Dr. Karla Solis is not your typical dentist. She’s a true healer and it’s apparent from the first moment you spend with her. She’s also someone who emphasizes the CARE in healthcare. This interview details how different your experience with a holistic dentist can be from your typical visit. Read on to learn about all the additional steps some holistic doctors take to make your visit a positive one.
LINDA NYVLTOVA: Holistic dentistry is such an interesting topic. And I think we’re going to hear more and more about it. Let’s start a bit broadly: can you explain to me how a holistic dentist is different from a traditional dentist?
DR. KARLA SOLIS: This is how dentistry should be done, taking into account the human being. Not everyone’s one-size-fits-all, and these materials that have been used are not necessarily compatible for everyone. The way that I practice, it really takes into account the person on many different levels—mainly emotional, where they’re at in life, how they deal with stress. And their trauma history, not just in dentistry, but just in general, like how someone’s constitution has held them up throughout their life.
There’s so much controversy around root canals and extracting wisdom teeth, and all these big topics that conventional dentistry has really put into play. I start like this: if there’s any infection, we get rid of the infection. And there are many different ways of doing that. Number two, if there’re toxic materials in your mouth, like fillings, we get rid of those. Number three, we do anything else that comes about whether that’s expanding arches, some cosmetics, because that’s what people want, doing anything elective to get the person into a healthy state of being.
I take my time to curate our products, most of the products we use in the office are from Germany. For whatever reason, Germany has incredible products, and they’re always on the cutting edge of being biocompatible. So that’s how I function in holistic dentistry. I try to be very conscious about the person that I’m working on. We do muscle testing to see which types of composites resonate most with your own body.
LN: What would that look like?
KS: The muscle testing is an O-shaped ring. While I’m examining another room, the assistant will be doing some of that stuff after I numb. The numbing agents that I use don’t have epinephrine. Epinephrine is made in our body. However, when you inject it, it can cause heart palpitations, because it is like when you’re about to hit a car or when you’re about to get into a fight or flight mode. It’s an adrenaline rush, not the most comfortable thing in a dental chair. People have undergone so much prior to getting into the dental office. That includes the anxiety the night before, was there traffic, did they find parking.
So if somebody comes and they are really, really nervous, we put them on these frequency machines. They have a little electrode that goes behind the neck, and one on the belly button. And they drop the patient into a parasympathetic mode. That’s where everyone feels and heals best. We try to minimize traumatizing the patient more than they already are. Certain anesthetics have epinephrine, which can break down and become carcinogens. I try to eliminate as many products as possible that will harm the patient long term.
LN: What got you interested in becoming a holistic doctor?
KS: I went to dental school at UCLA. I got accepted in 2003. And I hated it. It was a really dark time for me. It was very cutthroat, the competition was very dense. But I managed, I finished in four years. I was questioning whether I picked the wrong career. I started working at the HMO clinics that nobody wants to work at. I ended up working a lot in underserved communities, like in Inglewood in downtown LA. And I loved it. I didn’t love the procedures I was doing. But I felt so incredibly fulfilled by helping people on an individual basis.
But I also felt disgusted by the system, how you would put these large silver fillings in people’s mouths, and the way treatment plans were generated. I felt very much like I was an accomplice to murder. There’s a level of integrity that I was born with. This job was killing my soul, my spirit. I wasn’t necessarily getting employed a lot, because I wasn’t following directions. I was struggling to get work.
And then I ended up getting a job in a private practice. It was nice because I had two days in a private practice and then the other days in other clinics. Slowly but surely, I started to expand my network. Once I started doing that, it was also sad to see how things are run in a private setting. I was like, man, what am I going to do? I found an ad on Craigslist. And it said “biological holistic dentistry.” I was six years into my practice, before I ran into this ad.
The dentist who placed it, was an older gentleman. His name was Dr. Jim Rhoda. I went to this interview, and he didn’t ask me anything about dentistry. He asked me about my aura, and told me about my left side needing more attention. And I was like, What are you talking about? Like, my aura?! He literally interviewed me four times. And after maybe the second or third, I was like, Do you want to know anything about my skills? Or, is all we’re going to talk about is my aura and my femininity and my masculinity. And like, all this metaphysical stuff that I have no idea why you’re even talking to me about it.
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And then he said, ‘I want to know if you have heart.’ It took me by surprise, because nobody’s ever asked that in dentistry, in any interview. And I kind of got choked up. You want to know if I have a heart? And he was like, ‘No, I want to know if you care about patients.’ And I was like, absolutely. I care about patients. That’s the reason why I’m struggling to find work, because I care so much, and I won’t lie to them. That’s when he offered me a job.
He started teaching me about meridians,about how everything’s connected, how the circuitry was. He was really against root canals—like really, really against root canals. But I can’t tell someone to pull out a tooth. He had no problem doing that since he has been in the game for a really long time. So he was able to see what long-term effects some of his patients have had over those procedures. He was really old school, very simple.
He taught me to really listen to a patient. And to cultivate what I already felt was innate in me as a caregiver. He taught me about how the chakras work, why heavy metals don’t belong in the mouth, that fluoride is a neurotoxin, how it hardens your pineal gland, which is like your third eye. He took it to a level that dental school had never even touched upon. It was really beautiful. He just opened up the doors for me. He always said, I was his little shaman.
And then when he was ready to retire, it was in 2015, he said to me, I want you to buy my practice. I didn’t want the responsibility. But he said he won’t sell it to anyone else. And I said, I don’t care. I’m not gonna buy it. And that week, I had a patient come in and she said, ‘Can I give you a message?’ And I was like, from whom? She was like, ‘From the universe?’ Yeah, why not? I said, Can I finish the procedure first, and then you give me the message?
She said, ‘They want you to know your star family and guides. They want you to know that you belong here and that all the work that you’ve ever done is going to pay off and that you’re on the right track.’ I had goosebumps from head to toe and I said thank you.
Then a second patient came in and said, ‘I don’t know why, but I need to tell you to move forward with the big decision that you’re thinking about.’ And I still get chills when I think about it. I ended up buying the practice, obviously. And the doors opened up for me, I really created a network of people that I wanted to work with. That included chiropractors, acupuncturists, cranial sacral therapists, functional medicine doctors, naturopaths. And because I was a yogi, I had the community of yogis wherever I went to studios, they wanted to come because the frequency was just in alignment with everyone. I’ve always been really blessed.
I feel like that’s why dentistry is so traumatic. It’s a very vulnerable position. When I take out a tooth, I literally feel the release. It’s incredible. I mean, I don’t know if that’s just me personally, I can’t explain it. I just know that there’s something that happens when I work. It’s very metaphysical. It’s like, I’m just a vessel and I work and things happen. And just it’s a very healing experience for everyone in the office. It is something that I really honor.
LN: You had this beautiful journey, your profession found you. But if somebody wants to become a holistic dentist, where would they go to study? What is the education process?
KS: There are organizations like International Academy of Oral medicine and Toxicology, International Academy of biological dentists and medicine and the Holistic Dentists Association. There’s not a college or a university per se, but there are lots of conferences where you could start introductory courses. It’s a big task to unlearn everything you learned in dental school, and then learn it in this very interconnected, integrative way. There are super conventional dentists, and then there’s a super conventional biological dentist that doesn’t believe in root canals or implants.
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How is it okay to leave someone toothless? I like to swing in the middle and do a lot of research. I take my time on the techniques that I provide and that I actually end up offering in the office. My latest is cavitation surgeries. It’s a big one in the biological world, where wisdom teeth are pulled out, and they’re not properly extracted, and then a cyst forms in the back in those areas. And because the meridian that runs through those sites is related to your autonomic nervous system, a lot of things can manifest from that low-grade infection that are in these sites. It’s taken me a long time, I have learned from one of my dearest mentors, Dr. Judson Wall in Utah.
In our practice, we educate patients on how to be proactive, and how to prevent certain things. My hope is that, with education, we can really open some eyes up to a different way of approaching patient care. Because it is so incredibly fulfilling to see a patient turn around, when you take out the mercury fillings, and then they look so different from when they first came into the office to when they leave. It’s like a lighter spirit walks out. It’s really incredible.
LN: How does that translate into price? Is it more expensive to come see you? Are these treatments covered by insurance?
KS: Unfortunately, a lot of the alternative practitioners don’t accept insurance, everything’s out of network. Part of the reason why is because I just don’t want to buy into having the mindset of only doing this, because that’s what insurance covers. I present a very comprehensive evaluation. And it’s up to the patient as to when they want to do the work. But a lot of times an insurance company dictates treatment and the kind of materials we use. It’s nothing that I want to be a part of. I explain to my patient what they need, but I never pressure anyone into doing anything.
Once we begin, we take our time. I’m LA-based, the prices are pretty high. But compared to other holistic offices, I feel like we are comparable. And I feel as though the products that we use, and the techniques and the lasers and the ozone and everything that we offer is part of the experience. What patients are really paying for is not just a filling. I’m really fortunate enough to have successful outcomes and patients overcoming fears. That’s the biggest link.
LN: Why do you think that this approach is not mainstream?
KS: I think because a lot of practitioners have too much ego. I think a lot of them want to tell you what to do with your body. And they want to put a fear in you that if you don’t do it right away, immediately that your teeth are gonna fall out. That doesn’t resonate with me. At the end of 2019, I got diagnosed with breast cancer. And it was interesting to be a part of the medical community, and to see how female oncologists spoke to me. I’m not judging them. I’m just looking at the system and how the system has set it up so that you are filled with fear. You are given absolutely no options besides radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery.
The disconnect from having a human-to-human interaction was just so incredibly disheartening. But it empowered me so much [in my own practice]. So as a woman and also as a practitioner, I was really proud of the way that I practice. I know a lot of other holistic practitioners, not just here in California, but across the United States, and they’re not all the same. Some of the most successful ones have a deep concern for the patient’s well-being.
I feel like that toxic mindset can really start to taint something that can be so wonderful, like health care, dental care and just caring in general. I think that when you speak to conventional dentists, they don’t want to know anything else than what they have been taught.
It is really the system of medical school. The way that health care is set up in this country is really unfortunate. It’s not about health care, it’s about medicine, and putting people on medication. It’s not about healing, it’s about managing their symptoms.
For more on Dr. Solis’s practice, visit her website.
Dr. Karla F. Solis is a native of California, where she grew up in Pasadena. She received her Bachelors Degree in Biological Sciences from University of Southern California. She then received her Doctorate from UCLA School of Dentistry. She is currently a member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, International Academy of Biological Dentistry and Medicine and Holistic Dental Association.