regimenAs we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to keep all your health care providers aware of all medicaments you regularly take – not just pharmaceutical drugs but also things like dietary supplements and herbs. There can be negative interactions among them. Keeping your dentist, physician and other providers informed goes a long way toward avoiding such problems.

Unfortunately, most people do not have these conversations. Perhaps they think it just doesn’t matter: Supplements seem so benign; what kind of risk could there be? Maybe they’re afraid of the reaction they might get for using “alternative medicine.” They’d rather just not go there.

But a new study in JADA underscores why these conversations do matter – and why dentists need to be alert for possible interactions.

The authors reviewed the literature regarding interactions between popular dietary supplements and medications used commonly in dentistry. They used clinical databases and decision support tools to classify interactions according to their level of risk for the patient. The authors address the interactions of greatest clinical concern with a high-quality evidence-based foundation in either randomized controlled clinical trials or meta-analyses.

And in the end, they found four popular supplements that can conflict with certain drugs common to conventional dentistry:

  • Gingko
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Evening primrose
  • Valerian

And which combos had the highest risk for adverse interactions? Gingko and evening primrose with aspirin and ibuprofen; and St. John’s wort and valerian with benzodiazepines commonly used for “oral conscious sedation.” Additionally, as reported by Dr. Bicuspid,

In the realm of antibiotics, amoxicillin, cephalexin, metronidazole, and penicillin are considered the best choices for patients taking dietary supplements, the authors noted. However, calcium supplements may prevent doxycycline and tetracycline from being absorbed, limiting their effectiveness and earning the combination a “D” rating.

Keep in mind that this study looked at a necessarily limited range of supplements, so you can’t assume that just because you’re taking something other than the four mentioned that there’s no risk of supplement-drug interaction.

So play it safe:

  1. Have open discussions with all your key health care providers about your use of supplements and other medicaments, as well as pharmaceuticals (what you’re taking, how much and how often).
  2. Consult a naturopath, biological dentist or other qualified holistic health professional to develop a supplementation regimen that jibes safely and smartly with your other health practices.

Image by Derek K. Miller, via Flickr

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