Essential Oils in Dental Care

Essential Oils have a number of clearly beneficial uses in health and wellness. But are they helpful in Dental Care?

Many people believe that essential oils have a place in dental care that is the equivalent of many traditional mouthwash formulas. Others see the use of essential oils in dental care to be more of a “mixed bag” in terms of efficacy.

I am not talking about using oils of flowers and herbs, such as lavender, to sooth patients in the office. We have tried that in our essential-oils-pixabay cco free commercial use - 1433694 640office. But we found that some people were allergic to lavender, and there were also some who did not like lavender.

Essential Oils are concentrated oils from plants (rosemary, lavender, rose, peppermint, cedarwood, and cypress, for example). These oils are the “essential oils” of the plants from which they are extracted. However, because they contain no lipids, they are not oils technically speaking. These extracted oils are then mixed with any of a number of components of oxides, alcohols, ethers, ketones, phenols, aldehydes, and terpenes. The oils extracted from the plants fulfill a role as a plant’s equivalent of an immune system, protecting the plants from pests and harmful substances.

When used in your mouth, these oils can serve an important function and kill bacteria. In fact, some research found that essential oils may be just as effective in killing bacteria in your mouth as mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine, a widely-accepted anti-microbial element of mouthwash. Essential oils taste better and do not stain your teeth. There are, however, some drawbacks in using essential oils in daily dental care.

Positives and Negatives of Essential Oils in Dental Care

One negative is that some essential oils, when used in high concentration, may (like chlorhexidine) kill all bacteria, including useful and necessary bacteria. The bacteria may actually damage gum tissues (like chlorhexidine).

On the positive side, some studies have demonstrated that certain essential oils when used in dental care can kill bacteria that is associated with infection of the gums. The oils also appear to reduce bleeding and inflammation. This suggests that both essential oils and chlorhexidine could be helpful in treating serious oral infection.

A concern about the use of essential oils in dental care is that it is extremely difficult to be certain how pure and potent the oils are. If people less knowledgeable than experts attempt to combine oils, they might not fully understand exactly what is in their final mixture and how effective it might be.

Some research has found that both chlorhexidine and some essential oils can damage tissue surrounding the teeth and prevent them from effectively reproducing to protect the teeth. Some oils will kill all bacteria it encounters. This is not desirable because you need healthy plaque to balance acids in the mouth. Further, the tongue needs certain types of bacteria in order to change nitrates in food to nitric oxide (needed for the cardiovascular system and the health of the gums).

Some of the companies that create and sell essential oils claim that the oils will kill only bad bacteria. However medical research indicates that some oils kill every kind of bacteria in the mouth – good and bad equally. It is thus important that before using essential oils in dental care you know which oils will kill only bad bacteria and know the concentration and potency of the oils being used.

The Bottom Line

Essential oils may have a role to play in dental care on an occasional basis or in treating severe oral infections. They should be used regularly only with extreme care and knowledge of the concentration and purity of the oils.

Whether considering antibiotics or essential oils, the important part of dental care is prevention of problems and infection. Daily dental care should include careful and effective brushing and flossing (twice daily). Good oral health also requires a healthy diet and regular visits to your dentist.

If you have additional questions about essential oils in dental care, please send a message, give me a call or schedule an appointment and come to the office.

At Complete Dental Care in Salem Virginia, our goal is to promote oral health and general health and wellness. To that end, we provide a full range of dental care for people of all ages. Call today to schedule your appointment.

Rheumatoid Arthritis & Gum Disease

Do you have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)arthritic hands shutterstock free 377633038?


Do you have gum disease?


According to a recent study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, symptoms of gum disease are common in patients with RA. In fact, it may be an independent indicator of disease activity.


Approximately 20 million people have RA worldwide. It is an auto-immune disease that causes the body to become confused between healthy tissues and foreign substances and attacks itself. In addition to the pain, stiffness, swelling, and joint damage most people know about, RA can cause inflammation in and damage to other organs, too. In particular, RA can affect the heart or the lungs.


According to the findings of this study, patients with more active RA tend to have more symptoms of gum disease. Additionally, RA patients are twice as likely as others to have gum disease. In fact, “more than 30 percent have severe periodontal disease (according to 2007 CDC criteria), which may need surgical intervention.”


It is important to tell your dentist if you have been diagnosed with RA. You may need more frequent visits to your dentist to manage your oral health. The authors of this study point out that treatment of periodontal disease may be linked to improvement of symptoms in other systemic diseases, including RA, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.


If you have RA, call me today.  

What is Air Abrasion in Dentistry?

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Air Abrasion is an alternative to a drill in preparing a tooth for a filling. We have been using this alternative procedure for some time and with many patients. We have never received a complaint about the process. Our patients find it a delightful alternative to drilling.

Air Abrasion works like a tiny sandblaster. It is used to remove decay in small areas of a tooth. It directs a slender stream of particles at the decayed portion of the tooth. The particles are typically a composite of silica, aluminum oxide, or baking soda. They are propelled by compressed gas or air. When the spray comes into contact with the tooth, it removes the particles of decay from the tooth. These particles are removed with suction.

Air Abrasion is safe for you and for your dental team. We wear protective eyewear, and we will ask you to do the same to prevent any irritation from the spray. To protect the teeth and mouth areas around the tooth we are treating, we surround the target tooth with a “rubber dam” (a rubber sheet that fits around the tooth) or with a protective resin that we apply to surrounding teeth and gums. Use of suction during the procedure prevents you from breathing in any of the particles. In fact, air abrasion is considered a form of “conservative dentistry.”

Here are the key facts you may want to know about using air abrasion.

  • Unlike a drill, air abrasion creates no heat, pressure, or vibration.
  • Use of air abrasion typically reduces the number of cases with the need for numbing or anesthesia.
  • Air abrasion can remove the decay while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue.
  • Air abrasion reduces the risk of fracturing, chipping, or otherwise damaging the tooth. It is widely believed that this extends the life of the filling.
  • It may take a little bit longer to remove decay with air abrasion, but the process is quite simple.
  • The procedure is not always completely free of pain or sensitivity, but this is typically relatively minor.
  • Air abrasion is not recommended for deep cavities or for cavities between teeth.
  • Air abrasion cannot be used to remove hard enamel.
  • Air abrasion cannot be used to prepare teeth for crowns, onlays, and inlays.
  • The process if ideal for children and for people who are fearful of dental procedures and have minimal shallow decay.

In addition to this primary use of air abrasion, it can also be used to remove old composite restorations, to prepare the surface of a tooth for the application of a sealant or for bonding, and to remove discoloration of teeth due to damage or stains.

At Complete Dental Care of Salem, VA, we are pleased to offer air abrasion as an alternative to drilling in many cases. It is always our goal to preserve as much of the natural tooth as possible and to cause as little stress and pain as possible for our patients. If you have a child with an early-stage cavity or if you (or your child) are fearful of dental procedures, air abrasion might be the best approach to preparing your tooth for a filling. Ask me about air abrasion. I will be happy to explain why it may or may not be the best option for you. If appropriate, we are happy to use this process. 

Metabolic Syndrome and Oral Health

There is a clearly documented connection between metabolic syndrome and oral health. This connection is important in treating the condition, and you might find it helpful to have your primary care physician and your dentist working together to some extent. Metabolic syndrome affects approximately 23 percent of American adults. It is more prevalent as people age. Every year three million new cases of metabolic syndrome are diagnosed in the U.S.

Incidence of metabolic syndrome in Americans has been studied, resulting in the following findings:

  • 40% of people over age 40
  • 37% of all women
  • 50% of people over age 60
  • Incidence in the pediatric population is increasing.

What is Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a convergence of several conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. When several of these conditions are found together (metabolic syndrome) you are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, neuropathy, some cancers, kidney disease, fatty liver disease, and diabetes. Any one of these conditions in isolation does not indicate metabolic syndrome. It can, however, increase your risk of developing it. Having more than one of the conditions, further increases your risk.graphicstock-belly fat SmMdHxnL

Metabolic Syndrome is also called:

  • Dysmetabolic syndrome
  • Hypertriglyceridemic waist
  • Insulin resistance syndrome
  • Obesity syndrome
  • Syndrome X. 

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

Several indicators of metabolic syndrome have been identified. They are:

  1. Abdominal Obesity. Specifically, a large waist circumference is a highly visible indicator. Large, in this connection, is 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. The larger the circumference of the waist, the greater the likelihood of having metabolic syndrome.
  2. Insulin Resistance. Insulin resistance is a condition I which your body cannot use blood sugar or insulin. Untreated, this can lead to pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. This is the body’s response to its own inability to respond to the body’s increased need for insulin. Without sufficientinsulin, excess glucose accumulates in the bloodstream.
  3. Abnormal levels in the blood. Several abnormalities can be identified in blood tests.
    1. Elevated levels of C-reactive protein in the blood.
    2. High blood pressure (above 130/85 mmHg.
    3. High triglycerides (150 mg per deciliter or 1.7 millimoles per liter or higher).
    4. Reduced high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. (Atherogenic Dyslipidemia)
    5. Elevated fasting blood sugar.
  4. Fatigue or Tiredness. This is particularly important if fatigue is experienced after eating a meal 
  5. Brain fog. This is an inability to focus on something or a specific task appropriately.
  6. Acanthosis Nigricans. This refers to a browning in the folds of your skin, particularly on your neck, armpits or groin and between butt cheeks.
  7. Other physical changes, including frequent urination, abnormal thirst, frequent feelings of fatigue, and blurred vision. 

If you begin to experience one or more of these symptoms, it might be time to visit your physician 

Risk Factors

Diabetes test SM- storyblocks DSC 0777Metabolic syndrome is linked with obesity and inactivity. Certain risk factors raise the chances of developing or having metabolic syndrome. These include:

  • Age. Risk increases with age.
  • Race. In the U.S., Mexican-Americans appear to be at greatest risk of developing the condition.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Other diseases: cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, polycystic ovary syndrome 

The Oral Health Connection

A clear connection between metabolic syndrome and oral health problems has been documented. Key points in this regard are:

  1. Periodontal disease is an early warning sign for metabolic syndrome.
  2. In one study, untreated periodontal disease was linked to a 3-fold increase in mortality from heart and kidney diseases.
  3. Periodontal disease elevates HBA1C markers and may contribute to the onset of diabetes.
  4. Periodontal therapy can reduce markers of inflammation, preventing heart complications.
  5. Periodontal therapy reduces HBA1C levels, and promotes blood sugar control in diabetics.
  6. Reducing HBA1C levels reduces the risk of death and serious complications from diabetes and heart disease.

Many people, including many dental patients, tend to separate oral health from overall general health. This is not a bad thing, and it is not uncommon. It simply suggests a need for additional information nor education and a shift in perception. At Complete dental care - pixabay cco free commercial use-842314 640Dental Care of Salem, VA, we strive to help every patient understand this broader perspective. We want our patients to think about more than the whiteness of their teeth and the appearance of their smile. We are committed to helping each patient appreciate how oral health affects their overall health. 

We will ask you about risk factors and symptoms of metabolic syndrome, just as we inquire and maintain records regarding sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances. We evaluate patients with risk factors for metabolic syndrome or any of the component conditions in terms of the aggressiveness of each individual’s care plan. All members of our team understand metabolic syndrome and each of us are happy to discuss your health with your primary care physician upon request. 

We know that our patients trust us to identify and understand their needs and to provide the appropriate levels of care to promote both oral health and overall health. We are always eager to answer your questions. The more honest and open you are with us about your general health issues and concerns, the better our responses to your needs will be. 

What You Can Do About Metabolic Syndrome

There are a number of steps you can take to prevent and control the component conditions of metabolic syndrome or metabolic syndrome itself. Among the most important are:

  1. Healthy diet. Two “diets” have been found to be particularly helpful for those with metabolic syndrome: the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, and the Mediterranean diet.
  2. Lose weight. Reducing body weight is one way to reduce the weight carried around the waist. Maintaining a healthy weight also reduces insulin resistance, blood pressure, and risk of diabetes.
  3. Physical activity. Many physicians recommend 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise each day. This could be something as simple as a 30-minute walk.
  4. 4.Stop smoking. Smoking exacerbates the health effects of metabolic syndrome.
  5. 5.Manage stress effectively. The effects of stress are harmful to overall health and to oral health. Managing stress through exercise, meditation, or other programs will improve your outlook, your energy, and your health.


Metabolic syndrome is pervasive in the U.S. It is a condition that affects millions of people and one that brings serious consequences if not treated appropriately. Oral infections and bacteria contribute to the severity of metabolic syndrome and its component illnesses. Aggressive dental and periodontal treatment and management can help you and your primary care physician manage the condition and improve your quality of life.

If you have metabolic syndrome or one of its components, or if you have risk factors for the condition, please notify us immediately. We will work aggressively with you and your physician to treat any oral health issues that may contribute to or result from the condition. Together, we can make great progress in improving your quality of life and extending your life.  

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Dental Care for the Middle Aged

A recent study of dental care of the middle aged (age 50 – 64) presents a disconcerting picture. Their needs and expectations after age 65 are very uncertain. This study was conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP. The current state of dental care and oral health among the middle aged is a surprise to many. We know that older Americans find it difficult to pay for dental care. This study casts light on the challenges faced by thosesm graphicstock cbi-0216-038 013 220614 approaching retirement.

  • “One in three . . . say they’re embarrassed by the condition of their teeth.”
  • A slightly larger percentage of middle aged Americans report dental problems that cause pain, difficulty eating, missed work, or other health problems in the last five years.
  • And, 40 percent don’t get regular cleanings or other preventive care that could help to prevent problems in the future.
  • 28 percent of those in the study reported having no dental insurance coverage.
  • Among those who seek care only for serious dental problems, 56 percent are without dental insurance.
  • 28 percent of those surveyed have no dental insurance.
  • 56 percent see a dentist only for serious dental problems.

In terms of current oral health there is a serious divide among middle aged adults around those who have insurance and good dental care (including prevention) and those who do not. Thus, the cost of preventive dental care (with or without insurance) is a significant barrier for many middle-aged Americans. Other reasons for not visiting a dentist regularly include being afraid of the dentist, could not find time to visit a dentist, or could not find a dentist.


More than one in 4 have no dental insurance now. Without preventive care and regular treatment of emerging problems, their oral health is likely to decline.


As middle-aged Americans look to the future and their dental care needs

  • 51 percent said they don’t know how they will get dental insurance after age 65.
  • 13 percent expect to count on Medicare and Medicaid for their dental needs.
  • Medicare pays nothing for dental care; Medicaid coverage is very limited.

Despite the fact that most of the participants in this study understand and agree with the importance of preventive dental care, and understand the link between dental health and overall health, those who are currently middle-aged face a very challenging landscape for receiving appropriate dental care after age 65.


We know the number of Americans now over the age of 65 who face challenges in obtaining and paying for dental car. This study indicates that we can only look forward to a worsening situation as those currently middle-aged also face the same challenges in obtaining and paying for dental care. The question is what we can do and what we will do to improve the dental health of our seniors and how they can be expected to pay for treatment? The solution probably lies in some combination of changes and improvements that will address this issue. Some elements of a solution would seem to be to (1) improve the coverage offered in dental insurance and (2) find ways to make dental insurance either more affordable for all or available to all as part of Medicare. Finding a workable solution to the problem and improving the dental health and overall health of aging Americans is one that we must face as a nation. Good dental health improves both life expectancy and the wellbeing of every person. 


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