12 Tips for Avoiding Migraine at the Dentist

Tammy Rome | Nov 10, 2017

Reviewed by David Watson, MD

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Avoiding migraine at the dentist

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The dentist’s office is full of potential migraine triggers. As tempting as it may be to skip that appointment, you can’t afford to ignore your oral health. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize your risk of triggering a migraine while sitting in the dentist’s chair.

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Understand your unique needs

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People with migraine have unique dental needs. If you’re prone to vomiting, that can erode tooth enamel. Some common migraine medicines cause dry mouth and gum swelling, making routine exams, cleanings, or needed procedures especially important.

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Prevent attacks before your visit

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If you’re already having migraine symptoms before you sit in that chair, don’t delay treatment. Take your prescribed abortives and grab your ice pack before the attack has a chance to take control.

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Banish bright lights

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Protect your eyes from the glaring lights by wearing dark sunglasses, FL-41 tinted glasses, or an eye mask.

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Block loud noises

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Ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones are a must to drown out the noise of dental equipment.

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Subdue strong smells

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Try dabbing a bit of diluted peppermint essential oil or menthol rub under your nose to mask common smells during procedures.

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Stay warm

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Dental offices can get cold. A jacket or lightweight blanket can keep you warm.

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Keep yourself comfortable

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Choose comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and place a small pillow under your neck for extra support.

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Even, relaxed breathing induces a calm mental state. Practice breathing through your nose. If you’re concerned about sinus congestion, talk to your dentist or doctor about using decongestants to make breathing easier.

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Distract yourself

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If you can tolerate pleasant noise, listen to guided meditations to relax both mind and body. Practice doing quick body scans, systematically letting go of tension in each muscle group. Listening to your favorite tunes or an audiobook can also keep your mind (and ears) occupied and block out noise from the dentist’s drill.

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Be smart about scheduling

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Request an appointment early in the day at the beginning of the week. The staff is more likely to feel refreshed, take their time, and be more patient with your needs.

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Seek support

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Bring a buddy along for moral support. Delegate the tasks of scheduling future appointments and paying the bill to your support person. If that person is your spouse or significant other, he or she may also be your advocate when it comes to making treatment decisions or following the dentist’s after-care instructions.

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Ask about medications

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If you are concerned that these measures might not be enough, it may be helpful to pre-treat with an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), muscle relaxer, or NSAID. Discuss medication options with your doctor or dentist to find the treatment that’s right for you.

  • © Tammy Rome, LPC, 2017.*
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