1050 North State Street Chicago, IL 60610
920 North York Road Hinsdale, IL 60521

Everything You Need to Know About Functional Dentistry

woman smiling

When a tooth is cracked, it is standard for patients to visit their dentist and have it repaired. However, for functional dentists, determining why the tooth failed is just as important as fixing the fracture. Did it crack because the patient chewed on hard candy? If so, this may point to poor diet and lifestyle choices. Maybe it fractured because he or she clenches their jaw and grind their teeth. This could be indicative of an underlying condition called bruxism that can cause major oral health issues.  

Functional dentistry takes a proactive approach to treating not only the patient's immediate dental concerns, but also addressing their overall health and well-being. Sometimes referred to as “holistic dentistry” or “biological dentistry,” when it comes to healing the teeth, functional dentists usually also opt for more natural treatments and materials. The experienced dentists at Weller Dental in Hinsdale and Chicago, IL are proponents of functional dentistry in addition to being experts when it comes to cosmetic dentistry as well. Read on to learn more about this innovative style of dentistry.

Functional dentistry explained 

Functional dentists receive the same education and training as conventional dentists. For example, when patients present with issues such as cavities, bleeding gums or bad breath, a functional dentist is not only able to expertly and effectively treat these conditions, but also digs deeper than a conventional dentist may in an attempt to determine why these problems have occurred. Oftentimes, common dental concerns actually are outward symptoms of larger health issues that require attention from a trained professional in order to keep patients in optimal overall health.

Conventional dentistry is designed primarily to treat conditions as needed. It tends to rely heavily on routine brushing and flossing as well as annual dental checkups to help patients maintain good oral health. While functional dentists also use these methods, additionally they may inquire about the quality of a patient’s diet, their sleep patterns, and how they manage stress - all of which can impact their overall health. Many functional dentists also tend to offer treatments that are deemed safer and more holistic than those employed in conventional dentistry.

Questions a functional dentist may ask

During appointments, it is not uncommon for functional dentists to ask patients questions about their diet and lifestyle habits. This is because functional dentistry takes both a patient’s oral and general health conditions into account. These are a few questions that a functional dentist may pose:  

  • In general, do you breathe through your nose or your mouth? 
  • What percentage of your diet includes foods that are high in carbohydrates, acid, or sugar?  
  • On a typical day, so you snack on candy or mints? 
  • While watching television, do you sip soda?

On the surface, these questions may seem unrelated to most dental conditions. However, their answers may provide valuable clues about a patient’s oral health, especially in relation to the pH level and dryness experienced in the mouth. These can increase the risk of developing certain dental conditions including gingivitis and tooth decay.

Approaches to treatment 

Just like conventional dentists, functional dentists perform thorough dental exams and employ dental x-rays to help them diagnose conditions. However, other factors are also carefully considered when determining the cause of dental issues as well as devising treatment plans. For example, when a Chicago or Hinsdale area patient presents with a cavity, the experienced dentists at Weller Dental will not only confidently diagnose it but also ask about recent changes in his or her nutrition and dental hygiene habits that may have led to the development of decay. Functional dentists know that a diet filled with quality proteins, healthy fats, and leafy greens - and scant on sugary, acidic, and processed foods and beverages - not only prevents cavities but also may help to heal those that have already formed.   

Brushing and flossing, along with practices including tongue scraping and eating a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates can be effective for keeping bacteria levels in the mouth well-balanced.   

It is unusual for functional dentists to recommend that patients receive silver or metal fillings, which for decades were widely used in conventional dentistry treatments. It is known that the mercury featured in amalgam fillings is a toxin and that some metal alloys contain nickel, which can cause the gums to become inflamed. More often than not, functional dentists will recommend tooth-colored composite fillings. Tooth-colored fillings are offered by the dentists at Weller Dental in Chicago and Hinsdale, IL as part of a cosmetic smile makeover or as a restorative treatment to fill a cavity.

Similarly, whereas a conventional dentist may opt to treat a large cavity with a root canal, a functional dentist may suggest a variety of alternative treatment options. This may include pulling the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant. He or she may also use the opportunity to educate patients about how to properly care for their teeth so that future root canals can be avoided.

How to select a functional dentist

Patients in Chicago and Hinsdale, IL are encouraged to inquire about the state-of-the-art equipment and treatment options available at Weller Dental. In your search for a functional dentist, it is a good idea to prepare a list of questions ahead of time that you wish to ask a functional dentist. These may include:

  • What type of fillings do you use? 
  • Is this a “mercury-free” or “mercury-safe” dental office?
  • Do you use digital or film x-rays?  
  • Are alternatives to drill-based cavity treatment available? 
  • Do you prescribe alternatives to traditional pain-relief medications? 
  • What is your preferred procedure for removing amalgam fillings? 
  • Do you offer alternatives to root canal treatments? 
  • What are the least-invasive treatment options that you offer? 
  • Does your practice avoid the use of fluoride?

Now that you know more about functional dentistry and are armed with a list of helpful questions to ask, schedule an appointment at Weller Dental in Chicago and Hinsdale, IL. Our expert dentists are dedicated to ensuring that patients are educated about all of their oral health options.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.