What does my medical history have to do with my oral health?

Some medical conditions and drugs can affect your oral health. Or they may affect the treatment you get and the materials your dental team use. So when you visit your dental team, they will ask you about your medical history – that is, any medical conditions or allergies you have, and any treatments you are having or have had.

When I visit my dental team, what sort of things do they need to know about?

They will ask you many questions, ranging from personal information – such as your date of birth – to any treatment you are having or have had in the past. They will also want to know if you have any illnesses or conditions, take any regular drugs or medications, and have any allergies.

They will also ask you for any other information that they feel is relevant to your oral health or dental treatment.

This is so that they can provide the best and safest treatment for you.

Why might my dentist need to know about any operations that I may have had?

Not every operation will be important. But sometimes things that you may not realise can affect your oral health and how the dentist is able to treat you.

It is much better for the dental team to have all the information so they are able to treat you correctly and without problems.

Is my personal information confidential?

Yes. The information will be put in your dental notes, which are not shared and are entirely confidential. They are also protected by data protection laws.

How can drugs I am taking affect my mouth?

Many drugs – both prescription ones and non-prescription ones – can cause ‘dry mouth’. This can be very uncomfortable and can also lead to a higher risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

Your dentist can advise you on how best to deal with this problem.

Is it important to tell my dentist if I have asthma?

Yes. The fact that you have asthma will be part of your medical history. Remember to take your inhaler to every dental appointment and tell the dental team if you feel unwell or out of breath.

If you have severe asthma and you need to have sedation for treatment, your dental team may refer you to hospital for this.

How can vomiting during pregnancy, or from having an eating disorder, affect my teeth?

Vomiting can cause stomach acid to come into contact with your teeth. The front teeth are most likely to be affected, and over time the enamel of the teeth can be worn away. This is called ‘dental erosion’ and leads to sensitivity and discolouration as the yellower dentine starts to show through the enamel.

You can help lessen the effects of the acid by chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after you vomit and by rinsing with water or a fluoride mouth rinse.

It is important to tell your dentist about all medicines and tablets you are taking.

Why do my dental team need to know if I am allergic to anything?

Many people are allergic to certain drugs such as penicillin and it is important that you tell your dental team about any drug allergies you have. Some people are also allergic to latex (rubber).

This has several uses in the dental practice, from gloves to dental dams. Tell your dental team if you are allergic so they can use a different material. If you have had a reaction, remember to tell the team at your next visit.

Why do my dental team need to know if I have haemophilia?

If you have haemophilia and you need a treatment that may cause you to bleed, such as an extraction, you will usually be referred to a specialist. This is to make sure you do not have any complications and you get the treatment you need safely.

Why do my dental team need to know if I have hepatitis?

Dental practices take great care to make sure they do not pass an infection from one patient to another, but will take special care if they know you are a hepatitis patient.

Could having HIV affect my oral health?

HIV can affect your oral health and it is very important to have good oral hygiene and see your dental team as often as they recommend. There will be more problems in your mouth if you have uncontrolled HIV. Your immune system will be weaker and this can mean that gum disease is more severe and can develop very quickly. Oral thrush is common in people with a weakened immune system.

‘Hairy leukoplakia‘ appears as furry white lesions on the tongue and can often be the first sign of HIV.

‘Dry mouth’ can be another side effect of HIV. Dry mouth itself can be uncomfortable and make you more likely to have tooth decay and gum disease. Your dental team will be able to advise you on the best way to deal with this.

How will diabetes affect my oral health?

People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease. Also, if someone with diabetes has gum disease their control over their blood-sugar levels is likely to be poorer.

If you have diabetes you will tend to heal more slowly. So if you have had a tooth out it may take longer for the socket to heal and you may be more likely to get an infected (or dry) socket. Tell your dental team if you have diabetes, whether this is type 1 or type 2, and how you control it.

Time your dental appointments so that you are not likely to be ‘hypo’ during the appointment. Remember that the stress of having an appointment could cause your blood sugar to drop and make you feel faint.

What can I do if I have epilepsy?

Epilepsy is another condition your dental team need to know about in case you have a seizure during treatment. During a seizure your teeth, lips and tongue may be damaged. If this happens visit your dental team for advice.

If you take Epilim ask for sugar-free medicine if you need to take the drug in syrup or liquid form.

Epanutin – another drug prescribed for epilepsy – can cause your gums to overgrow, and having good oral hygiene is particularly important if this happens.

How can having kidney disease affect my oral health?

People with kidney disease have a higher risk of having oral health problems like gum disease and bad breath. If you are on dialysis, book your dental appointments for days when you aren’t having treatment. This will help avoid any complications.

Do I need to tell my dental team I am on blood thinners?

Yes. It is very important to tell your dentist if you are on blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin. If you are having a tooth out or surgery, they may advise you to change how you take these drugs so that you avoid the risk of bleeding.

Do I need to tell my dental team I am on bisphosphonates?

If you take bisphosphonates for osteoporosis (‘brittle bone’ disease) there could be complications if you have a tooth out.

If you take this drug and need treatment, your dentist may decide to refer you to hospital for specialised treatment.

Why is it important to tell my dental team if I am taking anti-depressants?

Some anti-depressant drugs can cause a reaction with certain local anaesthetics. So to make sure your treatment is as safe and comfortable as possible, it is important to tell your dental team.

Will my dental team contact my doctor?

Your dental team will only want to contact your doctor if they feel there is something that can affect your treatment. They will ask for your permission first.

How can cancer affect my oral hygiene?

A Having surgery as part of treatment for cancer can make it difficult to brush your teeth and keep the areas in and around your mouth clean. Surgery may make areas very sensitive and painful to touch.

It can be best to use a very soft toothbrush and maintain a good oral health routine as much as you possibly can. Brushing, rinsing and cleaning between your teeth can be very difficult but it is important to try your best so that you can prevent any complications from happening.


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Need more advice?

If you need free and impartial advice about your oral health, contact our Dental Helpline by email or call 01788 539780 (local rate call in the UK).

Our Dental Helpline is completely confidential and has helped almost 400,000 people since opening over 20 years ago. Contact our experts by telephone, email or online enquiry, Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00.