How can a dentist promote and/or support a patient who wishes to use healthy CAM practices and biomedical standard approaches to treatment?
The current trend in the treatment of illnesses usually involves the presence of alternative medicines, in one form or another. Due to the more aggressive marketing of complementary or supplementary medicines and treatments, people have taken more notice and many have adapted them in their health care habits. While some limit their exposure to non-traditional medicines and treatments to a shallow degree, there are some who depend more on alternative medicines to cure them of common ailments, and even the more fatal ones. While dentists are generally not asked for matters that concern other branches of medicine, a dental doctor can be of help to a patient who wants to combine standard medical treatments with CAM practices. People who are into CAM are often willing to discuss with anyone willing to listen the advantages of the alternative medicine. This is probably their way of re-affirming their belief in the non-standard treatment. A dentist can engage his patient in small talk concerning his diet and its effect on the health of his teeth. From there, the conversation could then be led into complementary alternative medical treatment.
Leanne Darling, an editor in a publishing firm, who agreed to be interviewed, has been diagnosed with breast lumps and uterine fibroids. She suspects that the hormonal imbalance in her body has been causing all the tumor growths. Since her ob-gyne does not recommend operation at this point, Leanne took it upon herself to take herbal supplements. Based on testimonies from friends, chlorophyllin, an extract from chlorophyll, has cured others with uterine fibroid. She swore that when she experiences discomfort in her pelvis area, drinking water mixed with chlorophyllin would ease the feeling. The herbal medicine from alfalfa leaves, she adds, is also good for removing odor, including those in the mouth. She adds that there are times when she uses peppermint to ease toothache on her children. When asked how she views complementary medicine in relation to standard medicine, Leanne does not see any reason why the two forms of treatments would be in conflict with one another. She believes that the herbal medicines she’s taking are part of a holistic approach to healthier living that includes proper diet and exercise. As for being asked how she would like her dentist to treat her knowing that she’s using CAM, Leanne said that she does not want to be lectured on anything.
Taking the cue from Leanne’s statement, a dentist must refrain from discouraging a patient from CAM. Instead, the dentist must discuss with the patient the possible side effects. For instance, the dentist can cite a study by Werneke and McCready (2004) on the interfering effect of supplements with iron content on bone scanning. In this regard, the dentist can arm the client with knowledge before he will continue with his CAM treatment. The dentist should also encourage the person to discuss with his medical doctor the possible side effect of some herbal medicines in standard treatments. Meijerman et al. (2006) states that anti-cancer CAM, like St. John’s wort, could result to a likely undertreatment in patients. In the dental field, the dentist must also engage the patient in a discussion of how complementary alternative medicines can be used in non-life threatening circumstances like the use of peppermint as a temporary cure for toothache. However, the dentist must emphasize that while the pain is temporarily gone, the underlying cause must be identified and cured.
Gleaning an insight from the interview, the dentist could also encourage patients on a
holistic approach to their lifestyle, just like what Leanne does. Aside from their usual regimen, they should include exercising and eating the right foods. The holistic approach among CAM users was found out in the study conducted by Schoenberg et al. (2004). The researchers discovered that users of CAM generally have them to live a healthier life, instead, of replacing biomedical treatment.
Meijerman, I., et al. (2006). Herb-Drug Interactions in Oncology: Focus on Mechanisms of
Induction. The Oncologist, 7, 742-72. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from
Schoenberg, N.E., et al. (2004). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among a
Multiethnic Sample of Older Adults with Diabetes. The Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine, 10, 1061-1066.
Werneke, U., & McCready, V.R. (2004, January 14). Complementary Alternative Medicine and
Nuclear Medicine. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from cancer-