Medical conditions and oral health

When you have your first dental check up, you will be asked to fill in a medical history form. In this you can tell your dentist about any medical conditions, recent operations, allergies, and tablets or medicines you are taking that may affect your dental treatment.
You may think that some conditions are not important enough to mention. However, quite often these conditions are just as important. The information will help your dentist and the dental team work together to make sure you are treated in the safest way possible and are not put at any risk during treatment.

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Is this information confidential?

Yes. It will be put in your dental notes and kept confidential by the law.

What if I am taking any medicines?

You will need to tell your dentist if you are taking or rely on any medicines. This should include any inhalers, a recent course of antibiotics or regular medication for an on-going complaint. It is also important to remember to tell your dentist if you have taken any over-the-counter medicines or tablets recently, have had a recent prescription from your GP or take recreational drugs.
You should also tell your dentist if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. This is in case you need a course of antibiotics. These can cause the pill to become less effective and you will need to take extra contraceptive precautions. All this information is needed to make sure no dental treatment; drugs or materials will affect your health.

What may happen if I have a heart complaint?

If you need dental treatment which could involve bleeding, such as a tooth extraction or a scale and polish, your dentist may give you a dose of antibiotics one hour before your appointment. This is to make sure there is no risk of infection of the heart valves.
The dentist may also choose to use a different kind of local anaesthetic (without adrenalin).

What if I have a heart murmur or rheumatic fever?

If you suffer from either of these you may need to take a dose of antibiotics one hour before certain dental treatments to prevent infection.

How can my dentist help if I have asthma?

People who suffer from asthma should tell their dentist when they register. It is important to take your inhaler to every dental appointment and tell your dentist if you feel unwell or out of breath. Patients with severe asthma may find they are unsuitable for treatment under general anaesthetic or sedation, and therefore the safest option would be a local anaesthetic.

What if I am taking warfarin?

It is important to tell your dentist before treatment if you are taking warfarin, particularly if you need to have a tooth out. You may be asked to have routine blood tests before starting treatment to make sure your blood will clot enough to stop the bleeding.
Your dentist may suggest stopping your warfarin for 2 to 3 days before your dental extraction. However, for some patients there is no need to alter the medication and there should be no risk of complications following the extraction.

Should I tell my dentist if I am taking anti-depressant drugs?

Yes. It is important to tell your dentist if you are taking any of these medicines. The local anaesthetic may interfere with tricylic anti-depressants and therefore the dentist may recommend an alternative brand of anaesthetic.
A side effect of some anti-depressant drugs is dry mouth. The reduced saliva flow can increase the chance of tooth decay and gum disease.

What will happen if I have haemophilia?

Haemophilia is a blood disorder. You must tell your dentist at your first check up if you are suffering from this condition.
If the blood does not clot it may cause serious problems during dental treatment. If you need to have a tooth out, the dentist will need to refer you to the local hospital to be treated by a specialist and in the situation safest for you. After a tooth has been extracted, a clot needs to form in the socket to help it heal.
Many patients take tablets for haemophilia and it is important to inform your dentist if you are on any medication.

Will chemotherapy affect my dental treatment?

If you are going to have a course of chemotherapy, visit your dentist as soon as possible to make sure any dental treatment you need is finished before you start.
External or internal radiation therapy can often cause damage to the salivary glands, leading to a permanently dry mouth. Due to the lack of saliva, there is more risk of dental decay so it is important to have regular dental check-ups.
Chemotherapy can cause gum ulcers or the gums to bleed. Regular appointments with the dental hygienist should help to keep this under control. The hygienist will also tell you if you are brushing correctly and will check that you are maintaining a good oral hygiene routine at home.
Some cancer patients find the chemotherapy causes a sore throat, difficulty in swallowing and in some cases partial or complete loss of taste.

Should I tell my dentist if I am allergic to anything?

Yes. You will be asked at your first dental check up if you have any allergies to certain medication, foods or materials. If you have a penicillin allergy it is very important to tell your dentist in case you ever need a prescription of antibiotics. In this case, there are several alternative antibiotics that will be safer for you.
Patients and dental staff can be allergic to the dentist’s gloves, which are usually made of latex. Dental materials and drugs used in routine treatment can sometimes produce skin reactions. This can usually be overcome by the dentist using a low-allergy brand of gloves or alternative materials.
It is important to tell your dentist if you have had a reaction at a previous appointment. This can then be avoided at your next appointment and marked on your notes for future reference.

Will epilepsy interfere with my dental treatment?

It is important to tell your dentist if you have epilepsy, or have ever had any sort of fit in the past. This is to make sure the dental team are fully prepared if you do fall ill during treatment and can have drugs on hand if necessary.
Epileptic patients may find they are more likely to have fits when they are anxious. Tell your dentist if you have any concerns before or during your treatment. The dental team will make sure the surgery is safe for you and there is no risk of harm to you.

Will diabetes affect my teeth and gums?

People who suffer from diabetes can have severe gum disease if their condition is uncontrolled. Therefore it is important to follow a thorough oral care routine at home and to visit your dentist at least once a year. You may also find that you heal more slowly after surgery and you should discuss this with your dentist before you have any treatment.

Will I need to tell my dentist if I am pregnant?

It is important to tell your dentist as soon as you find out you are pregnant. If you need dental treatment, it may have to wait until after the birth of your baby. In most situations x-rays should be avoided, particularly during the first three months of pregnancy.
Some pregnant women find their gums bleed during pregnancy and need closer attention. You may be referred to the dental hygienist, if the practice has one, for regular cleaning and advice on how to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home.