Will I need to tell my dentist if I am pregnant?

It is important to tell your dentist as soon as you find out you are pregnant. If you need dental treatment, it may have to wait until after the birth of your baby. In most situations x-rays should be avoided, particularly during the first three months of pregnancy.

Some pregnant women find their gums bleed during pregnancy and need closer attention. You may be referred to the dental hygienist, if the practice has one, for regular cleaning and advice on how to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home.

Remember to take your maternity certificate to your check up appointment, as you will be entitled to free NHS routine dental treatment while you are pregnant and until your baby’s first birthday.

Current guidelines suggest that old amalgam fillings should not be removed during pregnancy, but nor should new ones be put in. Speak to your dentist about alternative materials if you are unsure.

What if my diabetes needs hospital treatment?

Many hospitals nowadays have a diabetic team who will give you advice on managing your condition.

If you are having a general anaesthetic you will not be able to eat or drink for about four hours before treatment, and this could prove a problem with your diabetes. In this situation, the hospital should make every attempt to book you first on the list to avoid you having to wait for long periods.

How can my dentist help if I have diabetes?

Book your appointments at a time when the dentist is least likely you keep you waiting, such as first thing in the morning. Try to avoid lunchtime in case you have to miss a meal.

Will diabetes affect my teeth and gums?

People who suffer from diabetes can have severe gum disease if their condition is uncontrolled. Therefore it is important to follow a thorough oral care routine at home and to visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. You may also find that you heal more slowly after surgery and you should discuss this with your dentist before you have any treatment.

Will epilepsy interfere with my dental treatment?

It is important to tell your dentist if you have epilepsy, or have ever had any sort of fit in the past. This is to make sure the dental team are fully prepared if you do fall ill during treatment and can have drugs on hand if necessary.

Epileptic patients may find they are more likely to have fits when they are anxious. Tell your dentist if you have any concerns before or during your treatment. The dental team will make sure the surgery is safe for you and there is no risk of harm to you.

Should I tell my dentist if I am allergic to anything?

Yes. You will be asked at your first dental check up if you have any allergies to certain medication, foods or materials. If you have a penicillin allergy it is very important to tell your dentist in case you ever need a prescription of antibiotics. In this case, there are several alternative antibiotics that will be safer for you.

Patients and dental staff can be allergic to the dentist’s gloves, which are usually made of latex. Dental materials and drugs used in routine treatment can sometimes produce skin reactions. This can usually be overcome by the dentist using a low-allergy brand of gloves or alternative materials.

It is important to tell your dentist if you have had a reaction at a previous appointment. This can then be avoided at your next appointment and marked on your notes for future reference.

Will chemotherapy affect my dental treatment?

If you are going to have a course of chemotherapy, visit your dentist as soon as possible to make sure any dental treatment you need is finished before you start.

External or internal radiation therapy can often cause damage to the salivary glands, leading to a permanently dry mouth. Due to the lack of saliva, there is more risk of dental decay so it is important to have regular dental check-ups.

Chemotherapy can cause gum ulcers or the gums to bleed. Regular appointments with the dental hygienist should help to keep this under control. The hygienist will also tell you if you are brushing correctly and will check that you are maintaining a good oral hygiene routine at home.

Some cancer patients find the chemotherapy causes a sore throat, difficulty in swallowing and in some cases partial or complete loss of taste.

Will HIV affect my oral health?

It is important to establish a very strict oral hygiene routine as early as possible and get regular professional care.

Oral signs and symptoms are only common in uncontrolled HIV. Lesions can appear, which may be purple-red discolourations or larger growths. Oral thrush is also common when the immune system has failed, but quickly responds to oral medicine. Hairy leukoplakia is a common oral condition and appears as white lesions on the tongue – it can often be the first sign of HIV.

Periodontal (gum) disease is common with HIV, and often develops very quickly when the condition is uncontrolled. Because the immune system is weakened, the gum disease is more severe and oral antibiotics are often needed.

Dry mouth is another side effect of HIV and can cause tooth decay due to the reduced levels of saliva. Your oral care routine should include using fluoride toothpaste and you may need fluoride supplements too. You can be prescribed sprays or lozenges to ease your discomfort. It is important to always ask for sugar-free alternatives.

Can a dentist refuse to treat me if I have HIV or hepatitis?

A patient with either of these conditions is protected by the Disabilities Act. Therefore, a dentist cannot refuse to treat you if you have HIV or hepatitis.

Due to the risk of blood-borne infections, all dental practices now have to follow very strict policies to prevent cross-infection. Many dental instruments are disposable and for single use only, and all other equipment will be sterilised before re-use.

Why might I be tested for sickle cell anaemia?

Sickle cell disease is a form of anaemia which affects people of African and Caribbean origin. If you are in this ethnic group and need a general anaesthetic, you will have blood tests to make sure this is safe for you.

I have anaemia, can this affect my dental health?

Patients with anaemia may find they get more mouth ulcers. They may also get red lines and patches on the tongue. Ulcers usually last 7 to 10 days. However, patients with recurrent ulcers may find they take up to six weeks to heal. There are various sprays and creams that your dentist can prescribe if your symptoms continue.

What will happen if I have haemophilia?

Haemophilia is a blood disorder. You must tell your dentist at your first check up if you are suffering from this condition.

If the blood does not clot it may cause serious problems during dental treatment. If you need to have a tooth out, the dentist will need to refer you to the local hospital to be treated by a specialist and in the situation safest for you. After a tooth has been extracted, a clot needs to form in the socket to help it heal.

Many patients take tablets for haemophilia and it is important to inform your dentist if you are on any medication.

Should I tell my dentist if I am taking anti-depressant drugs?

Yes. It is important to tell your dentist if you are taking any of these medicines. The local anaesthetic may interfere with tricylic anti-depressants and therefore the dentist may recommend an alternative brand of anaesthetic.

A side effect of some anti-depressant drugs is dry mouth. The reduced saliva flow can increase the chance of tooth decay and gum disease.

How can my dentist help if I have asthma?

People who suffer from asthma should tell their dentist when they register. It is important to take your inhaler to every dental appointment and tell your dentist if you feel unwell or out of breath. Patients with severe asthma may find they are unsuitable for treatment under general anaesthetic or sedation, and therefore the safest option would be a local anaesthetic.

Is there a link between gum problems and heart disease?

Recent scientific research has shown a link between poor oral health and other conditions such as heart and lung disease. This highlights the importance of good dental care.

Keeping to a good oral hygiene routine at home and regular visits to your dentist will help to prevent gum disease and therefore avoid the risk of complications.

Are there any medical conditions that could affect my mouth?

Some medical complaints which need regular medication can contribute to dry mouth, which in turn can cause tooth decay.

Also, patients with epilepsy who rely on Epilim should always ask for sugar-free alternatives if they need the drug in syrup or liquid form. Epanutin, another drug prescribed for epilepsy, can cause gum problems.

How often should I visit my dentist?

We recommend you visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend. However, if you have certain medical conditions your dentist may want to see you more often. Patients who suffer dry mouth due to certain medication may find they are more likely to get tooth decay and would therefore need checking more closely.

The dentist may also refer you to the dental hygienist in the practice for regular scale and polish appointments to keep up your good dental health.

What if I am taking any medicines?

You will need to tell your dentist if you are taking or rely on any medicines. This should include any inhalers, a recent course of antibiotics or regular medication for an on-going complaint. It is also important to remember to tell your dentist if you have taken any over-the-counter medicines or tablets recently, have had a recent prescription from your GP or take recreational drugs.

You should also tell your dentist if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill. This is in case you need a course of antibiotics. These can cause the pill to become less effective and you will need to take extra contraceptive precautions. All this information is needed to make sure no dental treatment; drugs or materials will affect your health.

Will I need to tell my dentist if I have a medical condition?

When you have your first dental check up, you will be asked to fill in a medical history form. In this you can tell your dentist about any medical conditions, recent operations, allergies, and tablets or medicines you are taking that may affect your dental treatment.

You may think that some conditions are not important enough to mention. However, quite often these conditions are just as important. The information will help your dentist and the dental team work together to make sure you are treated in the safest way possible and are not put at any risk during treatment.

How do electric toothbrushes work?

An electric brush often has rotating or vibrating head, which provides a large amount of cleaning action with very little movement needed from the user, although you do need to position the brush correctly.

Which type of toothbrush should I use?

Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to recommend a toothbrush suitable for you. However, adults should choose a small to medium size brush with soft to medium multi-tufted, round-ended nylon bristles or ‘filaments’. The head should be small enough to reach into all parts of the mouth: especially the back of the mouth where it can be difficult to reach. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of filaments.

You can now get more specialised toothbrushes. For instance, people with sensitive teeth can now use softer bristled brushes. There are also smaller headed toothbrushes for those people with crooked or irregular teeth.

Some people find it difficult to hold a toothbrush, for example because they have Parkinson’s disease or a physical disability. There are now toothbrushes, which have large handles and angled heads to make them easier to use.

Why is brushing important?

Daily brushing and cleaning between your teeth is important because it removes plaque. If the plaque isn’t removed, it continues to build up, feeding on the food debris left behind and causing tooth decay and gum disease.

How can plaque cause gum disease?

Plaque can harden into something called calculus another name for it is ‘tartar’. As calculus forms near the gumline, the plaque underneath releases poisons causing the gums to become irritated and inflamed. The gums begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps become infected. If gum disease is not treated promptly, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and healthy teeth can become loose and fall out. Gum disease is the biggest cause of tooth loss in adults and can lead to a need for dentures, bridges or implants.

How can plaque cause decay?

When you eat foods containing sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with teeth. After constant acid attack, the tooth enamel breaks down forming a hole or cavity.

How do I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

It is easy to get your mouth clean and healthy, and keep it that way. A simple routine of brushing and cleaning between the teeth, good eating habits and regular dental check-ups can help prevent most dental problems. Although most people brush regularly, many don’t clean between their teeth and some people don’t have dental check-ups. A few small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in the long run. Your dentist or dental hygienist can remove any build-up on your teeth and treat any gum disease that has already appeared. But daily dental care is up to you, and the main weapons are the toothbrush and interdental cleaning.

What can go wrong?

Tooth decay can be painful lead to fillings, crowns or inlays. If tooth decay is not treated, the nerve of the tooth can become infected and die, causing an abscess. This may then need root canal treatment or even extraction. Gum disease is the largest cause of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease is a preventable condition and can be treated and kept under control with regular cleaning sessions and check-ups, preventing further problems. If teeth are lost, it may be necessary to fill the gaps with bridges, dentures or implants.

Why are my teeth so important?

Your teeth vary in shape and size depending on their position within your mouth. These differences allow the teeth to do many different jobs. Teeth help us to chew and digest food. They help us to talk, and to pronounce different sounds clearly. Finally, teeth help to give our face its shape. A healthy smile can be a great asset and because this is so important, it makes sense to give your teeth the best care possible.

Once I have had periodontal disease, can I get it again?

The periodontal diseases are never cured. But it can be controlled, as long as you keep up the home care you have been taught. Any further loss of bone will be very slow and it may stop altogether. However, you must make sure you remove plaque every day, and go for regular check ups by the dentist and hygienist.

What treatments for gum disease are needed?

Your dentist will clean your teeth thoroughly to remove the scale. You’ll also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist.

What do I do if I think I have gum disease?

The first thing to do is visit your dentist for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. The dentist can measure the ‘cuff’ of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-rays may also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. This assessment is very important, so the correct treatment can be prescribed for you.

How do I know if I have gum disease?

The first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.

What happens if gum disease is not treated?

Unfortunately, gum disease progresses painlessly on the whole so that you do notice the damage it is doing. However, the bacteria are sometimes more active and this makes your gums sore. This can lead to gum abscesses, and pus may ooze from around the teeth. Over a number of years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. If the disease is left untreated for a long time, treatment can become more difficult.

How will smoking affect my gums and teeth?

Smoking can also make gum disease worse. Patients who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums fail to heal. Smoking causes people to have more dental plaque and for gum disease to progress more rapidly than in non-smokers. Gum disease still remains the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease describes swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting the teeth. There are two main forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Am I likely to suffer from gum disease?

Probably. Most people suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most people, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life.

What is the cause of gum disease?

All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing and flossing.