Going to the Dentist With Fibromyalgia and CFS

Having dental work done can be painful for anyone. When you have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome — which may involve inflammation, pain amplification, and anxiety — it can turn into a major ordeal that can cause lingering symptoms or even a flare-up. However, a few simple measures coupled with good communication can save you a lot of problems.

Dentist showing brochure to patient
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Arrange for a Ride

Our symptoms can hit hard and fast. When you have a dentist appointment or any medical appointment that could trigger symptoms, it's a good idea to have someone drive you there and back home again, or have arrangements made for someone to come get you if necessary.

If you're leaving work for the appointment, consider taking the rest of the day off if at all possible. Late-in-the-day appointments may work best for you.

Pain and Anxiety Relief

It's pretty rare to have a dental appointment involve no discomfort, especially when you're hypersensitive to pain. At the very least, you'll have your mouth open for a long time. You might also face a sharp object poking your gums, scraping, drilling, tugging, and lots of vibration.

If the sound of that bothers you, you may want to consider what medications you could take before the appointment to help you get through the experience. Consider not only pain but also anxiety that could be triggered by trepidation about the appointment as well as the grinding and vibrating sensations in your mouth.

Talk to your healthcare provider and/or dentist about the best medications to take, as some pain killers (such as aspirin) can raise your risk of excessive bleeding. Make sure your dentist and his support staff are fully aware of anything you've taken before the work begins.

After some procedures, the dentist will tell you not to eat or drink anything for a period of time, so you could be really grateful that the drugs are already in your system.

The need for pain medication is another reason for pre-arranging a ride home.

Other Preparations

When you brush your teeth before the appointment, be gentle. You don't want your gums aggravated and bleeding before you've even left the house.

Be sure to wear comfortable clothing to your appointment so you're not feeling the pain of a tight waistband or uncomfortable shoes. Make sure you have some soft foods at home that you'll be able to eat even if your mouth is really hurting.

Try to give yourself plenty of time to get there so you're not half-panicking about the time before you even get there.

At the Appointment

When you're talking to dental assistants or hygienists before an appointment, make them aware of your medical issues and any problems you've previously had or that you're worried about. They may be able to offer suggestions to make things more comfortable for you.

Keeping your mouth open wide for a long time takes work. It can lead to jaw pain, especially in those of us with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems, which are common in fibromyalgia. It can also drain away from your energy.

Most offices keep something called a "bite block" in stock, but it's not something they're in the habit of using so you'll probably need to ask for it. They slip it in between your back teeth and it props your mouth open, so you can relax your jaw muscles and ease the strain.

You may also want to ask for a break every so often for you to take some deep breaths and calm your nerves.

During procedures, try to focus on keeping your breathing deep and regular and on relaxing yourself physically and mentally. If you meditate or work on general relaxation skills, you may be very grateful for them when you're in the dentist's chair.

After the Appointment

The ideal situation is leaving the appointment and immediately going home to take care of yourself. It can help to plan for some time to rest quietly, with ice or heat on your jaw if needed.

If possible, have someone available to help you out for the rest of the day so you can recover. Make sure that person knows what medications you've taken and when you can have another dose so you don't over-medicate.

If you have lingering problems, make notes for yourself so you'll remember the next time. That way, you can make the proper plans and talk to the assistant or hygienist about possible solutions.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School. A major change for daily aspirin therapy.

  2. Gui MS, Pimentel MJ, Rizzatti-Barbosa CM. Temporomandibular disorders in fibromyalgia syndrome: a short-communicationRevista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition). 2015;55(2):189-194. doi:10.1016/j.rbre.2014.07.004

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.