That’s a Silly Question Anyway

Next time you are sitting in your dental hygienist’s chair at your friendly and beloved dental office listen to all the questions they ask and know that each question is important. I can just see your face as you read this and the answer is “No I am not kidding”. Those questions are vital to your good health.

When patients are in my chair I always start the appointment with the usual. “How are you Mrs. Smith?”  “Have you had any medical changes?” “Are you having any problem with your teeth?” These questions while seemingly inane and pointless are actually vital to your good dental treatment and necessary for your dental hygienist to know, so next time take them as what they are, important questions being asked by a caring and earnest health care professional.

For example, when a patient answers that they are taking a new medication my ears always perk up. Often people don’t mention their medications thinking we don’t need to know that they are taking medication.

That is a big mistake! If you take a medication share that with your dental professional. The medications you take make all the difference in dental treatment from the extremely important (things like the anesthesia that might be used to whether or not a tooth should be extracted), to just the important (things like how to best care for your dry mouth).

Humans live longer lives now and somehow this has necessitated the increased consumption of pharmaceutical drugs and as you know every drug has umpteen side effects that can easily fill one or two pages of standard business paper. Many of these drugs dry your mouth, and a dry mouth leads to increased levels of decay. Some drugs, like those used to treat thyroid conditions necessitate a non-vaso-constrictor anesthesia be used or the patient may have heart palpitations. (By the way, the simple effect of the non-vaso-constricting anesthesia is you may bleed more not get less numb).

Diseases affect treatment. Diseases such as Rickets necessitate special attention as the patient’s bone may be ill-formed or honeycomb-like. Patients with Von Willebrand’s might not clot properly and a simple extraction suddenly becomes deadly. Heart disease is a huge issue and often someone with heart problems should take antibiotics or rinse with Chlorhexidine prior to dental treatment to protect the compromised cardio-vascular system from the inevitable bacteria that is introduced into the blood stream. If you have or have ever suffered from Anorexia it is important for your dental professional to be informed. It really goes without saying that disclosing a positive HIV diagnosis is imperative as well as Hepatitis C but any hepatitis needs to be disclosed.

Surgeries can be important to disclose. People with joint replacements often need antibiotic coverage for 2-4 years post surgery (to be determined by your surgeon not the dentist). If you have had a pacemaker embedded some equipment in the dental office should not be used within proximity to you. You even need to avoid dental treatment for a few months after various cancer surgeries especially when you have had treatments like chemotherapy. In those cases you are advised to have your teeth cleaned and examined prior to treatment and anti-carious rinses could be implemented to assist in decay prevention.

People from many walks of life enter a dental office to keep their oral health optimal. We can’t read your minds or know that yesterday you were exposed to Tuberculosis. You, the patient must feel committed to telling your dental professional about yourself even if the details seem mundane or worse too embarrassing or too risky to repeat. You are protected by HIPPA (the protection of which is debatable) but more importantly your dental office wants to take the best possible care of you and your teeth which in the end equates to your good health. It might seem like a silly question but the implications of not sharing your health issues can be the difference between life and death.

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