Your Medical History – Why do we ask?


When people come to their dental appointment, one of the first things the dental team will do is to update their health history. Sometimes people will comment (or wonder) “Why are you asking me about that? I’m just here for my teeth cleaning.” The reasons we ask are important, although often not obvious to people. There are many relationships between our general health and our oral health. Our goal is to provide the safest and most effective care to our patients and having a complete picture of someone’s health helps accomplish this.

General health conditions, prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and supplements can all affect the health of someone’s mouth and the treatment recommended by your dental team. Conditions present in our mouth can also give us clues to general health issues and diseases that may be undiagnosed. Diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea, autoimmune disorders, eating disorders, nutrition deficiencies and some leukemias all have signs that can show up in our mouth.

Knowing someone’s general health can also help provide clues to conditions we may see in the mouth and help us provide better dental care. Pregnancy can result in increased gingivitis. People who have had HPV infections or a history of tobacco use can be at higher risk for oral cancer. Diabetic patients have an increased likelihood of periodontal (gum) disease – and gum disease can make it more difficult for people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar.Your dental team also wants to be aware of conditions that may require modification to treatment they recommend. Knowing someone’s history of heart conditions, prosthetic joint replacements, allergies, surgeries, and hospitalizations provide important information that helps us reduce risks of infection and complications with dental care.

Many commonly prescribed and over-the counter medications have side effects that influence our dental health. Blood pressure medications, antidepressants, asthma inhalers and allergy medications can increase our risk of tooth decay. Drugs given to treat osteoporosis can delay bone healing following oral surgery procedures. Some cardiac medications can cause changes in our gums and soft tissues in our mouth. Several medications and supplements that affect blood clotting are important for your dental team to be aware of, especially if any planned procedures involve periodontal treatment or surgery. Interactions between supplements and medications people are already taking and those that a dental provider may prescribe can also occur and we want to be aware of any possible complications. Bringing a list or keeping a photo on your smartphone of your medications and supplements can be helpful.

Finally, should a medical emergency occur while you are in our office, having your information available can help us better manage any urgent situation, should one arise. Our goal is to provide the safest care to our patients and having a complete picture of someone’s health allows us to accomplish this. There are many other examples beyond what is described in this post. Your medical information is kept secure and used only to help us optimize your dental care. If you have concerns with how this information is used, please ask and we’ll be happy to discuss with you.

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