Could Gum Disease Cost the Life of an Unborn Child?

Yes. Gum disease could cost the life of an unborn child. Specifically, an oral bacterium – Fusobacterium nucleatum –can penetrate the placenta and harm or kill an unborn child.

February is National Gum Disease Awareness Month and a fitting time to think seriously about the dangers of untreated gum disease. We have come to understand that gum disease and the related bacteria can be absorbed into the bloodstream through pregnant woman brushing teeth - SM - storyblocks -JM-03292016-Healthy-DSC 8969leeding gums. Once bacteria enter the blood stream, they can be carried to almost any part of the body.

Proof that gum disease can put an unborn baby at risk was uncovered recently by scientists from Case Western University. It has long been known that bacteria from gum disease can cause a baby to be born too small or too early. This recent case was brought to the Case Western scientists by a California woman whose child was stillborn.

This woman was aware of studies showing that the oral bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum could spread from the bloodstream to the placenta in mice. She turned to the scientists to ask if the same thing could happen in humans. She told them about the recent loss of her baby, and reported heavy bleeding from her gums – heavier than normal bleeding of gums in pregnant women – during her pregnancy.

The scientists tested the plaque cells from the woman’s mouth. They obtained samples of the oral bacteria from the dead baby’s lungs and stomach. Comparison of the samples proved the connection between the woman’s gum disease and the baby’s death.

Pregnant women are typically able to combat the oral bacteria by brushing and flossing. The same is not true of unborn babies. Because the placenta has little immune capability, it is easy for the bacteria to penetrate it and harm the baby.

In the case of this woman and her stillborn child, it was clear that bacteria from the mother’s gum disease were transmitted through the placenta and to the child. Unfortunately, this might have been avoidable.


  1. Pregnant women need to be diligent about their oral health, brushing and flossing twice daily.
  2. If there is excessive bleeding of the gums (a clear symptom of gum disease), they should see their dentists immediately.
  3. In an ideal world, women should take appropriate steps to maintain good oral health, and see their dentist for an evaluation prior to becoming pregnant. Then they should be attentive to good oral hygiene and visit their dentists during the pregnancy.

We can only hope that women of child-bearing age who want to have children maintain excellent oral hygiene practices and see their dentists regularly before and during pregnancy. It is a hard truth to learn, but gum disease could cost the life of an unborn child.

If you are pregnant or you plan to become pregnant, call today for an oral health evaluation. We can help you and your baby remain healthy. If problems exist, we will work with you to restore good oral health.

Dentists and Opioid Prescriptions


We are regularly and frequently reminded these days that we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In the midst of efforts to ascribe blame (or partial blame) for the situation, some have suggested that dentists have played a large

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role in creating this situation. We should also note that non-opioid painkillers are also being misused and over-used. This could suggest that prescribers of painkillers are not solely responsible for the abuse of any pain medications. Perhaps the question to ask is why so many people feel the need to abuse over-the-counter, prescription, opioid, and street drugs to “manage pain.”

What do we know about use of opioids in dentistry?

First, it should be remembered that all dentists are not the same, and they do not necessarily treat patients in the same way, especially with regard to pain management. In fact, many dentists do not prescribe prescription drugs of any kind for pain.

Second, after researchers analyzed the quantity of opioids prescribe over a 15-year period. They calculate both the number of prescriptions and the total milligrams of morphine equivalent drugs prescribed. Their finding: As of 2012, dental professionals prescribed only about 2% of the total quantity of opioids, while office-based physicians prescribed 80%.

Finally, the analysis revealed that the quantity of opioids prescribed by dentists has decreased from 7% in 1996 to only about 2% in 2012. There were flaws in the study, yet the relative proportion of prescriptions written by dentists is very small.

The bottom line: If you have dental work or a dental problem and need pain medication, do not be surprised when you are prescribed a non-opioid painkiller by your dentist. Further, if you are prescribed an opioid for pain, be aware that your condition will be monitored carefully and the prescription will be refilled only when clearly warranted. In many cases, the anti-inflammatory properties of other pain medications may play a larger role in reducing your pain than you expect.

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. 


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