Posts for: May, 2014
Alternative medicines — also known as herbal or homeopathic remedies — have grown in popularity in recent decades. Because they don’t think of these remedies as “medicines,” many people will try them based on their friends’ advice or an internet search — with or without a doctor’s advice. Any herbal remedy, though, should be viewed as a real drug with real, and often significant, side-effects.
With that said, many of these alternative treatments are safe and effective if taken in an appropriate manner. Arnica Montana, a member of the daisy family, is a good example: various preparations of this herb have been found to reduce pain and inflammation caused by sprains or bruising, as well as control infection by killing bacteria. It’s also one herbal application that’s finding a home in the field of dentistry.
You can find many products containing Arnica, particularly topical applications made from the herb’s roots and dried flowers. It’s common to find Arnica in tinctures (the herb mixed in with a gel), tea infusions and a variety of ointments; the best-selling topical product is a gel containing 8% of the Arnica herb.
Many dentists are now prescribing Arnica to patients following invasive procedures like gum surgery, root canal treatment, implant surgery or wisdom teeth extraction to help reduce swelling and bruising. In this case, topical applications won’t work: directly applying a topical treatment to open mouth wounds can cause mucositis (an irritation of the lining of the mouth) and reactions in people with allergies to plants related to daisies. Dentists prescribe a programmed capsule regimen taken orally for four days after the procedure. This has been shown to lessen the length and degree of recovery time.
Any medicine, whether traditional or non-traditional, can have unintended consequences. Know the facts about what you’re taking, and be sure you consult with your doctor or dentist before trying any herbal remedy.
If you would like more information on Arnica Montana and similar remedies, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies.”
We're always tickled to see dentists represented in popular culture, especially when portrayed by an actor as handsome as John Stamos. On the hit television show Glee, Stamos played a dentist who made sure the glee club members cleaned up their act when it came to oral hygiene — though perhaps he used a bit too much anesthesia to achieve this admirable goal. While under his care — and lots of sedation — several Glee characters had music-infused hallucinations in which they danced and sang with pop star Britney Spears.
Far-fetched? No doubt. Still, it's worth mentioning that sedation has its place in dentistry. In fact, if you are someone who tends to get anxious or even fearful about dental treatment, you should know that sedation can help you relax both mind and body so you can feel peaceful rather than anxious in the dentist's chair. And that's the whole point: Fear of pain should not stand in the way of your getting the care that will keep you healthy and allow you to keep your teeth for as long as possible.
You may not know this, but when you are afraid, your threshold for pain is actually lower. You become hypersensitive to every sensation and sound, and you tense your muscles. Fear and anxiety trigger the release of certain chemicals that put you in “fight or flight” mode. In this heightened state of alert you experience more pain during and even after treatment.
The good news is that this response can virtually be eliminated with various oral sedatives and/or with nitrous oxide, which is inhaled. Both treatments will allow you to let your guard down and relax. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain will disappear, even though you are still conscious. And when you are relaxed, we are better able to focus on the task at hand, knowing that you are comfortable.
The sedatives used in dentistry have been subjected to rigorous testing and have a strong safety record backed by decades of use. Several even have “amnesic” properties, meaning that you will remember little to nothing of your treatment — unless, of course, you end up singing and dancing with Britney Spears!
If you would like more information about sedation in dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Sedation Dentistry.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
If you have noticed white spots or enamel pitting on your teeth, something in your diet may be the cause. If accompanied by other general symptoms, these dental problems may stem from a possible intolerance to gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley or oats. Some people (an estimated one in 130 Americans) have a condition called Celiac Disease (CD) in which their immune system mistakenly treats gluten as a threat and initiates an attack of antibodies (individual proteins made by the immune system to target and kill specific foreign substances) against it. Tiny hair-like structures in the small intestine called cilia that aid in nutrient absorption may be destroyed in the process. As a result, the body can't properly absorb nutrients.
CD can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms resemble other conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Typically, though, CD causes digestive issues like diarrhea, bloating and stomach aches, as well as fatigue, growth abnormalities and vitamin deficiencies. In the mouth, the most common symptoms are enamel defects like spotting and pitting. Patients may also lose a portion of their enamel in the grooves of the central incisors where the enamel may appear chalky or opaque rather than shiny, evidence of a condition called decalcification. CD may also cause canker sores.
Determining if you have CD is a two-step process. You must first undergo a blood test to see if antibodies are present for gluten. If the test returns positive confirming you have CD, the next step is a biopsy in which a small amount of intestinal tissue is removed and analyzed. This measures the degree of damage to the stomach lining, which will indicate whether or not you should remove foods containing gluten from your diet.
While research is ongoing to develop counteracting medications, removing gluten from your diet remains the most effective treatment for CD. Enamel defects caused by CD can also be treated with fluoride toothpastes and other aids to foster re-mineralization (restoring calcium and other mineral content to the enamel), and with cosmetic techniques to reduce any discoloration effect. CD patients should continue with normal oral hygiene efforts, with one exception: hygiene products (including polishing pastes and fluoride gels used in professional cleanings) should be gluten-free.
If you would like more information on how gluten may affect your oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gluten & Dental Problems.”