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.
Understanding and Overcoming a Dental Phobia
Living with fibromyalgia creates difficulty at the dentist for varying reasons. You may have trouble opening your mouth for long periods of time - your jaw muscles may tire quickly, which results in temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ). Also, the fibromyalgia pain in other joints can make it hard to sit comfortably in the dentist's chair for any length of time.
"Plus, because people with fibromyalgia are dealing with chronic pain, dental anxiety can be heightened for fear of making their condition worse," says Mark Schlesinger, DDS, a dentist with the Diamond-Schlesinger Group in Manhattan. Fibromyalgia symptoms may even make routine dental hygiene habits like brushing and flossing painful and unpleasant.
Despite dental fears, it's important that you see a dentist on a regular basis. The longer you go without seeing the dentist, the scarier the appointment will seem. Also, should a dental problem develop, you might become reluctant or even embarrassed to get the treatment you need.
"In addition, people with fibromyalgia often suffer from chronic head and neck muscle pain, and dental problems such as cavities or grinding the teeth can exacerbate these fibromyalgia symptoms," Dr. Schlesinger says. Another consideration, he adds, is that "fibromyalgia pain can easily be mistaken for tooth pain, so it's important that people with fibromyalgia get checked routinely to make sure it is really fibromyalgia pain they are experiencing and not an underlying dental condition that should be treated before it worsens.
Remember that regular oral screenings, including oral cancer screenings, can be life- saving for anyone, including people with fibromyalgia, Dr. Kosinski adds.
Tips to Dampen Dental Fears
The good news if you're living with fibromyalgia is that there are many techniques that can help you manage dental phobia. The first step, Schlesinger says, is to find a dentist who understands that fibromyalgia can amplify pain, even from routine dental care such as taking X-rays or a hygiene appointment, and who takes appropriate precautions.
To make your dental experience more pleasant, ask your dentist about these approaches:
- Comforts to make you feel more relaxed in the chair, such as a massage pad, a blanket, or soothing music
- Oral medication to reduce your level of anxiety
- Intravenous medications that alter consciousness
- Complete sedation
- Kosinski says that complete sedation reduces all anxiety and may be the best option in the face of a severe dental phobia. Not every dentist is trained to perform sedation, though, so he suggests carefully checking the credentials of individual dentists to choose the right one for you.
Finding the Right Dentist for You
To find a dentist who is both sensitive to and knowledgeable about the impact of fibromyalgia pain on dental care and dental visits, ask these questions:
- Do I have the option of complete sedation?
- Do you have experience treating people with fibromyalgia?
- How do you feel fibromyalgia pain impacts dentistry?
- Do you have the latest technology, such as digital X-rays and lasers, in your office?
- Do you offer medication to reduce anxiety during my treatment?
- Do you offer any other non-drug methods of relaxation that may help ease anxiety, such as listening to soothing music?
- Are you trained, experienced, and comfortable dealing with temporomandibular disorders (TMJ), since this condition is common with fibromyalgia?
The more you discuss your concerns with the dentist before treatment, the more smoothly that treatment is likely to go.
Dealing With Fibromyalgia Pain After a Dental Treatment
A trip to the dentist can be stressful, both physically and emotionally, and may trigger a body-wide fibromyalgia flare separate from any discomfort caused by the dental procedure itself. A dentist experienced in treating people living with fibromyalgia will recognize that your pain management techniques may be more challenging than for other patients. Ask about techniques that may help control increased pain, dental or otherwise, after treatment as well. Deep-breathing or relaxation techniques may help control anxiety and prevent a post-dentist fibromyalgia flare.
Take comfort in the fact that fibromyalgia does not have to get in the way of good dental health. "The mouth is the gateway to a healthy lifestyle, and prevention is the best approach to dental care," Kosinski says. "The best way for all people - including people with fibromyalgia - to preserve their smiles is to have frequent oral hygiene visits and thorough oral examinations." - shared from Every Day Health