Dental Patients and Medical History: The Eternal Struggle!

Do you ask for your patients’ medical history – and do your patients provide it you?


“Why do I have to fill this form? Why are there so many questions? All I need for you is to check this tooth of mine. Some cleaning, maybe?”

Sounds familiar?

One of the many challenges in our field of dentistry, apart from eliminating the stigma of fear from patients, is to obtain an accurate medical history in a dental office.

Why do we feel this happens? Is it because our patients think we are being intrusive? Or simply loitering? Or perhaps they believe that this information just doesn’t apply to their dental appointment.
To bring things into perspective, MEDICAL HISTORY is an integral component of the assessment of a patient’s degree of wellbeing and is an essential tool in providing absolute dental care.  It is imperative to dental clinicians to investigate thoroughly before proceeding with their treatment plans. In doing so, it gives the dentists a clear picture, enabling them to formulate individualized treatment plans and modifications; and also helps in preventing medical emergencies.


Medical history includes a number of systemic diseases that have an affinity to impact patient’s dental health and contrariwise.
In most cases, medical history collection appears to be challenging on numerous grounds… first and foremost, due to patient’s lack of understanding towards the relevance of their medical history to their dental treatment. Several studies show certain factors on patient’s behalf, such as limited literacy skills, lack of awareness and trust, impatient behavior, embarrassment, memory loss or just mere faux pas; these all lead towards an improper medical history record.

From a dental practitioner’s view, let’s bring order to this process of questioning;
• First step: Explain the correlation of general health with oral health. Dentists must discuss the pertinence of patient’s medical histories to dental treatments.
• Second step: Use simpler terms & perform thorough questioning in a private environment to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality.
• Third step: Educate patients throughout their dental journey. This way the patient views the dentist as an efficient & committed clinician.


During the busy days, it may seem enticing to shun our complete protocol and be less entrusting towards this aspect of history taking, but in doing so, medical emergencies and/or post-operative complications may occur.

This entire process not only encourages our fellow dentists to give utmost dedication towards this aspect of treatment initiation, but also educates our community of patients to understand the importance of sharing authentic medical records. At the end of the day, it is them, our patients who will enjoy the fruits of benefit, own beautiful smiles and lead overall healthy lives.

December 14, 2017

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