Today, we’ll be delving into a topic that’s not often discussed but is incredibly important: dental issues that may arise when you take a benzodiazepine. Benzos can lead to many health issues; unfortunately, dental issues are among them. Dental problems can affect your health and well-being and significantly impact your bank account. I know firsthand, as I am in the midst of costly dental work due to the damage benzo withdrawal caused my teeth.

Dental Pain, Swollen Gums, and Teeth Movement

One of the most common dental issues during benzodiazepine withdrawal is increased dental pain. This can manifest as a heightened sensitivity to pressure, temperature, and even seemingly innocuous contact with your teeth. Swollen gums may also be a problem, contributing to overall discomfort and potentially leading to further dental issues.

Another alarming sensation some individuals experience during benzodiazepine withdrawal is the feeling that their teeth are moving or twirling. While this sensation can be distressing, it’s essential to remember that it’s typically a temporary symptom that will fade away as your nervous system recovers. I had a front tooth that often felt like it would jump out of my mouth. I’d gasp and put my finger on it to hold it in place. But, of course, it wasn’t moving; it was just a perception. When my nervous system recovered, that sensation went away.

Clenching, Grinding, and Cracked Teeth

Stress and anxiety during benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to teeth clenching or grinding, known as bruxism. This habit can cause significant damage to your teeth, including cracks and fractures. It’s essential to be aware of and address this behavior, such as using a mouth guard while sleeping or practicing stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing exercises. (I cracked five teeth during benzo withdrawal due to clenching. I was too scared to visit a dentist, and by the time I did, it was too late to save two molars; they needed to be extracted and replaced with implants, costing ten to twelve thousand dollars. The restoration of my other teeth is expensive, too.)

Cavities and Dental Hygiene

Maintaining your regular dental hygiene routine during withdrawal might be challenging. Fatigue, weakness, lack of motivation, and brushing and flossing consistently may be difficult. Unfortunately, neglecting your oral hygiene can quickly lead to cavities and other dental issues. Try your best to stay on top of your dental care. If you need to have a cavity filled or other dental work requiring a local anesthetic, you may want to consider asking for a numbing agent that doesn’t have epinephrine in it. If you need an OTC pain med, Tylenol is better than Advil. 

Fear of the Dentist

The anxiety that often accompanies benzodiazepine withdrawal can exacerbate pre-existing fears of the dentist. This might make seeking professional help when dental problems arise even more challenging. It’s crucial to recognize this fear and work on overcoming it, as delaying dental treatment can lead to more severe issues. Maybe you’ve never had any qualms about going to the dentist, but now you do. New fears are common in benzo withdrawal and will go away as you heal. It’s important to note that the position we are in when we have dental work done is one of extreme vulnerability: on our backs with our mouths open. That position can trigger anxiety in everyone, not just benzo withdrawal sufferers. If you are dentist-fearful, take whatever you need with you for your appointment: earbuds, soft music, eye shade, a stress ball to squeeze, a warm blanket, etc.

Root Pain, Unnecessary Procedures, and Sensitivity

During benzodiazepine withdrawal, some individuals may experience increased root pain and sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. This discomfort can sometimes be misinterpreted as a need for more invasive dental procedures, such as root canals or extractions. Before agreeing to any dental treatments, it’s essential to discuss your symptoms and benzodiazepine withdrawal with your dentist to ensure you receive the appropriate care. Your dentist may not be benzo-wise, so you may want to share or the BIC website with them.

Navigating Dental Issues During Benzodiazepine Withdrawal

Now that we’ve explored the dental problems that can arise during benzodiazepine withdrawal let’s discuss a few strategies to help you navigate these challenges and maintain your oral health. I am not a dentist, so these are only suggestions. Please ask your dentist what they think are the best methods for ensuring good dental care during benzo withdrawal.

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Despite the difficulties you may face during withdrawal, make an effort to prioritize your dental hygiene routine. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss daily to prevent plaque buildup, cavities, and gum disease. Use a Waterpik if you like them. (I do!)
  • Address Bruxism: If you find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist about options for managing bruxism. They may recommend a custom-made mouth guard to wear at night, which can help protect your teeth from damage.
  • Seek Professional  Dental Help: Don’t hesitate to visit your dentist if you’re experiencing dental problems during benzodiazepine withdrawal. Early intervention can help prevent more severe issues from developing, and your dentist can offer valuable advice and support tailored to your specific needs. If seeing a dentist is overwhelming during benzo withdrawal, ask a friend or family member to accompany you.
  • Communicate with Your Dentist: Be open and honest with your dentist about your withdrawal symptoms and any fears or concerns you may have. This will help them better understand your situation and provide appropriate care.
  • Manage Stress and Anxiety: Learning to cope with stress and anxiety during benzodiazepine withdrawal is crucial for your mental well-being and oral health. Explore stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or gentle physical activities like yoga or walking. These are not a cure, but they can help reduce the volume of your suffering as you wait for your GABA receptors to recover. (I chewed big wads of bubble gum every day for a year or more to help me cope with my benzo-withdrawal-induced anxiety, which didn’t help my dental health. Yoga would have been better.)
  • Stay Hydrated: Dry mouth is a common side effect of benzodiazepine withdrawal, and it can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and help wash away food particles and bacteria.
  • Use a Soft Toothbrush: During withdrawal, your teeth and gums may be more sensitive than usual. Switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush can help minimize discomfort while still effectively cleaning your teeth.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help support your overall health and dental health. Avoid sugary and acidic foods and beverages, as they can contribute to tooth decay and enamel erosion.
  • Be Patient with Yourself: Remember that recovery from benzodiazepine withdrawal can be a gradual process, Be patient with yourself as your body adjusts. Focus on taking small steps to maintain your oral health, and don’t hesitate to reach out for support when needed.

In Conclusion

Dental issues during benzodiazepine withdrawal can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and strategies, you can successfully navigate these problems and maintain your oral health. By prioritizing your dental hygiene, addressing bruxism, seeking professional help, and practicing stress-reduction techniques, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming these obstacles and enjoying a healthier, happier smile.

Add your voice to the conversation.

I am still in the midst of dental repair from benzo withdrawal. What is your dental story? What repairs have you had to have?  What has helped? Join the conversation. We appreciate hearing your story.