Many adults today are prescribed medication to counteract our circulatory systems ability to form blood clots. Most people who are taking one of these medications on a long-term basis, do so to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because of progressing atherosclerosis or irregular heartbeats. “Blood thinners,” as they are often called, have been very successful in helping people with heart disease or atherosclerosis lead active lives.
One of the most common blood thinners is Aspirin. Even though it is available “over the counter,” it should not be used for this purpose without first consulting your physician. Other medications that are designed to keep the blood moving and prevent clots from forming, such as Coumadin or more recently Xarelto, are available only with a prescription.
I am often asked by patients taking blood thinners whether they should stop taking them before periodontal treatment. This question arises if the treatment is for something as simple as a regular cleaning or a surgical procedure such as an extraction or implant placement or periodontal surgery.
You are taking these medications for important reasons. Depending on the condition of your circulatory system and heart, stopping them could have serious consequences. You should keep taking them! We will manage the possible increased bleeding tendency with gentle surgical care and, if necessary, a little extra time to make sure everything is stable. Certainly, you should “take it easy” for the first 24 hours after a surgical procedure.
As far as a regular cleaning is concerned, the primary reason for bleeding gums is still improper or inadequate oral hygiene and lack of timely professional cleaning. Your blood thinner has little, if any, effect on this, so keep brushing and flossing. And remember, never stop home care if you see some blood. Just don’t hurt yourself – hard home care is not good home care. It’s about slowly and carefully, with proper technique and spending enough time to do an effective job. Together, we will keep your gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime!