Family Dentistry of Ocean City
Robert W. Yaskin, D.M.D. LLC
421 15th Street
Ocean City, NJ 08226
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Aspirin has been a popular pain reliever and fever reducer for over a century. Its effect on the clotting mechanism of blood, however, has led to its widespread and often daily use in low dose form (81 mg) to help reduce the chances of heart attack or stroke in cardiovascular patients. While this has proven effective for many at risk for these conditions, it can complicate dental work.
Aspirin relieves pain by blocking the formation of prostaglandins; these chemicals stimulate inflammation, the body’s protective response to trauma or disease. Aspirin reduces this inflammatory response, which in turn eases the pain and reduces fever. It also causes blood platelets to stop them from clumping together. This inhibits clotting, which for healthy individuals could result in abnormal bleeding but is beneficial to those at risk for heart attack or stroke by keeping blood moving freely through narrowed or damaged blood vessels.
Even for individuals who benefit from regular aspirin therapy there are still risks for unwanted bleeding. Besides the danger it may pose during serious trauma or bleeding in the brain that could lead to a stroke, it can also complicate invasive medical procedures, including many in dentistry. For example, aspirin therapy could increase the rate and degree of bleeding during tooth extraction, root canal or other procedures that break the surface of soft tissue.
Bleeding gums after brushing is most often a sign of periodontal (gum) disease. But if you’re on an aspirin regimen, gum bleeding could be a side effect. A thorough dental examination will be necessary to determine whether your medication or gum disease is the root cause.
It’s important, then, to let us know if you’re regularly taking aspirin, including how often and at what dosage. This will help us make more accurate diagnoses of conditions in your mouth, and will enable us to take extra precautions for bleeding during any dental procedures you may undergo.
If you would like more information on the effects of aspirin and similar medications on dental treatment, 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 “Aspirin: Friend or Foe?”
We tend to think of aspirin as a harmless medication. It is dispensed over the counter and is the most widely used OTC medication in the U.S. We take it without thinking we may be exposing ourselves to risks. But in certain situations aspirin can cause dangerous side effects.
What is aspirin, and how does it work?
The chemical name for aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. It is used to reduce mild pain, inflammation and fever. When you take an aspirin, it blocks the formation of prostaglandins, substances your body creates that are associated with inflammation. Prostaglandins cause inflamed tissues to become red and swollen, but they also serve protective purposes, such as forming a barrier that protects the stomach from the acid it produces to digest your food. That's why long-term aspirin use can sometimes cause stomach bleeding and ulceration or other health problems.
Why do cardiac patients take aspirin?
Another effect of aspirin is to prevent blood platelets from clumping together. Blood platelets are structures in the blood, smaller than white or red blood cells, that aid clotting by sticking together at the site of an injury. This effect of aspirin can cause prolonged bleeding, but it may be beneficial to people who have cardiovascular (from cardio, meaning heart; and vascular, meaning vessel) disease with narrowed blood vessels.
Aspirin can keep blood flowing in the obstructed vessels and thus prevent heart attacks and strokes; but it can also increase the risk for strokes that are caused by bleeding in the brain. Most physicians attempt to lower such risks by asking their patients to keep their daily aspirin consumption to a low dose 81 mg “baby” aspirin.
How does aspirin affect your teeth and gums?
Be sure to let your medical and dental professionals know you are taking aspirin, and how much you take. Also tell us about other OTC medications you take, including herbal medications and supplements, because they may interact with aspirin to cause side effects.
If you have been told to take aspirin because of a cardiac condition or procedure, be sure to follow your recommended treatment. Do not suddenly discontinue aspirin therapy; doing so can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Ask us if you should stop taking aspirin before a major dental or oral surgery, but do not stop taking it on your own. We will consult with your physician about your medical condition and let you know our recommendation. In most cases you can continue your aspirin therapy without causing excessive bleeding during the dental procedure.