When we’re sick, we go to the doctor without a thought, but should we be so quick to keep our dentist appointments? There are a few factors to consider, including how your illness will affect your experience and how it will affect other people if you keep your appointment.

How will my illness affect my experience?

. . . if I’m congested?

Having your hygienist’s hands in your mouth is already uncomfortable. But if you can’t breathe through your nose, it might be impossible for you to breathe! If you are congested and decide to keep your appointment, “tell your dental care provider so that he or she will know to give you quick breaks to catch your breath.” But if you know that having a hard time breathing will an issue for you, consider canceling your appointment.

. . . if I’m sneezing or coughing?

If you’re worried you might spray germs over your poor dentist’s face at any moment, going to your appointment might not be worth it! Especially if you already have anxiety about visiting the dentist.

If you have been sneezing and coughing but you’re getting it under control, consider discussing a hand symbol to use with your dentist or hygienist in the event that an urge to sneeze comes upon you unexpectedly.

. . . if I’m taking medication for my illness?

It’s important to disclose to your dentist all the medications you’re taking. You never know what other medications they could react poorly with.

“Hundreds of medications exist that interfere with your oral health and many dental procedures, such as extractions, dental implants and gum surgeries. . . . Even if you’re going to your dentist f or a simple cleaning and fluoride, always tell the dentist if you are taking antiplatelet drugs, such as low-dose aspirin or Plavix.”

If you need to be taking medication for your illness and your course might coincide with your dentist appointment, call your dentist beforehand to discuss the best option for you.

What if I want to cancel but can’t pay the late cancellation fee?

Sometimes illnesses come on without warning, and there’s never a good time, especially when you have a dentist appointment tomorrow. If you find yourself in this situation, call your dentist and explain that you’re sick. Some dentists will waive their late cancellation fee for first-time offenders.

. . .if my dentist is booked solid for months?

Since dental health plays such a huge role in overall health, it may be the best thing for you to keep your dentist appointment.

How will my illness affect others?

. . . if I have the flu?

The flu can be deadly, already claiming over 130 lives this flu season.

“The flu can sap the body’s strength and increase inflammation, making pre-existing medical conditions worse.” Pregnancy, obesity, being under the age of five, and being elderly also make people more vulnerable. And when you get the flu, it can unfortunately lead to serious complications.

If you have the flu, “you’re contagious from 1 day before you have any symptoms. You stay that way for 5 to 7 days after you start feeling sick.” The virus spreads “through droplets in the air. Sick people sneeze or cough out beads of moisture that contain the flu virus. They can travel up to 6 feet. You’re exposed to the flu virus when you breathe the droplets in, or if they land in your mouth, nose, or eyes.”

With the close-quarters contact you have with your dentist and hygienist and the vulnerable people you may encounter in the waiting room or behind the front desk, it may be best to stay home if you have the flu.

. . . if I have a cold?

“For colds, most individuals become contagious about a day before cold symptoms develop and remain contagious for about five to seven days.” Colds are known for being milder than the flu, and they don’t usually lead to complications. So if you go to your appointment, use hand sanitizer before and after you touch anything, and warn your hygienist and dentist about your illness.

But if you can afford to reschedule, it might be best to do so. Weigh your options. Dentists wants to be there for their patients, but they can’t if they’re home sick!

. . . if I have a cold sore?

Cold sores are extremely contagious, especially if they’re open. And when you’re stretching your mouth as wide as you can for an hour, you can bet an unhealed cold sore will be open. If you do keep your appointment, use hand sanitizer a lot and let your dentist and hygienist know.

. . . if I end up canceling?

Missing your appointment may affect your dental office’s bottom line, and that’s one of the reasons many dental offices have a late cancellation fee. But more than anything, your dentist wants you to be healthy!

When you’re sick and have an upcoming dentist appointment, there are a few factors to consider. Ultimately, you have to decide if the benefits of your appointment will outweigh the risks and discomforts of keeping your appointment. If you’re unsure of what to do, call your dentist office! They can help you decide what would be best to do.