Another gut reaction happens for some people whether medications are used or not. Many individuals have a strong gag reflex, where the impulse to retch any foreign objects starts, not in the far back of the throat or epiglottis, but in the mouth itself. Often this triggers muscles in the pharynx-to-esophagus-to-stomach design to contract, release and possibly churn up some acids. Other patients have issues with jaw alignment, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) or neck and shoulder pain that causes a type of vertigo. This dizziness creates nausea when the alignment of the head and jaw over the neck and shoulders is tweaked during procedures where the mouth is forced open for too long.
Allergies and pre-existing conditions such as infections also can make the stomach hurt during dental work. Individuals with latex or rubber allergies can get sick from exposure to gloves or dental implements made with rubber. People with gum disease or tooth abscesses also can get ill from drainage of bacteria into the stomach. Others may have bugs or viruses prior to their appointments that are aggravated by having to lie in a reclined position on their backs.
If you've experienced stomach upset before, during or after a trip to the dentist, taking a look at when it happens may help prevent it next time. Going in with an empty stomach or too full a stomach may lead to queasiness or indigestion simply from the positioning of the chair and the smells in the office. Dentists have experience in helping patients with a strong gag reflex, and they can limit the amount of instruments and fingers in a person's mouth, as well as work to help them breathe through their nose while completing the work.
If the sick feeling starts before you ever step foot in a dental office, letting the hygienists and dentist know about any negative past experiences in the chair may give them a chance to make adjustments and keep you calm and comfortable. And any bad reactions after Novocain, anesthesia or antibiotic treatment should be passed on from dentist to dentist and from one procedure to the next to prevent a recurrence.
Problems with TMJ or any pain leading to nausea might be lessened if you take frequent breaks to close your mouth or rest and massage your jaws. Many dental professionals are trained to work with pain management and sometimes even will break up treatments into separate visits to avoid too much discomfort, whether it starts in the mouth and messes with the stomach or the other way around.
Knowing your stomach triggers can keep the upset in your mouth rather than down the hatch, so open wide and take a deep breath, maybe through your nose next time.
Read more tips on tooth care on the following page.