Safety of herbal medicines questioned

July 7, 2005
General dentists should become knowledgeable about about use of herbal supplements.

With herbal supplement use rising and the potential for harmful interaction
of these substances with other medicines, it is important for general
dentists to become knowledgeable about herbal medicines.

According to the July 2005 issue of AGD Impact, the news magazine of the
Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), sales of herbal remedies rose from $2.5 billion in 1996 to approximately $4.1 billion in 2001.

Although there are numerous reasons why the public has turned to herbal medicines, many researchers believe the distrust in prescription medicines due to many high profile recalls is a large part of why people to turn to "natural" substances.

The problem with herbal medicines is that so much is unknown. The claims to cure, treat or prevent specific diseases are not supported by clinical
trials. Herbal medicines do not need to go through the rigorous Federal Drug
Administration (FDA) testing that prescription drugs do.

The use of herbal medicines during routine dental surgeries can become
dangerous when patients do not disclose this information. Researchers
confirm that some herbal medicines are polluted with pesticides and metals,
have substituted ingredients and are mislabeled or misidentified. More
importantly, the chemicals in herbal medicines have the ability to interact
with other prescriptions, especially dental medications, or other herbal

The most common interaction between drugs used in dentistry and herbal
medications is increased bleeding during dental surgeries such as tooth
extractions, periodontal surgeries, root planning, biopsies, etc., and
routine visit procedures such as cleaning and fillings.

"Herbal medicines can also affect heart function, pain control, sedation, immunity and recovery," said Chun-Su Yuan, M.D., Ph.D. and lead researcher at the Tang Center for Herbal Medicine at the University if Chicago. Dentists are encouraged to tell their patients to discontinue the use of herbal medications two to three weeks prior to surgery.

Many dentists choose not to recommend herbal medications until more research has been done, they will, however, monitor their patients' use so that negative interactions do not take place. It is crucial that dentists
continue to educate themselves on all the information having to do with
herbal medicines that is available.

For additional information on herbal medicines and proper oral health care,
please visit the AGD's Web site, To locate a dentist or request
a free oral and overall health care brochure, consumers across the U.S. and
Canada can call toll-free 1.877.2X.A.YEAR (1.877.292.9327).