicinal use, which I respect and I appreciate. At the same time, when they’re vaping on a regular basis, it’s creating a dry environment for the mouth and it actually leads to increased cavities and gum disease. I actually have to remind my patients, hey, if you are using it, totally okay, just rub your mouth with some coconut oil before you get started so that way your mouth is not dry and it’s actually moist. So that way you’re avoiding the problems and still getting the medicinal benefits.

John: Do you have a lot of patients who come to you after having, for years, gone to a traditional dentist? And why is it that they’re choosing to switch and work with you as a holistic dentist?

Dr. Nammy: The majority of my patients come to find me because they like our approach, because they are looking for a better solution. What they’re looking for is, “how can I take care of my best self and be my best self?” What can you provide for me that is optimal quality, and you’re looking out for me, it’s not just a drill and fill modality, but it’s all about “how can I serve you” or “how can I take care of the patient in the best way?”

That’s one of the reasons why patients come to our practice, and they love the customer service, but our most important thing is really results, true and tested. We have patients who have excellent results and that’s what we really focus our energy on, is that not only do we do the work, we actually see results and we support them throughout their lives, so that way they can sustain and maintain the great results.

John: So what can I expect when I come and see you for the first time? I’m interested in holistic dentistry, but I don’t really know a lot about it and I want to talk to you and maybe get started. What’s your process for working with me?

Dr. Nammy: So the first thing would be you would call and make an appointment in the office. When you get to the office, you would meet one of our new patient coordinators. They will ask you about your values, like what’s important for you? Why did you seek us out? A lot of times patients will say, “I have Crohn’s disease”, or “I have SIBO”, and “I have a lot of bacterial growth in my intestine and I seem to not be able to do anything about it. I’ve tried all these medications, I’ve done all this work and I’m still in the same boat.”

Then we will look at that. Once they come in, meet with me, I have actually gone through a functional medicine training through the Kalish Institute. So I have a big functional medicine knowledge even though I’m a dentist. So I use the knowledge that I’ve had and gained and I utilize it towards the patient. So the majority of the times what we’re finding is the immune response. We’re finding that there’s a lot of big overgrowth with the bacteria because your immune system isn’t working as well as we would like it to. A lot of times it’s because the immune system is overwhelmed because there’s so many bad bacteria in the mouth related to gum disease that it’s actually not allowing the body to overcome the SIBO in the intestine.

John: Interesting. So what about my regular appointments when I come in to get my teeth cleaned and things like that? Is that different than a traditional dentist?

Dr. Nammy: Absolutely. We use different products to clean your teeth. The majority of the practices where you’ll go in, it’ll be a short appointment, 20 to 30 minutes and you’re in and out. Our appointments are longer because we look at the gums, we look at the teeth, we take photos of every single tooth. So we document so that we can see the change throughout time. Then also we are preventative so we prefer to take a look at things before things break down. Our focus is strictly on preventative medicine, which is a lot of oral hygiene instructions. We actually give something to our patients called a report card, which is something that they can take home, and it has a lot of different things that they can do. For example, if somebody comes into the practice and needed a lot of work, they get the work done and then they need some support on creating better habits because that takes a long time.

So what we do is every 90 days is usually when we see them — every three months. So when we see them, we will give them one thing that we want them to focus on. So that way it’s easy for them and it sets them up for a win. It may be something like a Waterpik, so purchase a Waterpik on Amazon and start utilizing it, let’s say three times a week. When they come in the next time we’ll add in, well let’s try to do it five times a week and see how the results look. We incrementally get them to change their habits at home, which yield greater results. Then we’re able to move them from cleanings every three months to four months and then back onto six months, which gives them sustainability. Then also we’ve built good habits at home, which is going to last their lifetime.

John: Yeah, that really sounds more like when I visit my doctor and my doctor might tell me, “Okay, I’m going to send you to a nutritionist and you’re going to try to fix your diet. Then I also want you to exercise more and things like that. Then we’re going to check you out again six months from now and see whether or not you’re doing better.” It sounds much more like that type of approach.

Dr. Nammy: It is, but it’s a little different because the majority of the patients we… a lot of the patients come to their dentist more often than they see their doctors. The beauty of coming to our practice is that we’re very well versed in nutrition, also in health, wellness and fitness so that we can give them advice on any specific topics.

So for example, if somebody has acid reflux, the first place would be to start with alcohol — it’s easy to go out and be social and have a couple drinks. So my first suggestion for them would be, have one glass of wine, one glass of water and then you can have another glass of wine if you feel like it. Also what you can incorporate is hot water with a couple of drops of lemon through a straw in the morning and at night. We start making small wins so that they can have bigger wins down the future.

John: All right, well, that’s really great information, Dr. Nammy. I appreciate you speaking with me today.

Dr. Nammy: My pleasure.

John: And for more information about Green Dentistry, visit the website at sfgreendentist.com or call (415) 578-9347.