John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press



Your Dentist Needs To Know What Supplements and Herbal Medicine You Are Taking

Supplements, including herbal medicine and vitamins, can adversely affect your dental treatment. You should let your dentist know what, how much and how long you have been taking supplements. Your dentist will know, or find out, whether what you are taking will interact or enhance with the dental medications, such as local anesthetics and antibiotics.

First of all, what is the difference between herbal medications and conventional drugs? Although many over-the-counter and prescription drugs are derived originally from plant, they are generally based upon an active ingredient and must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This active ingredient is a chemical made in a laboratory, even though it may have originally been extracted from a Plant. A good example is penicillin, which was originally derived from a mold.

Herbal medications are taken from natural chemicals within a plant. The extract is either in its original form or is refined. In refining the herb, the essential extract is taken out of the plant, concentrated and then added back to make the original medication more potent. There is no attempt to synthesize the chemicals in the plant and reproduce them in the laboratory, as in drug production.

Herbal drugs can be extremely potent, either singly, or in combination with conventional drugs. You must let your dentist know all medications and supplements you are taking, and the amount. Your dentist can then know how to protect you from possible interactions with medications necessary for your dental treatment.

For instance, ginko biloba and vitamin E are blood thinners. Taking aspirins for pain associated with dental treatment may cause difficulty in clotting after surgery. Your dentist may suggest you wait until the effects of the supplements have diminished sufficiently. Another example would be a patient who takes high doses of vitamin C. This may interfere with the efficiency of anesthesia. On the other hand, calming supplements, such as Kava Kava or St. John’s Wort, can enhance the effects of anesthesia to an unexpected extent, creating problems during treatment.

Do not be afraid to tell you dentist you are taking alternative medications because you believe your dentist may not approve. The fact is that the dental profession accepts the popularity of alternative medicine and is quite ready to deal with it. Most pharmacology reference sources, such as the Merck manual, actually have in-depth information of the possible interactions of herbal supplements with conventional drugs. Some dentists have installed drug-herbal supplement programs in their computers, so they can have access to information regarding any herbal drug you may be taking. A small number of dentists may even have educated themselves on alternative herbal solutions for dental problems.

Dentists are very practical, caring professionals, who want the best for you. Let him or her know your concerns regarding herbal medications.


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