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dental-careDara Kessler’s patients come to her for more than just fillings. As a holistic dentist, she offers surgery-free alternatives to gum disease, natural ways to cure halitosis, and a spa-like office that could soothe even a dentist-phobe. Dr. Kessler recently sat down with Well+Good to answer some questions about how holistic dentists practice.

What is a holistic dentist?
Western dentistry takes a reductionist view—the teeth have a problem, fix the teeth. But our view is more integrative. We look at oral health as a part of overall health. So, when I see an imbalance I consider what’s causing it broadly, and I help the body heal itself. For example, when someone presents with gum disease, I educate the person on how to keep the mouth as clean as possible and often the disease reverses itself. There’s also where we practice: a Feng shui consultant designed our new office using sustainable and renewable materials. It’s more relaxing than a purely clinical environment.

Does your intake process differ from a more conventional dentist?
We are curious about how people nourish themselves. Are they exercising? This gives me a good overall snapshot of how a person takes care of herself, which often extends to oral hygiene.

Can you still get that squeaky clean feeling from a holistic teeth cleaning?
I polish with a baking soda-based polish, and we apply it using an instrument that’s like a gentle sandblaster. It’s the instrument more than the polish that provides that feeling, so, yes, you get that great squeaky clean feeling.

Resize of dara standing
Dara Kessler is the model of holistic dentistry's friendly approach

What’s the deal with fluoride?
Fluoride will prevent decay—that’s what we’re taught in school. But if you apply too much you create attendant issues, such as brittle bones and malformed teeth. Rather than providing supplemental fluoride, I counsel my patients on consuming sugar in moderation and on how to take care of their teeth without it.

What do you recommend for a self-care regimen?
It doesn’t differ all that much from a conventional dentist’s recommendations. We find that patients don’t like to floss, so we advocate using a Waterpik. It’s a lazy-man’s floss, but even more effective and fun to use. Also, we recommend holistic toothpastes.

Which holistic toothpastes do you like?
For someone who’s at risk for decay, we recommend a calcium phosphate toothpaste such a MI Paste. For a patient with gum issues, I like Vogel, a Swiss calcium based toothpaste that has Echinacea and no sodium laurel sulfate. And for someone with sensitive gums, instead of Sensodyne, we suggest a calcium and zinc impregnated toothbrush. You just use it with water, no toothpaste.

Apparently the Recession is causing more teeth grinding. Are there any holistic alternatives to the dreaded mouth guard?
I urge my patients to cultivate some sort of stress relieving exercise, whether it’s swimming, journaling, or jogging. So for many, it’s a matter of managing stress. For others, the grinding may be more hardwired into the body. For them I’ve seen physical therapy and Craniosacral therapy, which helps relax the muscles that cause the grinding, help enormously.

For holisitic dentistry appointments, contact Dr. Dara Kessler, Dentistry for Health, 120 East 56th Street, 12th Floor; 212-973-9425.

Have you ever tried a holistic dentist? What did you think? Tell us, here!

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