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Special Considerations for Patients with Pacemakers and Defibrillators

Categories: Dental Hygiene Visits
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Published on: April 20, 2012

You provided Dr. Seal with a complete medical history at your first visit, but it is vital to update him regularly on the state of your health. As your oral health affects your overall well-being, he must know about every new development in order to provide you with the best dental care. For instance, you may not think that an irregular heartbeat is something you need to report at a routine oral hygiene appointment, but if you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, a simple cleaning of your teeth and gums can interfere with the functioning of your cardiac device.

What is a pacemaker or defibrillator?

If your heart beats at an irregular rate, your cardiologist may treat the condition with a pacemaker, which is a small device implanted into the chest to help regulate the heartbeat. If you are also at risk of cardiac arrest, your physician may recommend an implantable defibrillator instead. This device contains a pacemaker but can also shock your heart if a life-threatening disturbance occurs in your heart rhythm. Both of these devices use electrical impulses to stimulate the heart.

What is an ultrasonic scaler?

Ultrasonic dental cleaners and scalers use high-frequency sound waves to gently clean teeth with vibration. Ultrasonic scalers can help clean plaque and surface stains from the tooth crown, but they also work below the gum line to break up dental calculus and remove the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. This device delivers a steady stream of water while vibrating, both to cool the tip of the scaler and clean away debris. Used in conjunction with scaling by hand, ultrasonic scalers can help prevent or reverse the symptoms of gum disease.

How can an ultrasonic device affect my pacemaker or defibrillator?

While ultrasonic scalers are harmless for most patients, their frequency has been shown to cause an electromagnetic interference with some pacemakers and defibrillators.  Often something very simple, like the use of a special magnet, will eliminate the symptoms. If you depend on a pacemaker or defibrillator to regulate your heart rhythm, it is imperative that you tell Dr. Seal so that he and his staff can determine the best use of instruments that will not interfere with your cardiac device.

If you have questions about ultrasonic devices and cardiac implants, contact Dallas prosthodontist Dr. Greg Seal today at (214) 361-0883. With over 25 years’ experience as a North Dallas prosthodontist and cosmetic dentist, Dr. Seal serves residents in the Katy Trail and SMU areas, as well as Highland Park, University Park, and the neighboring communities.