ADA sets the record straight

On air comments made earlier in the week by Wendy Harmer, host of Mornings on ABC Radio—that dentists do not need to be aware of a patient’s full medical history—are irresponsible according to president of the Australian Dental Association Dr Hugo Sachs

“Dentists are registered health practitioners who are performing surgical procedures and prescribing drugs for patients. To question why they need to know a patient’s medical history is overstepping her role as a radio host,” he said.

Most dental treatment is uneventful; however, some health conditions can influence the way dental treatment is provided, and the ADA wants patients to understand that withholding information about relevant medical conditions may put both their dental and general health at risk.

“Advising the public that they don’t need to declare relevant medical history to a dentist could place a patient in danger and Ms Harmer needs to be careful that she is not giving health advice. As far as I am aware, she does not hold a health qualification,” Dr Sachs said.

“I can provide many examples of where dentists need to be aware of a patient’s medical history. Conditions such as diabetes can affect a patient’s ability to heal or fight infections. Those with artificial heart valves and those with compromised immune systems may need antibiotic cover before their procedures. Patients suffering from a mental illness are often taking medication that causes dry mouth, a condition that can increase the risk of tooth decay. The list goes on.”

It is a requirement of a dentist’s registration that they must comply with the standards set by the Dental Board of Australia. The Board has guidelines in relation to record keeping and these include specific reference to obtaining a patient’s full medical history.

Dr Sachs concluded: “Radio stations are good for music and the news but the public should get their medical advice from educated and registered health professionals.”

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3 Comments

  1. Dental patients need to disclose their medical conditions, current medications, and allergies for their own protection and safety. It is ludicrous to think that a dental appointment is no more than having a hairdresser appointment.

  2. Yes some conditions appear relevant. But as a patient, I am perplexed by the variation between dentists regarding the type of medical data sought. Few ask about thyroid disorders (according to studies; worsened by fluoride/BPA). Some dentists only use adrenaline anaesthetic; which can’t be good for heart conditions, PTSD, or anxiety. What about powdered gloves and lung disorders? i.e is there CPD training on ‘tailoring dental materials to medical data’? Dentists are not doctors, but how do they stay up to date with relevant new medicines? Are dental receptionists trained in medical data privacy laws? There should also be informed consent and full disclosure of the health risks of dental treatment (e.g. HEMA allergy, BPA).

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