Surgeons' hands during a procedurePeople preparing for major surgery have a long list of steps to complete in order to decrease the risk of complication. One item on that list is the issue of dental work. Medical databases often suggest that having troublesome teeth removed before major surgery can decrease the risk of complications caused by the bacteria eating into the teeth. However, Mayo Clinic researchers posted a report in February 2014 suggesting that pulling problem teeth before major surgeries could actually raise the risk of complications.

Mayo Clinic Retroactively Studies Heart Patient Results

Mayo Clinic researchers studied the records of patients who underwent heart surgery and who also had tooth extractions before surgery between January 1, 2003 and February 28, 2013. Due to the high risk of complications before and after surgery, medical professionals often suggest having bad teeth removed before such surgeries. Doing so may reduce the risk that bacteria from the mouth will bring bacteria into the healing tissue. Of the sample studied, 14 patients (7%) had to have heart surgery delayed due to unexpected complications or findings from dental surgery.

All patients were at different stages in their disease, and tooth extractions may have made the problem worse depending on the individual’s conditions. Six of the cases studied (3%) died between their tooth extraction and the planned cardiac procedure. Six more of the patients died before being released from the hospital after their surgery. In addition to the patients who passed away, ten more patients (roughly 5%) experienced other adverse outcomes after heart surgery, including stroke, kidney failure, and bleeding.

Given that 18% of the patients experienced complications even after having preventative dental work, Mayo Clinic researchers concluded that dental work before major surgeries may not help everyone. Findings have not yet determined what caused complications or death in the cases studied may have been, leaving the question of whether or not to have dental surgery before other major surgery unclear. A patient’s advanced condition may have been adversely affected by local anesthetics used in dental procedures. Another possibility is that other unidentified health problems played a factor in the surgery results, or the patient’s condition was worse than originally believed. Future research is needed to determine whether or not dental procedures are best performed before or long after surgery, or if surgery should be postponed to address dental concerns.

Communication is Key

The effectiveness of dental work as a preventative measure against infection and other complications should be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you are preparing for any kind of major surgery, it is important to consult your physician about any dental problems you may have. They will be able to assess your risk and the possible need for dental surgery or antibiotics to prevent the spread of bacteria from your mouth.

Likewise, if you are scheduled for dental work (cleanings, surgery, extractions, or even having a cavity filled), talk to your dentist about your upcoming surgery. Your dentist and physician should communicate with one another about the condition you are having surgery for, your physical health, and the risk or benefit of dental work.

If concerns arise, it is possible that postponing one procedure until the other is complete will be suggested. Your health is important, and being willing to postpone a surgery or dental work to prevent complications of one or the other may be worth it. Postponing treatment may be uncomfortable, but necessary. Open communication between you, your dentist, and your physician is important in assessing any health risks that could require the postponing of one procedure or the other. Keeping communications open will also help in determining whether antibiotics will help your situation. Medicine is a group effort.

Keeping communications open with your dentist is a lot easier if you have a dentist you feel you can trust, that you really like, and that you feel cares about you. If you are looking for a Rockland County dentist who always listens, please call (845) 627-7645 today for an appointment at B & D Dental Excellence.