How to Review Patients Medical Histories

doctors stethoscope

No dentist would like to entertain the idea of a medical emergency. For this reason, dental practices are advised to obtain thorough medical histories from their patients. This will involve careful interviews and effective communication with patients. Emergencies are often unexpected and not at all deliberate, but these scenarios can be predicted by assessing the information provided by the patient. This article will discuss the different red flags that are often uncovered by going over patients’ medical histories.

Active Tuberculosis – A person with active TB diseases should stay away from elective oral health care. For this reason, patients should be asked regarding the following: active TB, persistent coughing lasting more than three weeks, blood upon coughing and exposure to anyone who is known to have TB. Any positive response will disqualify the patient for any elective oral treatment. To really ensure that the person does not have TB, follow-up questions should be provided including those pertaining to unexplained weight loss and waking up in the night from sweating to help the dentist assess the possibility of the patient having TB or not.

Stress – According to studies, patients who have experienced something stressful or scary while in the dentist’s chair are more likely to be in an emergency situation than those who did not. For this reason, it pays to ask patients if they have had problems with their previous dental treatments and have them explain their experience. People who say “yes” to this are at risk for fainting and hyperventilation—two stress-related medical emergencies that most commonly occur. A dentist can easily reduce the level of stress that a patient is experiencing by gaining the trust of the client and helping him or her to relax. Talking about personal interests can serve as a positive distraction for the patient.

Allergic Reactions – Because oral health care involves the use of different substances, dentists need to be very particular about identifying patient allergies. Allergic reactions can develop within different spans of time with those progressing rapidly often life-threatening. Skin rashes, hives, erythema and stomatitis are the usual signs, with cardiovascular collapse and asphyxiation being the more life-threatening ones. Patients should be asked regarding allergic reactions to specific local anesthetics and other medications, metals, rubber, iodine, animals and food. Patients who are known to suffer from Hay Fever should also be identified since these are the ones who are more prone to developing allergic reactions.

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