Fibromyalgia: Coping With a Dental Phobia

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Dental phobia

Few get an exhilarating rush when seeing the words “dentist appointment” on the calendar. But when you have fibromyalgia, these visits can be more than just annoyances they can be downright frightening, painful experiences that can cause you to shirk this important health check. “As a dentist, I find fibromyalgia often neglect their dental condition because of other concerns in their body,” says Timothy Kosinski, DDS, an adjunct assistant professor at the University Of Detroit Mercy School Of Dentistry and a dentist in Bingham Farms, Mich.

Fibromyalgia pain often occurs in the face, head, and neck areas, which can make dental visits intimidating. But because dental issues are common in people with fibromyalgia, regular trips to the dentist are necessary.

Pain & Anxiety Relief

It’s pretty rare to have a dental appointment involve no discomfort, especially when you’re hypersensitive to pain. At the very least, you’ll have your mouth open for a long time. You might also face a sharp object poking your gums, scraping, drilling, tugging, and lots of vibration. If the sound of that bothers you, you may want to consider what medications you could take before the appointment to help you get through the experience.

Consider not only pain, but also anxiety that could be triggered by trepidation about the appointment as well as the grinding and vibrating sensations in your mouth. Talk to your doctor and/or dentist about the best medications to take, as some pain killers (such as aspirin) can raise your risk of excessive bleeding.

Make sure your dentist and his support staff are fully aware of anything you’ve taken before the work begins. After some procedures, the dentist will tell you not to eat or drink anything for a period of time, so you could be really grateful that the drugs are already in your system.

 Find a dentist that is familiar with fibromyalgia

The very first action item is to find a dentist that is familiar with fibromyalgia. This is important for both during and after the procedure. An informed dentist is very likely willing to work with you by offering mouth inserts that allow you to rest your jaw, offering nitrous oxide (usually an extra $50 or so) at the beginning to ease your anxiety, work as slowly and gently as possible, and so forth. Frankly, if your dentist isn’t willing to work with you in these ways fire them and move on.

 

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Of course, there is always the option of full sedation dentistry, sometimes called “sleep dentistry.” The “after” is just as important because having a poor understanding of fibromyalgia or being completely ignorant to it could lead a dentist to prescribe insufficient pain relievers after a procedure.

Arrange for a Ride

Our symptoms can hit hard and fast. When you have a dentist appointment, or any medical appointment that could trigger symptoms, it’s a good idea to have someone drive you there and back home again, or have arrangements made for someone to come get you if necessary. If you’re leaving work for the appointment, consider taking the rest of the day off if at all possible. Late-in-the-day appointments may work best for you.

Sensitivity to touch

The fear of going to the dentist with fibromyalgia is mostly founded in the sensitivity to being touched. Simple touching can cause pain in overly sensitive fibromyalgia nerves. This symptom may cause a lack routine dental hygiene, such as flossing and brushing, to be avoided because of the pain it causes.

This would make those with FMS more in need of regular dental visits than most. To ease the pain before going to the dentist, prepare for this in advance with anti-inflammatory, just check with the dentist about which ones to use. Some medications, such as aspirin, can cause increased bleeding– something you definitely do not want when you are having dental work.

Don’t give up the Dentist

It is important if you have fibromyalgia to not give up on going to the dentist for regular visits. Ask your friends about their dentists. Find a dentist who is not only knowledgeable on fibromyalgia and its impact on the widespread pain. You also want to make sure he is sensitive to your specific needs, whether it’s severe anxiety, TMJ, more than average numbing, or low tolerance to pain all part of fibromyalgia.

Use relaxation techniques

Dentists sensitive to the fact that a visit is worse for fibromyalgia patients can use relaxation techniques in their office, such as more comfortable chairs and soothing music. You might also want to consider complete sedation or at least a medication which will alter consciousness so you don’t feel much while you are there. It is possible to make a trip to the dentist easier even if you have fibromyalgia.

Make your dentist aware of your medical issues and any problems you’ve previously had 

When you’re talking to dental assistants or hygienists before an appointment, make them aware of your medical issues and any problems you’ve previously had or that you’re worried about. They may be able to offer suggestions to make things more comfortable to you.

Bite block

Keeping your mouth open wide for a long time takes work. It can lead to jaw pain, especially in those of us with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, which are common in fibromyalgia. It can also drain away your energy. Most offices keep something called a “bite block” in stock, but it’s not something they’re in the habit of using so you’ll probably need to ask for it.

They slip it in between your back teeth and it props your mouth open, so you can relax your jaw muscles and ease the strain. You may also want to ask for a break every so often for you to take some deep breaths and calm your nerves.

During procedures, try to focus on keeping your breathing deep and regular and on relaxing yourself physically and mentally. If you meditate or work on general relaxation skills, you may be very grateful for them when you’re in the dentist’s chair!

 

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Also Read:

Fibromyalgia and Dental Issues

Reference: Fibromyalgia: Coping with a dentalphobia By Elizabeth Shimer Bowers via Everyday Health

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