Vasovagal Syncope at the Dentist

Vasovagal syncope is characterized by a loss of consciousness and muscle tone, which typically are preceded by non-specific symptoms that last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute. These symptoms result from alterations in the nervous system that can include dizziness, lightheadedness, paleness, palpitations, nausea, sweating, hyperventilation and changes in vision.

According to Dr. Kapusta, DDS, “Any patient who experiences a syncope reaction may have an underlying cause that can predispose him or her to a life-threatening situation.” It is considered the most common clinical problem that occurs among patients of all ages, affecting 3.5 percent of the general population. Emotional stress, anxiety, pain, fatigue and being in a hot and crowded environment can lead to vasovagal syncope.

“It is not uncommon for patients to experience some anxiety when visiting their general dentist,” says  Melvin Pierson, DDS. “Yet, there are ways to lessen the possibility of an anxiety-related incident.” Dr. Pierson encourages patients to discuss with their general dentist any fears they may have.

“Asking questions and requesting informational materials can help you get a better understanding of your dental service or treatment,” says Dr. Pierson. “General dentists are trained to answer questions and tell you what to expect to help you feel comfortable.”

Even so the dental materials and what your dentist tell you may not be the whole truth. Therefore I would encourage you to explore materials online and talk with other patients and people you know.

Adapted from materials provided by Academy of General Dentistry.

6 thoughts on “Vasovagal Syncope at the Dentist

  1. Syncope can be alarming because it can appear to be something far worse.

    When it does happen, lying them back down in the dental chair can help clear their head and compensate for low blood pressure. With the legs elevated the blood supply to the head tends to improve.

    Joe Bulger DDS

  2. My 17 year old daughter suffers from syncope. First became aware at age 14 with vaccinations and blood draw. Blood draw resulted in paramedic help to stabilize her. Now she needs her wisdom teeth out, and as a parent, I’m very concerned. She had no fear or anxiety about the procedure, or needles…it simply happens. Gross movies or descriptions of medical procedures also leave her queasy. The oral surgeon assured me she’d be okay, but what happens if she passes out under anesthesia?

    Medically, she’s healthy in all respects. She has low blood pressure due to her competitive swimming background. (trains 3-4 hours/day, so is incredibly physically fit)

    Should I be concerned?

  3. Tami, I would be more concerned about why your daughter is having her wisdom teeth removed and the procedure. I spell out a lot more details on my website

    There is always cause for concern with any surgery. If you want more reassurance I would seek out more opinions from medical doctors. However they can’t predict the future.

  4. Tami, I’m a 17 year old with vasovagal syncope. I had the same issues as your daughter. I was diagnosed with syncope after having blood drawn (at age 14) and having a reflex anoxic seizure. I had my wisdom teeth taken out last summer and I had no problem with the anesthesia. I still worry about it everytime though. I just had my tonsils removed two weeks ago and I had extreme anxiety beforehand, but didn’t have any trouble this time either. If she were to pass out under anesthesia, the doctors probably wouldn’t even know it. Good news is, she’s already lying down and the problem will most likely correct itself.

  5. Im 23 years old and just went to get a root canal. I passed out and had a seizure right after I was given two shots of Novocaine. I also was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope when I was 13. I need to get this procedure done asap and don’t know how I should go about doing it. Any suggestions?

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