Oral Manifestations That Can Devastate Your Dental Health
Having multiple sclerosis (MS) at any age can make taking care of your teeth and gums difficult. As the disease progresses, it becomes much more complicated and almost impossible to provide good personal oral care.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
When someone has multiple sclerosis, their symptoms may widely vary from those of another individual. Since it is largely caused by an attack of the immune system on the myelin sheath – the protective coating on the nerves – the symptoms will depend on which nerves are being attacked.
There are several common MS symptoms. These may include:
- Weakness on one side of the body or limbs
- Partial loss of vision – may be a complete loss at times
- Double vision
- Lack of coordination – spastic movements
- Slurred speech
- Bladder and bowel function problems.
Some symptoms will directly affect the mouth and gums. They may develop a problem called trigeminal neuralgia, which means the individual gets severe jaw pain because the nerve becomes inflamed.
People that have MS often go through periods of flare-ups for a while. It may seem to completely disappear for a while (possibly even for years) and then return without any remission. Not everyone with MS will have periods of remission.
How MS Affects Your Teeth
As the MS disease progresses, the ability to coordinate hand movements becomes more difficult. This makes it harder to brush the teeth efficiently, leaving plaque on the teeth in spots. Problems with depression, vision problems, and weakness will often make oral care of little importance and may even become completely forgotten. You may not even be able to stand at the sink to brush your teeth.
By not removing the plaque that forms on the teeth daily, it means that the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease continue to multiply rapidly. When they come in contact with sugar and carbs, they produce acid. Not only does the acid create cavities, but it also gets into the gums, causing gum disease.
Gum disease is a serious problem in people with MS. Once the bacteria get into the gums, an autoimmune reaction is caused that starts to deteriorate the gums, the support structures that support the teeth, and the jawbone. Over time, teeth will start to become loose and may even fall out.
Some of the medications used to treat multiple sclerosis during relapses, such as steroids, can make the mouth dry. Dry mouth promotes cavities and gum disease because it means that you do not have enough saliva, which normally helps to remove the bacteria and acid from your gums and teeth.
The steroids also tend to weaken the immune system, causing healing to take longer. This results in developing more serious gum disease faster.
Dry mouth and medications can also lead to other problems in the mouth. The person with MS can develop oral ulcers, swollen gums, oral thrush, and if they have herpes, it can reactivate it.
Inflammation and MS
Once the bacteria in your mouth get into the gums and gum disease has started, the inflammation and the bacteria will travel throughout the body through the bloodstream. Since MS is related to inflammation, it will promote a flare-up of disease symptoms.
Further problems will be caused because the inflammation and bacteria from gum disease are also known to be related to the development of many diseases. These include major health issues such as cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, stroke, dementia, several forms of cancer, and many more.
Tips for Regular Oral Care
People with MS need to be especially conscientious to maintain a regular program of oral care that will help prevent these severe dental problems. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss in order to maintain good dental health.
If you cannot stand long, sit down while you brush and floss. If you cannot grasp a toothbrush very well, or do not have good coordination, using an electric toothbrush can help. You can also cut two holes in a tennis ball and stick the handle of your toothbrush through it for a better grip on it. As the disease progresses, you will likely need help to maintain good oral care.
Seeing the Dentist
Because of an inability to conduct thorough teeth cleaning when you have MS symptoms, it is even more important that you make regular visits to the dentist. Because you will likely be more tired as the day progresses, it is important to try to schedule your appointments in the morning hours. While people in good health should go about every six months, you should make your appointments more often. You should also let the dentist know about the MS and any special needs you have before you go.
When you have MS, you do not want other potentially serious oral complications, too. The condition of your teeth and gums will be affected by the disease, and regular dental visits can help prevent serious dental problems. If you know that your oral health needs help, and you need some dry mouth remedies, ToothHQ Board Certified Periodontists can provide you with the dental treatments you need in our Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Dallas and Grapevine, TX offices. Most dental insurance plans are accepted. To set up a consultation or to get more information about how you can regain a healthy mouth, you can contact us at (214) 731 0123