Patients on Blood Thinners Require Precautions Before and During Oral Surgery
The proliferation of drugs to treat all manner of diseases and conditions has heightened concerns not only about general side effects, but also how a particular drug may affect treatments for other conditions. There are indications, for example, that drugs classified as blood thinners could cause complications for patients undergoing oral surgery.
Blood thinners like Warfarin are typically prescribed to patients with artificial heart valves or who are at significant risk for stroke, heart attack, or the formation of clots that could potentially damage the heart and lungs. The drug reduces the coagulation (clotting) mechanism in blood; aspirin taken regularly should also be considered a blood thinner.
As with any invasive procedure, blood thinners can complicate oral surgery. Blood doesn’t clot normally and so bleeding during a procedure is more difficult to stop. This doesn’t necessarily mean the surgery can’t be performed. For one thing, many oral procedures like tooth removal involve little trauma to tissues and bleeding in the hands of a careful and experienced surgeon. The surgeon can also use hemostatic agents during surgery that will stabilize blood clotting, as well as suturing the incision in such a way as to reduce bleeding from surface capillaries. In the case of a tooth extraction, a bone graft placed within the empty socket not only reduces bone loss from a missing tooth, but can also enhance bleeding control.
In consultation with your medical doctor, it’s also possible to temporarily stop or reduce your medication dosage in anticipation of a pending oral surgery. While it may not be safe to stop the drug altogether, a reduced dosage can ease the anti-coagulant effect and reduce any complications from bleeding that might occur during the surgery. You can then resume normal dosage soon after the procedure.
During your pre-op examination, it’s important to let your surgeon know about any drugs you are currently taking, including over-the-counter drugs like aspirin. The oral surgeon will then be able to take the necessary steps, including working with your medical doctor, to ensure your surgical procedure is safe and uneventful.
If you would like more information on oral surgery precautions while taking blood thinners and other medication, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Surgery & Blood Thinners.”