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Dental Dams

NotAloneISee

NotAloneISee

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Sep 15, 2008
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246
I am having a root canal done, and a dental dam will be used.

I did a search and feel somewhat better about them. My concern is that pictures online make it look like it completely covers the mouth.

Does it?

People here say they can breathe and swallow as normal. Does normal mean you can close your mouth and swallow like no one is in the mouth?

I will be using nitrous. I am considering also taking a valium. My one problem is gagging from anxiety. I used nitrous for a cleaning and it made a huge difference. Before I tried it, my anxiety was high, and I was gagging. Within minutes of taking it, all gagging stopped and I felt good. Time went by quickly.

Do you think nitrous will be enough for the RTC if my concern and only concern is gagging and the dental dam? Is a valium overkill if I have never needed it before for any of the many fillings and cleanings I have had done before? The endodontist has an excellent reputation.

Thanks.
 
Kolya

Kolya

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Jan 7, 2017
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You won't be able to breathe through your mouth most likely with it on but you will be able to breathe through your nose. You can swallow with it on... to help with anxiety try practicing swallowing with your mouth open

As for sedation, I personally use nitrous and a medication (I use Ativan) whenever I get a cleaning and I'm a dental hygienist! Whatever makes you comfortable is what you should use. You will just need someone to go with you and drive you.

The easiest way to get through any dental appointment is to take an anxiety medication (with your doctor's permission) right before you leave for the office. That way, it takes the edge off while you're in the waiting room.

Kolya, RDH
 
C

comfortdentist

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It is possible to mouth breath with a dam. If it bothers you the dam can be trimmed a good amount. Gaggers usually are better with a dam as it doesn't move and prevents all the water from getting into your mouth.
Premed makes the nitrous work stronger and nitrous helps with gagging
 
T

Tink

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Confortdentist is right, I had a root canal with a dental dam quite recently and I could breathe through my mouth with the dam on. It didn't totally cover my mouth, there was a bit of a space to one side - and my nose was completely uncovered. I couldn't close my mouth, but had no problems swallowing. Also, the dam stops things like the water spray from going down your throat so there is less need to swallow than you might expect, I don't remember it being a problem at all.

You could also ask the endo to give you a moment once the dam is on, let you get used to it and reassure yourself that you can breathe - I found that really helpful.
 
C

comfortdentist

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Confortdentist is right, I had a root canal with a dental dam quite recently and I could breathe through my mouth with the dam on. It didn't totally cover my mouth, there was a bit of a space to one side - and my nose was completely uncovered. I couldn't close my mouth, but had no problems swallowing. Also, the dam stops things like the water spray from going down your throat so there is less need to swallow than you might expect, I don't remember it being a problem at all.

You could also ask the endo to give you a moment once the dam is on, let you get used to it and reassure yourself that you can breathe - I found that really helpful.
exactly
 
NotAloneISee

NotAloneISee

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Thank you to all for commenting. Much appreciated.

I probably will use a Valium too.

Kolya, interesting that as a hygienist, you too struggle with dental anxiety. I had one a few years back that said she gagged too when she had dental work done. In fact, she gagged when brushing her teeth in the back.

I now know that mine is totally from anxiety, which is a relief and a concern. Knowing that it is anxiety means that I only have to control my anxiety, and I won't gag. Simple....yet not. The mind works so illogically. i then become anxious about getting anxious and gagging instead of being reassured that I can control my gagging by not getting anxious.

Breathing through my mouth is less of a concern (but still a concern) than not feeling like I can close my mouth. However, I am banking on the Valium to keep me somewhat calm, and knowing that the nitrous does relieve anxiety enough that it does take away my gagging, then I am hoping for a quick 90 minutes.

Also since it is a side tooth (another good and bad), then I hope that the dental dam will be more towards the side. Is that true?

Thanks again for all perspectives.
 
S

Spike 1969

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Jun 16, 2014
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Derbyshire UK
Agreewith Tink and comfortdentist.

I actually prefer having a dental dam for 2 reasons : 1) I don't feel any water or other stuff in my mouth whilst it's in place 2) Since it isolates the tooth being worked on, any procedures feel a lot less intrusive.

My dentist usually trims the excess material and I find that helps me to breathe, he did surprise me a little with the scissors the first time though ?, fortunately I have come to really trust him so all good there.

Kind Regards
 
K

kemmie777

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You won't be able to close your mouth but you can relax your jaw during certain moments. You can definitely still breath through your mouth. My jaw gets tired fairly quickly so my endo gave me periodic breaks while he looked at an X-ray quick or prepped his next patient with Novocain in the next room or just took a break for himself because his back hurt that day. The dental damn was pretty comfortable.
 
NotAloneISee

NotAloneISee

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I am going to add an update here even though it is also a success story. So often people search for help (as I have done) and we find a question that fits our needs. There is feedback given, but too often the original poster doesn't return and tell what happened and what he or she did. I may be different but I think it is nice if this is done as it gives some closure.

I had the root canal done and it all went much better than expected.

Prior to the appointment, I took 10 mg of valium. Honestly, I am not sure that I needed it and probably won't take it for regular appointments as I know what happens there. Yet I think it did calm me down some in the waiting room and while waiting for the dentist in the dental chair...which was about a half hour as she was behind. (My guess is that based on past history, I may have been a nervous wreck without the valium due to the wait in the dental chair). However, I really was not as anxious as I usually am because deep inside I felt that the nitrous would make everything fine.

And it did.

First off, I had the xrays which were unexpected. Thankfully I made it through even though I think they used two foot wide squares for in the mouth! The nitrous was started before I was numbed, but it takes five to ten minutes (guess) to fully take effect. I don't mind needles so that went well.

THEN...came the dental dam. So basically, my nose was covered and now my mouth was being covered! Yes, it does leave a small gap along the side as I had a side tooth being down, but it still felt like I was being covered. I felt some anxiety but not to the point of panic. I asked if the dam could be cut smaller, and the dentist didn't think so. She said she could put a couple of holes in for breathing. I said okay. That was a mistake.

In a few minutes, she began drilling. The high speed one with water? Yup. Water went in the holes...and into my throat. This made me panic and soon I gagged more from the water than from my anxiety. Off came the dam until I recovered.

Thankfully, that was the last bad thing that happened. While some may prefer dental dams, I am not certain yet that I am one of them. I think it would be better next time, but I think I would be more relaxed if my mouth was not covered. I could breathe through my mouth if I wanted, and I did do a couple of deep exhales, but tbh, if I started breathing through my mouth, then I would lose the nitrous in my body...so I didn't.

The dam went back on, and I told myself to relax. The dentist said, "Just concentrate on breathing in the nitrous and you will be fine." She was totally correct. I breathed and breathed that stuff in until I felt that tingling feeling go through my whole body. And from that time until the end, I only had the dam off once at the thirty minute mark when she took an xray. For the first time in probably three decades, I held my mouth open for thirty minutes. Oh, I could kind of close it about half way to swallow, but that really isn't closing it. I relaxed even though I could only breathe through the nitrous tube.

After thirty minutes, I had a brief break while an xray was taken (which didn't bother me at all being that I was on a nitrous high!). Then back under for another twenty minutes.

I was surprised that it was over when it was and tbh, it did not seem as long as they said. While I probably will never love going to the dentist, I honestly don't think I will ever fear it as I did. I always knew that if I could get my anxiety under control somehow, then being at the dentist would not be a problem for me.

So, in conclusion, if you have never tried nitrous and you have dental anxiety and especially if you have a gagging issue (as in the dental community it is well know it works well for it), then do not be afraid to try it. Yes, a nose piece is put over your nose, but becoming adjusted to it is not too difficult. Yes, it may cost a little more (about $25), but the dental appointment will go so much smoother for you and for the dentist if it truly helps you.

How does it make you feel? First, I never laughed. I never felt giddy. I never felt tipsy as I was laying down...and maybe a little when I finally got up (when it was out of my system). What I did feel was a tingling feeling go through my body. It almost became a numbing and VERY relaxing feeling. If I moved, then it went away some. I felt it somewhat in my head, but mostly it was in my arms and legs. My chest felt like it was tingling too. The first time I took it for a cleaning a few months ago, I asked how I was supposed to feel and when i described it to the assistant (who had used it too before), she said that it was working. So this time, the experience was more familiar. Some say it makes them nauseous. I felt no side effects, but it can be turned up or down based on how you feel. I was at about 40% nitrous.

And best of all, it COMPLETELY took away the panicky feeling that leads to gagging...so no gagging or even the worry that I would. When she said open wider, I was surprised that "wider" did not even feel very wide. Without the nitrous, I can barely let someone put their fingers in let alone a large drill or xray "square."

I knew that I was doing well, as the dentist and her assistant were able to converse to each other in a relaxed manner about vacation or something. I felt like a "normal' dental patient and not like some "problem" patient. When I am with a dentist, it is rare that he or she is relaxed as he/she is waiting for my next gagging episode or minor panic attack. I am always requesting to close my mouth and so the dentist ends up taking way more time than planned, I think. This time we were done in either the planned amount or even a little less. So that made me feel good...and probably more relaxed.

So long story but maybe someone can benefit from my fears. I feel the best that I have ever felt about future dental visits simply because, as my dentist told me, I have a "tool" to use for controlling my anxiety.

Thanks for reading. Hope it helps someone who finds this thread even if it is months or years from now.
 
T

Tink

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May 14, 2013
Messages
755
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UK
Hey -

That's great to hear, and well done for making it through! :jump:

Thanks for posting a follow-up too, you're quite right, it can be really frustrating to never hear how the story ends! So pleased for you!
 
D

Deck2015

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Jun 24, 2015
Messages
188
Ah NotaloneIsee -- I'm so excited for you that you had a reasonably good experience!! No one wants to have a Root canal or a dental dam but you made it thru like a champ. It took a lot of courage for you to get through this...I think some ice cream or other treat is called for here ;) Shopping!?!?

While I would *never* diminish the anxiety that having RCT and/or the dental dam can cause people, I have found that, given the right Dental team, a Root Canal should only feel like a long filling procedure. It's excellent that your provider immediately removed the dental dam when you were in distress...the fact that she did that must have made you trust her more so you could conquer your fear and carry on with the procedure.

The last time I had RCT, it was with a new Endo and it was a front incisor tooth. When I realized what they were doing and chemicals being used (medication to clean out the canal), I was *thankful* for the dental dam...I never got any debris or medication in my mouth and the procedure was a very isolated. It had been many years since I had RCT so some things were new to me but it seemed to just zip by -- I was in and out in just over an hour. Also due to the location of the tooth being treated, I could rest my jaw, didn't have to really open much (I have a pretty decent overbite) and breathed normally.
 
NotAloneISee

NotAloneISee

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Sep 15, 2008
Messages
246
Well, I would like to be able to post that the crown prep was as smooth of a ride as the root canal. However, it was far from it, and it may go down as the worst appointment I ever had. So much for nitrous solving all of my problems.

I will start a thread in Support with the details. Let's just say that it was a gagger's nightmare.

I certainly could use feedback on where to go next.
 
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