Blood thinners and Dentistry

 

As patients age, more medical conditions may pop up for them.  The dentist has to not only be alert to dental needs, but also any underlying medical condition.  One more common situation with older patients is the taking of blood thinners.  This group of drugs is usually taken for a heart condition -most commonly heart attack or an artificial heart valve.

Another common blood thinner comes in the form of a daily aspirin. I am not in favor of this personally (I don’t want to take any drugs!) but the medical community is not in agreement on this point.

With the blood thinner the patient is less likely to develop a clot along their circulatory system which is potentially fatal.

 

So, a patient will come in with a significant medical history which requires that they take blood thinners. What should the dentist do? For me personally, I call the doctor and get something from them in writing. For one, this protects me legally, and for another, we want the patient to get the indicated care in the correct manner.

Typically, the more invasive the procedure, the more likely the patient should be taken off the thinners. For example, a simple dental cleaning will usually not be a big problem for the patient unless her gums are in really bad shape (in which case she may need something else, like a deep cleaning or more extensive treatment for her gums). The goal is we want anything we do to clot. If a patient is having a tooth or teeth extracted, then we are faced with a bleeding and clotting consideration, and in coordination with the doctor, the blood thinner can be stopped for a short period of time.

Where patients get into trouble is when they don’t let the dentist know what is going on. This happens more than you might think! The patient must be aware of his condition to some extent to let other doctors treating them in on their health. In this way the medical and dental professionals can make good choices for their patients, and in so doing, promote their overall health.