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861 Willow Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Telephone: (919) 942-2154
A holistic approach to oral health and wellness.

Pregnancy, Trauma and Dental Care

Pregnancy is an emotionally challenging and sometimes physically painful time for many women. The mother-to-be may be battling nausea, back pain, headaches, and more. Holistic dentist Dr. C. Michael Willock of Chapel Hill points out that the months of pregnancy “is not at all the most opportune time to have major dental work done.

Education for all of his patients is a key component of dental care with Dr. Willock.

“One of the most common pregnancy-related problems I see among pregnant women is gingivitis,” he notes. “This is a fairly common gum disease that causes irritation, redness, and swelling of the gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of the teeth. As hormones change, the gum tissue swells up and gets big and puffy. There’s absolutely nothing you can do for this except keep your teeth clean by brushing and flossing at least twice a day, and using a water pik.

“Good dental care is of the utmost importance for everyone,” he emphasizes. “And it’s useful and important to understand how a tooth is composed. The outside of a tooth is enamel: a solid shell. Underneath the enamel is a second layer called the dentin, which is very porous.

“Most adults have brushed their teeth so hard throughout their lives that the enamel recedes, which exposes the dentin. Normally, the body will lay down minerals over the exposed area to plug up those sensitive pores, but the wrong toothpaste can clean away the minerals and re-open the pores. If you drink cold water, eat something sweet, or just suck in some air, it often becomes painful. My advice: use a soft toothbrush, and brush up and down instead of sideways. Use the least complicated toothpaste you can find, one without added whitening agents, tartar control, or pumice. Once or twice a month only, you may want to sprinkle some baking soda on your toothbrush and brush the inside of your teeth near the gum line, which will eradicate tartar. You can also use Arm & Hammer toothpaste, but sparingly.”

Sensitive Physiology

While a woman is pregnant, notes Dr. Willock, “her physiology becomes more sensitive to her entire environment. We need to assess the pros and cons of every dental procedure. If she needs work that requires anesthesia or x-rays, both can be problematic to the pregnancy. While the baby is in the womb it’s going to get the overflow of whatever we give the mother. I usually call the obstetrician and see if it’s okay to use anesthesia and what course of medications he recommends. If dental work must be done, the best time to do it is in the second trimester. It is almost always best to wait until after delivery.

“One of the concerns that some women have is whether to remove mercury amalgam fillings during their pregnancy,” Dr. Willock adds. “They are aware that mercury is a toxic substance that pierces the placental barrier and can affect the well-being of the growing baby. Ideally, the prospective mother will do mercury removal before becoming pregnant. Once a patient with amalgam fillings is pregnant, I most often advise against the removal of the fillings during pregnancy. No matter how careful we are, inevitably there is some release of mercury vapors in the removal process.—and this would inadvertently expose the baby to mercury.”

Another unexpected trauma that a pregnant woman may experience is a tooth extraction. “Again,” notes Dr. Willock, “I will advise her to wait until the second trimester for the extraction, and I will especially advise her to avoid a dry socket condition—which may occur when a patient is over-active following a tooth extraction. She may be feeling quite normal and energetic after the extraction, and goes out and plays a rigorous game of tennis. In the process, it is possible to damage the healing blood clot over the site of the extraction. That blood clot is nature’s bandage, and when it’s lost, it significantly delays the healing process. To do its job, the clot needs peace and quiet for several days.”

He points out that a report in the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry notes that women who take oral contraceptives have a better than 30 percent incidence of dry socket after molar extractions performed in the first 22 days of their monthly cycle. The recommendation: unless there is an emergency, women using birth control should try to schedule their extractions during the last week of their cycle, when estrogen levels are inactive.

Dental Traumas

Dental traumas can be especially unnerving and most people seldom experience them, notes Dr. Willock. “If you happen to lose a tooth through some sort of accident and the tooth comes out root and all—in other words whole—it’s important to keep the tooth moist. Run some water over it to clear away any debris, and then either place it in some milk, which is a liquid that is similar to the body’s conditions, or put it under your tongue. Have someone call your dentist. If the tooth comes out whole, there’s a good chance that it can be placed back. But if you break the tooth in half, or chip it, sometimes we can bond some resin over the broken piece or smooth the tooth. If it’s a bad break, then the tooth will most likely need to be crowned or an implant placed.

“A more common dental trauma occurs when people crunch down on something hard or firm, such as popcorn seed or ice, and as a consequence, they break a tooth. If the tooth has an amalgam filling, it is continually expanding and contracting at three times the rate of the natural tooth structure. Depending on the temperature of what’s in your mouth, the most likely tooth to break is the upper first premolar because it has a long, thin root compared to a relatively large head. I’ve seen lots of people split a premolar right down the middle, and once it’s cracked down below the gum line, the only thing you can do is have it removed.”

Prevention: The Best Course

The most important piece of advice that Dr. Willock offers his patients is to take excellent care of their teeth with good daily dental care: brush and floss. If you think there’s a dental issue of any kind, make an appointment to visit your dentist.

He would like his patients to avoid difficult, dramatic, traumatic events related to their teeth. “I had one patient who complained to her physician for a very long time that her tongue hurt. She did her own research and wondered if she might be dealing with oral cancer. When she finally visited me, I discovered that her tongue was rubbing against a very large mercury amalgam filling which had a little rough edge on it. After years of rubbing against this rough surface, the mercury amalgam poisoned her tongue and she contracted cancer. She ended up losing half of her tongue and part of the floor of her mouth. Now she’s re-learning to speak. It was truly a very difficult situation for a very nice lady.”

Dr. Willock approaches his dental practice with a broad, holistic perspective. He is an accredited member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and completed an 83-hour, post-graduate course in environmental medicine for the health care professional at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, Arizona. More recently, Dr. Willock has become a student of homeopathy, specifically as it relates to oral health.