People who are taking blood thinners should not stop taking them before dental surgery, says a review of published research that appears in the journal Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology.
Blood thinners, or anticoagulant drugs, help to prevent blood clots. These clots can lead to a stroke or heart attack. If patients take the drugs, blood will not clot as easily, and this could result in excessive blood loss during surgery. On the other hand, stopping the drugs could put a person at risk for a blood clot.
The study reviewed research that included about 8,000 people taking blood thinners. All of them had dental surgery. About 5,500 did not stop taking the blood thinner. The other 2,500 either reduced the dose or stopped taking the drug in the days before surgery.
In the first group, researchers looked at uncontrolled bleeding events. More than 99% of the first group had no excess bleeding. Only 0.6% needed more than the usual efforts that dentists use to stop bleeding. None of the patients died.
In the group that stopped the blood thinners, about 99% had no problems. But 0.8% had blood clot problems, and five patients (0.2% of the people in the study) died.
The researchers note that while problems were rare in both groups, there were deaths in the group that stopped taking blood thinners. They recommend that people on blood thinners continue to take them before dental surgery.
The American Dental Association (ADA) agrees with this position. The ADA notes that people who stop taking their blood thinners are at increased risk for a clot. This could lead to a stroke or heart attack.