A relatively new phrase in the holistic dental community is "biomimetic dentistry".
The word "biomimetic" is derived from two terms: "biology," the science of life or living matter in all its forms, and "mimic," to imitate or copy. With the advent of adhesive bonding technologies in dentistry over the past few decades, materials and techniques have been developed that allow for the minimal removal of tooth structure, followed by adhering tooth-colored material onto or within the tooth. The philosophy behind this brings new meaning to the phrase “less is more”.
Historically, when prepping a tooth for a filling, dental schools taught students “extension for retention” and “extension for prevention”. In essence, the bigger you make the cavity prep, the more likely the filling will stay in and the less likely you will get a recurrent cavity around it. This no longer holds any truth in the modern dental arena.
Nowadays, decay is removed and a restoration is bonded that both strengthens and mimics the form and color of the remaining healthy tooth. Depending upon the individual needs of a tooth, it can be repaired either with a bonding material applied directly to the tooth, or with a conservative inlay/onlay (similar to a partial crown) fabricated in a dental laboratory.
Biomimetic Dentistry: Less is more.
In these cases, crowns and prophylactic root canals can be avoided. The integrity, form, esthetics and function of the tooth, as nature intended, can be preserved. Thus, biomimetic dentistry is achieved.
Unfortunately, there are still (holistic) dentists practicing old school philosophy. An instance of this presented itself just a few days ago. A new patient came in regarding a second opinion on her dental situation.
This particular patient wanted to have her mercury filings replaced but found that she could not afford the fee presented in her treatment plan. This treatment plan presented by the holistic dentist she saw, involved crowning almost every tooth that had a mercury filling in it. She was hoping that perhaps I might have a solution that was less aggressive and more affordable.
After evaluating her teeth, we created a treatment plan that would safely replace her amalgams, mostly with conservative white fillings. Our treatment plan was considerably less expensive than the one with all the crowns and certainly more in the realm of holistic biomimetic dentistry. A win-win situation for both the dental health and financial health of the patient.
So if you are looking to preserve your natural dentition as much as possible, consider working with a dentist who is biomimetically aware. There is more to being a “holistic” dentist than labeling yourself as such.
For my personal experience on this, you might also want to read Choosing a Holistic Dentist.