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Why Does My Dentist Need to Know What Medicines I Take?

Updated on July 25, 2010

People sometimes think the dentist is prying when asked what medication they are taking – ‘Yes I’m on tablets but they’re nothing to do with my mouth so you don’t need to know.’

Not true.

Problems in your mouth can have a profound effect on your general health and trouble elsewhere in your body can show up in your mouth. This is one reason why we want to know about any medicines, tablets or suppositories you might be taking (another reason is because, on the whole, we would prefer not to kill you by prescribing or injecting something that reacts with something else we don’t know about – although we probably will want to kill you afterwards if you don’t mention something that turns out to be relevant).

So be sure to tell your dentist if, since your last dental visit, there has been a change in your general health or in any medications you are taking. If you’re not sure when the change took place or whether you’ve already told your dentist – mention it anyway. This is one area where you really can’t be too careful.

And don’t make the surprisingly common mistake of thinking that various medications won’t meet up because they’ve been prescribed for different parts of your body. They will. Once a drug is in your body (and that includes constituents of local anaesthetics), it cruises around your blood stream looking for trouble. If any other drugs are in there, they will meet up. And they may not get on. Or they’ll get along too well (see below)

If we know what you’re taking, we can avoid problems.

Drugs can react in one of three ways:

• One or both of them can reduce the effect of the other so it doesn’t work properly – or doesn’t work at all.

• One or both of them can increase the effect of the other so it works too well – e.g. in lowering your blood pressure to a dangerous level.

• They can do something completely different to what either would have done on its own – and that’s unlikely to be a good thing. In a movie, you might get super powers. In real life, you’re more likely to get ill – or dead.

Please don’t assume you know best about your own health because, even if you do – even if you’re the world’s foremost authority on pharmacology and therapeutics – your dentist still has a legal obligation to document everything you’re taking.

So be fair to yourself and to your dentist. It’s a win – win situation.

Stay healthy.

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.

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