Dental Care For People With Asthma: The Risks, And How You Can Minimise Them

Posted on: 7 January 2016

Though a trip to the dentist may not seem like a particularly risky endeavour for an asthmatic person, but there are a number of factors that a person with even a mild case of asthma should bear in mind when booking a dental appointment, even if it is just a routine check up. The anxiety of sitting in the dentist's chair can increase the likelihood of suffering from an asthma attack, and various medications and procedures that would normally be administered routinely may have to be applied with more care (or even omitted entirely) to avoid provoking an asthma attack, particularly in the middle of delicate procedures such as root canal treatment. Here are a few of the problems an asthmatic person may encounter during the course of their dental care, and how they can be tackled:


It's fair to say that nobody particularly enjoys a trip to the dentist, and even minor anxiety can be enough to trigger a debilitating and potentially dangerous asthma attack. As such, asthma sufferers should always inform their dentist of their condition (providing a full medical history if possible) to avoid anxiety triggers. 

If you suffer from asthma and have a fear of injections, it may be prudent to use nitrous oxide as a dental anaesthetic, rather than intravenous analgesics. However, this will depend largely on the severity of your condition -- if your case of asthma is severe, inhaling nitrous oxide can irritate the airways and provoke an asthma attack. Consult with your dentist on the best way to proceed, and check with your asthma caregiver(s) that your condition is not too severe for nitrous oxide use.

Treatments and medications that can provoke asthma attacks

Any anaesthetic naturally causes a decrease in pulmonary function as breathing rates decrease. Naturally this can be dangerous to somebody suffering from pronounced asthma, so talk to your dentist about medications you can take to alleviate these effects. Some bronchodilators can help to counteract this effect, as can antihistamines such as promethazine and diphenhydramine (these medications also act as antiemetics, which help to suppress the gag reflex).

In addition, other substances used during dental treatments can provoke asthma attacks, including the following:

  • Fluoride gels
  • Fissure sealants
  • Methyl methacrylate, a substance sometimes used as cement for fillings and dental implants
  • Powder-based dentifrices

General concerns

Good medical practises to control asthma are just as important in the dentist's chair as they are in everyday life. The best way to prevent incidences of adverse reactions is to make sure you have taken any daily medication you may need before your appointment. If you use an inhaler or nebuliser, make sure it is close to hand throughout the procedure, and that your dentist is aware of your needs so they can administer the inhaler if you are not capable of doing it alone. If you don't use an inhaler, make sure your dentist has equipment for providing oxygen close to hand.