A small army of people, some 201,000-strong, gets up almost every day in towns and cities across the United States, with two goals in mind: to make the pain go away and fix teeth. People might dislike visiting dentists, but they always tend to be grateful when their job is done well. Why else would close to 65% of adults and 86% of children, as the CDC found, have visited a dentist in the past year?
When people visit Dr. Katie To at her Center for Integrative Wellness and Cosmetic Dentistry in Katy, Texas, they soon realize they’re at a place that does things differently. “We evaluate bloodwork reports and a full-body exam to look at how the body and the mouth are connected,” Dr. Katie To explains. “For example, vitamin D is directly related to teeth and bone, also control our gut and immune system, so people low in vitamin D won’t recover from surgery as quickly — a useful piece of information to have before dental surgery.”
This is a combination of a biological and wellness approach to dentistry that’s getting increasingly popular around the world among people who want more than just their cavities filled. Dr. Katie To realized she needed to adopt this approach when working at traditional dentist offices started causing her health issues.
“I was losing sleep, felt irritated, and had skin problems as I’ve never had before,” says Dr. Katie To. “I visited a functional medicine practitioner, and they immediately tested me for heavy metal toxicity when they learned I was a dentist.” Her results showed that she was highly toxic with mercury and lead, with ten times the limit of lead and five times the limit of mercury in her blood. Remember, there is not a safe limit for any of those heavy metals in the body.
That was the start of a long road for Dr. Katie To toward practicing holistic, wellness dentistry. First, she decided to start working mercury-free and mercury-safe. “Patients are looking for this kind of provider,” she explains. “And I’m protecting myself, my patients, my team, and the health of my children.”
Dr. Katie To didn’t neglect the cosmetic part of her practice, either. This enterprising dentist decided to look for the cutting edge and found it in digital dentistry. “Without digital dentistry, when a patient comes in and says, ‘I want a new smile,’ they have no clue what they’re going to look like,” she says. “They trust the dentist and then at the end, they don’t like what they get.” Thanks to digital dentistry, the patients can see the possible outcomes of any procedure before committing to the treatment, helping them make better decisions about their teeth.
While looking for the next frontier, Dr. Katie To decided to start a podcast. Raising awareness of her methods and educating people about the importance of wellness is a passion of hers, and this format seems perfect to help her spread the word. “I think it’s a good place for the public to learn more about wellness dentistry,” finishes Dr. Katie To. “My colleagues might learn about a different way to practice dentistry, too.”