Jan 2014

Asthma and Oral Health
Approximately 20 million Americans have asthma. Today, dentists see more asthmatic patients taking medication, which can lead to increased cavities, bad breath and gum problems. In addition, many of those patients forget to bring their inhalers to dental visits, causing more in-office asthma attacks, reports the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
The adverse effects on oral health
Asthmatic adults and children have a tendency to be mouth breathers, which when combined with asthma medications, such as corticosteroids, causes a decreased saliva flow. This condition is known as “dry mouth,” and it can lead to an increase in bad breath and cavities. Saliva has a cleansing effect in the mouth, and when its presence is reduced, asthma patients have a higher risk for cavities and bad breath. In those who aren’t vigilant about brushing and flossing, gums can become inflamed, oftentimes leading to gum disease.
Also, asthma inhalers may irritate the back roof of the mouth, causing a reddish lesion. If ignored, this area can become infected. This infection can spread and affect the throat and rest of the mouth, according to a study that appears in AGD’s General Dentistry.
Asthma and anxiety
Patients who have a history of asthma and experience dental anxiety need to tell their dentist about their disease. Doing so can help prevent an asthmatic attack during dental procedures.
Studies prove that the most important factor in overcoming dental anxiety is good dentist-patient communication. If you are nervous about an upcoming dental visit, here are some additional ways to curb your anxiety:
•Focus on breathing regularly and slowly during dental procedures. When you are nervous you tend to hold your breath, which decreases oxygen levels and further increases feelings of panic.
•Avoid caffeine before a dental appointment.
•Eat high-protein foods which – unlike sugary foods – produce a calming effect.
•Try to choose a time for your dental visit when you’re less likely to be rushed or under pressure. For some people, that means a Saturday or an early-morning appointment.
Always remember to bring your inhaler to your dental appointment in case you have an asthma attack.
Tips for asthmatic patients
There are several steps you can take to keep your asthma in check and promote oral health:
•Let your dentist know that you have asthma.
•Explain if your asthma is controlled.
•Inform your dentist of all asthma medications (and other medications, if any).
•After using your inhaler, rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride mouthwash.
•Be vigilant about brushing and flossing.
“Wheezy? Brush up and bring your inhaler”. Academy of General Dentistry.
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