Understanding The Impact Of Multiple Sclerosis On Your Dental Health

Posted on: 29 June 2015

Symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis such as facial paralysis, fatigue, poor coordination, muscle weakness, and swallowing difficulties can make it challenging for you to stay on top of your dental health and get the most out of visits to your dentist's office. There are modifications and simple steps you can take to make your oral healthcare more manageable. Here are a few tips to help you maintain good oral hygiene, have effective dental appointments and manage common dental problems associated with multiple sclerosis:

Tips For Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

If your symptoms make it a struggle to give your teeth a thorough cleaning every day, consider using a weighted glove when brushing your teeth. This will reduce tremors and engage the muscles in your hand more fully, which can help with poor coordination. You can also use an electric toothbrush, which can make brushing easier if you're experiencing extreme fatigue and muscle weakness.

If modifications to the way you brush your teeth aren't enough, ask your dentist for a prescription strength fluoride gel. The gel coats your teeth and provides protection against bacteria and acid that can wear down your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Dental Appointments

When and how you schedule your dental appointments can have an impact on the treatment outcome. Book appointments at the time of day you tend to feel less fatigued, which for many people with multiple sclerosis is early in the morning. Additionally, work with your dentist to break down long appointments into shorter sessions, which should make the treatment less taxing for you.

You can also let your dentist know what they can do to support you during your appointments. For example, if the muscles that control your breathing are compromised by multiple sclerosis, ask your dentist to keep the dental chair angled at degrees to help you maintain effective breathing and swallowing throughout the course of your examination. If you're struggling to control your facial muscles, ask your dentist to secure your mouth in the open position with a rubber bite block.

Two Dental Problems Affecting People With Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis can put you at a greater risk of developing dry mouth and gum disease. Knowing what you can do to minimise the risk of these two dental problems can help you maintain better oral health overall, so here's an overview of both conditions:

Dry Mouth

A chronic dry mouth can occur as a side effect of some medications used to treat multiple sclerosis. Having a dry mouth doesn't sound like a serious problem, but it can increase your risk of developing tooth decay. Saliva is typically alkaline and creates a hostile environment for bacteria, but a lack of saliva can create an acidic environment in your mouth and this is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Bacteria produce acid as a waste product, so your teeth are under constant attack from acid when there's a high level of bacteria present in your mouth.

You can work with your dentist to create a xylitol treatment plan to control the acidity of your mouth. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that has the added benefit of inhibiting acid production, so dentists often recommend you eat xylitol mints after a meal or brush with a toothpaste containing xylitol.

Gum Disease

Struggling to brush and floss thoroughly and using medication that suppresses your immune system can leave you susceptible to gum disease. Your immune system normally keeps bacteria at a manageable level, but when the immune response is suppressed, bacteria can reach unmanageable levels and trigger an inflammatory reaction in your mouth. When the bacteria in your mouth combine with food residue that's left behind from being unable to clean your mouth thoroughly, your teeth become coated in sticky, acidic plaque, which breaks down the protective enamel on your teeth and irritates your gums.

You can reduce your risk of developing gum disease by cutting refined carbohydrates out of your diet and replacing them with whole grains. Refined carbohydrates begin to break down in your mouth, so they provide an instant food source for the bacteria in your mouth, while whole grains don't break down until they reach your stomach. You can also have your teeth professionally cleaned a couple of times a year, which will keep plaque and tartar under control.

For more information on improving oral hygiene, talk with a dentist at a practice like Kooringal Dental Surgery.