Avoiding migraines at the dentist

Have you ever met anyone who enjoyed going to the dentist? It’s not the most pleasant experience. For migraineurs, though, a trip to the dentist can be more than just uncomfortable.

As much as we’d like to just skip the whole experience, those visits are essential for our health. As migraineurs, we face unique challenges that require good dental hygiene and care. Frequent vomiting can erode tooth decay. Plus, many of our medicines can cause dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay. Some medicines even increase our risk of gum disease! Dental problems have been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, too. Because migraineurs already have an increased risk for heart problems, it just makes sense to keep those risk factors from stacking up too high.

But dental visits can also be filled with potential triggers. If the lights, sounds, and smells don’t get you, then the procedures certainly will. Because the trigeminal nerve extends into the face and jaw, all that extra pressure, vibration, scraping, poking, and drilling certainly puts stress on our most vulnerable nerve bundle. Depending on individual sensitivity, even a simple cleaning can set off an attack.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk.

  • Wear dark sunglasses, FL-41 tinted glasses, or an eye mask
  • Bring earbuds or headphones so you can listen to your favorite tunes or meditation recordings
  • Place a small pillow under your neck for support
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
  • Bring a jacket or sweater if the office is cold…or better yet, a soft blanket
  • Apply lip balm and/or OTC oral pain relief gel to your lips before you get started
  • Use a portable TENS unit on your neck and/or shoulders to help you stay relaxed
  • Apply Vicks under your nose or wear Better Breathers to mask unpleasant smells
  • Practice deep breathing, progressive relaxation, and guided meditation to help you remain calm
  • If making treatment decisions or appointments is anxiety-provoking, bring a buddy whom you can appoint to take over that task.
  • Ask for the first appointment of the day, early in the week. The staff is more likely to feel refreshed, take their time, and be more patient with your needs.

For more serious concerns, you can ask your doctor about pretreating with

  • A long-lasting NSAID or triptan (Ketoprofen, Frova, Amerge, etc.)
  • Muscle relaxer (Skelaxin, Flexeril, etc.)
  • Anxiolytic (Xanax, Klonopin, etc.)
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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