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Ginkgo May Increase Gum Disease
Thinking of trying an alternative herbal remedy? Be cautious, and before jumping on the herbal products bandwagon, ask your dentist about possible side effects, and report your herbal remedy use to your dentist.

Although sales of alternative products reached more than $2.5 billion in 1996 and are growing by 25 percent per year, many patients do not think about notifying their dentist regarding their personal herbal practices, according to a recent study in General Dentistry, the clinical journal of the Academy.

"Help prevent harmful drug interactions and adverse oral health symptoms by informing your dentist," says Eric Z. Shapira, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. "Consumers may not understand how the possible side effects of herbal remedies relate to their oral health."

Gingko affects the platelets in the blood stream that cause the clotting mechanism to occur after an injury. Patients taking gingko may bleed through their gums, and the product may cause uncontrollable bleeding or speed up existing gum disease. Bleeding time is prolonged when ginkgo is used with aspirin.

Herbal anti-anxiety agents, such as St. John's Wort, may lead to excess sedation when paired with a prescription sedative. Let your dentist know if you are taking herbal or homeopathic remedies and if you are under the supervision of an alternative therapist, advises Dr. Shapira.

Alternative Oral Health Remedies**
  • Barberry Bark: Treats bad breath
  • Horehound: For acute or chronic sore throat and coughs
  • Myrrh Gum: Removes bad breath
  • Speedwell: Used as a gargle for mouth and throat sores
  • Ginger Root: Remedy for a sore throat
  • Echinacea Root: Used to treat strep throat
**Only limited scientific investigation supports these claims

Do Women Need to Be More Careful With Their Oral Health?
Women's oral health depends on their different stages of life. For many women, these changes are directly related to surges in sex hormone levels, such as in puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause. Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with TMJ, Myofascial pain, eating disorders, and Sjogren's Syndrome (dry mouth).
What types of conditions will my dentist watch for?
As a woman, you need to adhere to good oral hygiene. Make sure to brush with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and after each meal when possible, and floss thoroughly each day. To help avoid problems, your dentist may request to see you more frequently during hormonal surges.
  • Puberty - The surge in hormones may cause swollen gums, especially during menstruation. Herpes-type lesions and ulcers also can develop. Girls may experience sensitive gums that react more to irritants.
  • Oral Contraceptives - act similarly to pregnancy because they contain progesterone or estrogen. Therefore gingivitis may occur with long-term use. Use of certain antibiotics while taking oral contraceptives can decrease its effectiveness. Women who use birth control pills are twice as likely to develop dry sockets and should consult their dentist before scheduling major dental procedures.
  • Pregnancy - women have a risk for increased inflammation of the gums because of the surge in estrogen and progesterone. If the plaque isn't removed, it can cause gingivitis - red, swollen, tender gums that are more likely to bleed. And, women with periodontal disease may be at risk for pre-term, low-birth weight babies. They are also at risk for developing pregnancy tumors -inflammatory, benign growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Usually these tumors shrink soon after the pregnancy is over. If a women experiences morning sickness, it is important to neutralize the acid caused by vomiting which causes tooth erosion. Patients can use a paste made of baking soda and water, rubbing it on the teeth. After 30 seconds, rinse off the paste, then brush and floss. If this is not possible, rinse with water.
  • Menopause - some women can experience dry mouth, burning sensation, and changes in taste. Gums can even become sore and sensitive. Hormonal replacement therapy may cause gums to bleed, swell and become red.
  • Other factors - Diet pills and certain medications (over-the-counter and prescriptions) can decrease salivary flow, which puts patients at risk for cavities, gum disease and discomfort. Patients with eating disorders, such as bulemia (self-induced vomiting), can't hide their symptoms from their dentists because the episodes of binging and purging cause erosion on the backside of the upper front teeth. (An additional sign is sores that appear at the corners of the mouth.) Smoking also creates a higher risk for periodontal disease.
How will my dentist know if I have a problem?
Keep your dentist informed if you experience changes in your oral health or if you are approaching a different life stage. Also, visiting your dentist regularly will help him or her see any physical changes in your mouth. Your dentist should complete a thorough medical history to determine if you are at a higher risk for problems.

Shedding Summer Pounds Can Harm Your Teeth
With summer just around the corner, many people are dieting and shedding a few pounds before trying on swimsuits and heading to the beach. Actions taken to control your weight may affect more than your suit size, they can put your teeth in danger, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

Crash diets, eliminating meat or fatty foods, appetite suppressants and extreme behaviors such as fasting and binging and purging harm teeth. "People need to be aware of how their dieting actions affect their oral health," says Heidi Hausauer, D.D.S., FAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry.

Diet pills may decrease salivary flow and cause dry mouth which is devastating to oral health, says Dr. Hausauer. "Fasting can cause a decrease of necessary minerals, including calcium, and anorexia can lead to a deficiency of vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a healthy body and oral health."

Diet is an important part of an individual's medical history, and patients should always inform their dentist and physician if they adhere to a diet plan, dieting behavior or undertake drastic dieting actions.

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