Asthma and What it Means for Oral Health
Asthma affects around 1 of 10 children, and those numbers seem to be climbing in recent years. Patients with asthma taking medications have an increased risk of cavities, bad breath, and gum problems since they tend to be mouth breathers. Medications such as corticosteroids can reduce saliva flow, causing a dry mouth which further causes the bad breath. Since saliva has a cleansing effect in the mouth, ashtmatic children can then be more susceptible to cavities. If thorough and consistent care isn’t taken, this could then lead to gum disease. With this, it is important to remain under routine dental care and regular visits if your child has asthma and requires medication. Dental care does stay relatively the same, depending on the severity of your child’s condition and their triggers for asthmatic attacks. Asthma is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, based partially on the regularity and intensity of symptoms during daytime, exercise resistance, and symptoms during night-time.The goal in managing a patient with asthma is to prevent an acute asthmatic episode during the routine cleanings or other dental procedures such as fillings. When you visit the dentist, be sure to let the hygienists and the dentist know about current medications, changes in the doses or frequency, and your child’s triggers for attacks.
We know that dental visits should start at the first eruption of a baby tooth. Cultivating a positive relationship with your child’s dentist is not only vital for every child, but especially those with asthma since anxiety of others is a common cause for asthma episodes. Studies have proven that the most important factor in overcoming dental anxiety is good dentist-patient communication. So, how can you help your child overcome and work through anxiety?
- Schedule the appointment for the morning, while they are alert but still relaxed and before any events of the day might cause stress. If your child seems more relaxed in the afternoon, by all means schedule for the time that is most comfortable and accommodating for you and your child.
- Give yourself ample time for the appointment, don’t schedule on a day you might be rushed.
- Give your child a higher protein breakfast which has a calming effect. Avoid sugary foods such as cereal and pancakes with syrup.
- If your child needs asthma medication prior to the appointment, encourage them to drink some water to minimize the effect of it on their teeth. This would also be a good routine practice.
- Bring your child’s inhaler to the appointment in the event your child has an attack. Better to have it and not need it!
- Bring earplugs if excessive noise might be a problem and your child is comfortable with them. We also have head phones in our office for noise
- Distractions. Our staff is well trained in keeping children distracted from the procedure. If you have something your child would be well distracted with such as a stuffed animal or picture, bring it with you!
- Encourage your child to take deep breaths if this is okay for them or as much as they are able. Have them breath with you.
- Listen to some fun music they like in the car on the way to the appointment.
- Reassure your child that the dentist help their teeth stay strong and healthy!
In preparation for your appointment and to keep your child’s thoughts positive about dental care, also try to avoid conversations with others who fear the dentist or who had bad experiences with the dentist. Keep positive reinforcement going and let your child form their own opinion about visiting the dentist according to their own experience. Along with preparing your child for their visit to the dentist, we ask that you would prepare the dentists and hygienists as well! Of course, depending on the severity of your child’s asthma, be prepared with the following information:
- First, let your dentist know about the asthma prior to the appointment and upon arrival. Include information about when they were diagnosed and the severity of it
- Give your child water to drink before the appointment to help cleanse their mouth.
- Tell your dentist about medications they are currently taking and how often, how much
- Explain how you handle asthma attacks and your child’s common triggers and the time of the last attack.
- Explain your oral care routine of your child’s teeth
- Keep the office updated about medication changes or condition changes so that care can be altered accordingly
Tips on caring for your child’s teeth
Between appointments, there are some tips we have for you to maintain your child’s oral health and some things to keep in mind. Depending on the kind of medication your child needs to manage asthma symptoms, it is very important to give your child water immediately after taking the medication. The mouth is the fist to have contact with medication and that is the reason for the higher risk of dental complications. Water will reduce the amount of medication that sits on the teeth and will have the cleansing effect that might be missing from decreased saliva production.
Brushing teeth regularly is a must as some dry powder inhalants contain some sugar in order to make the medication tolerable. We know that sugar is quite destructive to the enamel and the surface of the tooth, so frequent brushing is needed. Also, depending on the frequency of medication, it might be advised to have your child brush three times daily.
While dental care may not be too different for children with asthma as it is for those who do not, it is a condition that your dentist will need to know about in detail in order to reduce the likelihood of an attack during routine visits. Keeping your dentist updated about your child’s physical well being and emotional state regarding the dental chair will further help us to help you and keep those smiles bright!