Dental Appointments With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What You Need to Know

Really, who likes getting dental work done?  If healthy, normal people run screaming at the thought of a root canal, what are those of us with fibromyalgia -- who are especially pain sensitive -- to do?  People with chronic fatigue syndrome may or may not have the same pain issues, and they can have other dentist-related problems as well.

As I write this, I'm sitting here numb from my upper lip to my eyebrow, knowing that when it wears off, I'm going to hurt and hurt bad.

  It took 3 shots to fully numb my over-excitable nerves so I could have a root canal.  My remission is holding steady enough that I don't expect the aftermath to be too horrible, but my ordeal today brought back memories of a few years ago, so I thought it was a good time to talk about the special problems we can face when it comes to the dentist. I've identified five:

  1. Getting us numb. We feel things more than most people, and if you're like me you might need extra medication to get fully numb.  On more than one occasion, I've thought I was numb only to discover -- once the drill started going -- that I could in fact still feel plenty!  The flip side of this coin is that we also tend to be sensitive to medication.  The key is to communicate with your dentist, start with the smallest possible dosage (unless you know you're OK with it), and work up gradually until it's effective.
  2. Vibrations. The vibration of the drill isn't something we can keep from feeling, and it can get your nerves really worked into a frenzy and cause severe pain for many of us.  Even today, it caused cold waves of nerve sensation all through my body.  You might want to be prepared to take pain medicine immediately after your appointment and arrange for a ride home in case it's not safe for you to drive.  I try to breath deeply and meditate to keep my brain and body calm during drilling and grinding.
  1. Jaw pain. Something I DO expect to be a big problem for the next few days is my TMJ.  My mouth was open wide for a good half hour or more, and my jaw started hurting after just a few minutes.  It feels really stiff right now (at least, on the side I can feel), and I know I'll need to do some extra icing and stretching over the next few days to get it quieted down.  I'm kicking myself for not taking anti-inflammatories before my appointment to keep it from getting this bad -- I should know better by now.  (Make sure to talk to your dentist about anything you might want to take before an appointment to ensure that it's safe!)
  1. Anxiety. If you are anxious about a dental appointment, you may want to talk to your doctor and dentist about medications or supplements that can ease your anxiety.  My favorite calming supplement is theanine, which is found naturally in tea.  When I catch myself stressing about something, I generally take a little extra or sip on tea.  I've also successfully used DHEA, but it comes with a lot more risks and possible side effects.
  2. After-effects.  It's common for us to feel worse after getting dental work, or any medical procedure for that matter.  Your body might have a delayed or prolonged reaction to the medication, and you might also have post-exertional malaise.  Whenever possible, plan extra down time for yourself after you have something like this done, and take good care of yourself before and after the procedure to help your body recover.

The numbness is wearing off now -- yeah, ow!

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Photo © Adam Gault/Getty Images

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