Holistic Practitioner Spotlight with Dr. Toni Engram, a Biological Dentist and Her Approach to Treating Gum Disease
We are speaking with Dr. Toni Engram, DDS, who recognizes that oral health is an important part of the body effecting overall health. She also works with chiropractors, naturopaths, integrative physicians and nutritionists to help round out her patients’ healthcare team.
Tell Us a Story About a Patient with Gum Disease and How You Helped
One really rewarding case I can think of is a young woman we’ll call “Mary.” She came to my office with painful, bleeding gums. We took a thorough medical history, and did a comprehensive oral exam, including low-radiation digital x-rays.
While Mary was only in her 20s, she already exhibited generalized periodontal (gum) disease. She had so much bone loss around her lower front teeth that without an intervention, she was in danger of losing those teeth needed to bite into food. There are many studies that now show that gum disease is associated with an increased risk of many health issues, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and problems with pregnancy and fertility. The mouth is full of bacteria and some of the bacteria that cause gum disease are more harmful than others. So we took a saliva sample to send to the lab for assessment and give us a direction for a plan of action.
The Initial Treatment Must Avoid Systemic Infection
Since Mary was in pain, our treatment began in the office that same day. Normally we would start with a traditional deep cleaning, but doing so could introduce so much harmful bacteria into her bloodstream. We applied some numbing gel to her gums, and as much as we could without causing pain, we removed some of her plaque buildup above the gumline to avoid bleeding.
To address the pathogens lurking in Mary’s gums. we then used medical grade ozone delivered in three different ways: 1) blowing ozone gas just below the gumline, 2) having her swish with ozonated water, and 3) ozone gas injection into the worst areas of disease. Ozone kills anaerobic (living without oxygen) bacteria, fungi, and viruses, while up-regulating the immune system and speeding healing time. Using this approach tends to give a great “jump-start” in the gum disease healing process, while still being very conservative and minimally-invasive. We sent Mary home with a homeopathic mouthwash and gel, that are both extremely gentle, yet give beautiful healing results in a relatively short amount of time.
When Mary returned for her first followup visit, we had the results of her saliva test. The bacteria she had present in very high numbers were, in fact, some of the most high risk pathogens implicated in the health problems mentioned above. Based on these results, we knew that we needed to be aggressive in our treatment of her gum disease while taking into consideration the care of limiting pathogens entering into her systemic circulation. Treatment needed to be minimally invasive and persistently directed to these anaerobic micro-organisms.
Oxygen in Any Form
Introducing oxygen into the diseased gum tissue included subsequent in-office ozone treatments coupled with the use of custom trays with hydrogen peroxide gel to be used at home. Also helping was the daily use of a waterpik that helped to clear away debris and deliver antimicrobial solutions under the gums. Since periodontal disease is a display of inflammation, Mary was counselled in nutrition, giving her guidance for a diet higher in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods. Appropriate supplements were recommended as well. Once we felt her inflammation had significantly reduced, we were able to to a deep cleaning – augmented by ozonated water.
Mary has responded extremely well to treatment, able to keep her teeth and is no longer suffering with gum pain. She has adopted some healthier habits that will continue to assist her in her journey to health. Mary has since had a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.
Why and When Did You Choose the Holistic Path?
When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2011, after years of unexplained health problems, I was frustrated by the treatment options offered to me by my allopathic physicians. The only approach to my agonizing symptoms were medications, then more medications, then surgery when the medications no longer worked. The prognosis was bleak – I would most likely at some point need all or part of my colon removed! This was the turning point when I really lost faith that mainstream western medicine held all the answers to our health and wellbeing.
I searched out literature and resources for healing in more natural ways. By trial and error, functional medicine and prayer, I was able to wean myself off of the prescriptions. I remain in remission for 7 years and counting.
As I was finding the answers for my own health, I began to feel hypocritical in the way I was practicing. After all, the traditional drill and fill may restore the tooth, but it doesn’t solve the problem of why the teeth decay in the first place. Many dental procedures in many ways treat symptoms rather than a cause. This feeling of dis-ease about my career lead me to study the science and principles of oral-systemic health, integrative nutrition, and biological dentistry.
What Lessons Have Your Work and Personal Experiences Taught You?
First and foremost, I believe that Crohn’s disease is one of the best gifts (besides my husband and children) that I could have been given. It has lead to all of the other gifts and lessons mentioned here in this article. I pray I don’t have to deal with it again, but I am so grateful for what it’s pushed me to learn.
Second, no matter who you seek care from, whether an MD, an energy healer, or any practitioner in between, you are your own best health advocate. Keep learning. Ask questions when you don’t understand. Ask them to slow down and explain again in layman’s terms. Be honest with your concerns and hesitations. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by their degree on the wall. And on the flip side, try to reserve judgement if they don’t know or understand something you’ve done your homework on.
Third, I’ve learned that “holistic patients” (probably anyone reading this) are crazy smart. My favorite days are when a patient has researched something that’s new to me which then leads me to discover new ways to live, or to treat patients, or to try cool products.
What Would You Like Your Patients to Know About Your Services that They May Not be Aware of?
Some patients may not know that they can use me as a resource! Your mouth is just one part of your body, so when patients are trying to heal complicated health issues, I frequently collaborate with chiropractors, naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, nutritionists, etc. If you’re looking for other providers to round out your healthcare team, ask if I can help point you in the right direction. Oftentimes, I can.
Dr. Engram grew up and met her husband in the small town of Hillsboro, Texas. She was Salutatorian of her high school class, and went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude at Texas Christian University, with a degree in Biology. She graduated from Baylor College of Dentistry in 2008, and has owned her own dental practice since 2011.
After recurring health problems, and a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, Dr. Engram began a journey of healing, that inspired her to alter her dental practice philosophy, and transition to more holistic methods of care. She is a member of the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health, the Holistic Dental Association (HDA), and the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), where she is SMART Certified, which is a specialized method for safely removing mercury-amalgam fillings.
She is a certified Integrative Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Dr. Engram and her husband have two elementary-aged daughters, and live in Richardson, Texas.
Dr. Toni Engram, DDS
Flourish Dental Boutique
1415 State St, Ste 800
Richardson, Texas 75082
See Dr. Engram’s Profile in our Holistic Health Directory
As holistic dentists, we've recommended products and services that supported our patients’ health for decades. In experiencing our own health challenges from mercury toxicity, we worked closely with many natural, alternative, and integrative health practitioners who aided our recovery as well as our patients’. We built this site to provide you with a simple-to-use, comprehensive, informational, and functional resource for your physical, emotional, and spiritual health & well-being.