Making Dental Care with Asthma Suck Less.

Making Dental Care with Asthma Suck Less

Last updated: May 2018

I recently found myself at the dentist three times in as many weeks. First was the cleaning that was at least a year overdue, then was a filling in a wisdom tooth for a cavity my dentist said I couldn’t prevent, then came two wisdom teeth extractions for, again, cavities I couldn’t have prevented. Although I don’t enjoy having dental work done (nor paying out-of-pocket for it), my dentist is a nice guy and does his best to make it easier on me.

The struggle of the dentist

I’m not afraid of the dentist or dental work but it does cause me some anxiety for a few reasons.

  1. I have a really small mouth. We’re talking seeing-the-orthodontist-from-age-6-to-14 to make room for adult teeth (and having 4 adult molars pulled when I was 10) small, and small enough that the dentist comments on how small it is. This obviously makes dental stuff harder.
  2. I am super gaggy. I have a ridiculously sensitive gag reflex. Again, bad enough that my dentist hears my name and without seeing me goes “Oh, she’s a gagger.” (This is what happens when you see the same dentist your whole twenty-six-year life). Such advents such as fluoride mouthwash versus those terrible trays, and the panoramic x-ray that spins around your head while you bite on plastic covered plastic rather than cardboard and the regular camera have been game changers for me—the x-ray costs more but I am happy to pay to lessen that stress.
    The asthma cough seems to make my gag reflex worse, so I’ve learned to schedule afternoon appointments which is usually when my cough is less bad.
  3. The asthma/sinus problem. It turns out I rescheduled my cleaning twice, once because of a cold, and once because my sinuses got really bad after I came back from Zurich. (The “felt like I was suffocating while using mouthwash” kind of bad.) Asthma and sinus issues do complicate the dentist, especially I think, if you are a cougher. Because it is not good to cough when people have implements, for lack of a better term, in your mouth.

Making the dentist visit a bit easier

Over the last couple years I’ve found some ways to make my dental visits easier to deal with.

Going later in the day. As I said, since learning my gag reflex (and asthma cough) is worse in the morning, I go against my own best advice for most appointment types and book in the afternoon. The dentist is usually very punctual so this proves a good choice and makes things easier on me.

Finding a dentist who gets you. My dentist is patient with me when my gag-reflex freaks out and means he has to pause. He figures out ways to get the job done—when I was freaking out for various reasons after they’d put a dental dam on two years ago, he told them to take it off and he’d figure it out—he gave me time to calm down, asked if I wanted to reschedule (after I was frozen haha, nope!), and then eventually did the work with me upright and a pinky hooked into my cheek to keep my mouth open.

My most recent filling, he gave me the “stronger” anesthetic, said “You’re a gagger, we want to make sure you’re good and completely frozen,” chatted with me and the assistant for 5 minutes about hockey before getting to work, and it was totally fine.

Find new care strategies. Are there new ways to do procedures that may work better in certain circumstances? Like I said, the panoramic x-ray and fluoride rinse (mouthwash) were game-changers for me (and the ability to avoid the dental dam).

Pre-medicating. This may be an unusual move but for my last two appointments, I took an antihistamine with a decongestant in the morning as well as extra nasal sprays. As I cough randomly throughout the day, I tried to stave off any coughing by taking some Ventolin a half hour or so before the appointment.
So far, this strategy has served me pretty well. Your doctor or dentist may have advice about this.

Final thoughts on dental care with asthma

I am not in any way looking forward to my wisdom teeth extraction coming up the day of writing this, but I’m a bit less anxious about the actual process of getting those rotten teeth out because of the strategies I’ve developed—though, I’m still antsy about the aftermath and after-care of having two fewer teeth in my mouth.

As well… Lesson learned: Since I went nearly two years between dental cleanings, it cost more and took longer (though the cavities and wisdom teeth likely would’ve been dealt with the same way). I have a 9-month recall scheduled now for October!

What tips do you have that have made navigating dental care with asthma easier?

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