You need optimum hand dexterity to brush and floss properly for good dental hygiene. However, often symptoms of MS, such as loss of motor function and poor muscular coordination, result in poor teeth brushing techniques. In addition, those with MS may find it difficult to attend regular dental visits and check-ups because of mobility impairment or fatigue associated with MS.
Those with MS may also be at a higher risk of teeth decay due to medications used to treat MS symptoms that can cause dry mouth (xerostomia), which in turn can cause bacteria to accumulate, resulting in periodontal (gum) disease, otherwise known as gingivitis.
“Gum disease can cause a ripple effect on one’s health,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “Numerous studies have demonstrated links between periodontal disease and heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, malignant diseases, dementia (perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease), and various other types of diseases.”
Dental Self-Care Tips
Affinity Health offers the following advice for those with MS, to prevent dental problems before they happen:
- Brush your teeth twice a day: after breakfast and before going to sleep.
- Use toothbrushes with built-up handles. One trick is to cut a small slit in the side of a tennis ball and slide it onto the toothbrush’s handle.
- Use a toothpaste with fluoride.
- For people with MS, swallowing is difficult. This can be a challenge when brushing your teeth. It is possible to get toothbrushes, which have in-built suction to remove saliva and toothpaste from the mouth while cleaning.
- Plaque disclosing tablets can encourage cleaning. They stain plaque on the teeth. This can improve technique by showing which areas are need attention.
- Use flossing tools to help you floss.
- Wear a weighted glove while brushing to manage tremors.
- Use a tongue scraper or brush your tongue daily.
- Eat a well-balanced diet without too many sweets.
- Have regular dental appointments, usually every six months.
- Replace your toothbrush at least every three to four months.
See your dentist as soon as possible if you experience bleeding gums, tooth or jaw pain, or tooth sensitivity. Remember that healthy gums are pink, pain-free, and do not bleed when brushing or flossing. If your gums bleed during brushing, it’s a red flag that something is wrong.
Keep your mouth in good condition with regular dental check-ups and examinations, professional cleanings, tooth extractions, and fillings.