Multiple sclerosis can affect many areas of your daily life, including dental care.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis and the medications you take for these symptoms can lead to an increased need for dental visits and tooth extractions.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make managing your dental health easier.
In this article, we take a look at how multiple sclerosis affects dental care and tooth extractions and what you can do to address these challenges.
Multiple sclerosis can affect your daily dental care and the dental care you receive from professionals.
Dental hygiene challenges
Multiple sclerosis can make it difficult to keep up with your dental hygiene. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may cause:
- tremors that make holding a toothbrush and brushing a challenge
- a weakened grip that can make holding a toothbrush difficult
- fatigue that can make daily tasks overwhelming
- facial soreness and numbness that make daily brushing and flossing painful
- depression and other mood changes that can affect your motivation
Additionally, people who have multiple sclerosis are often prescribed medications that can cause dry mouth and sugary dietary supplements that can lead to plaque buildup. These medications and supplements can cause unwanted side effects, like tooth decay and gum disease.
It can be difficult to manage these side effects while you’re managing the other symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Dental care challenges
People with multiple sclerosis might also face challenges at the dentist.
Not all dental professionals are used to treating people with multiple sclerosis. Often, their offices are not set up for people with multiple sclerosis and might have dental chairs that are inaccessible or painful to sit in for long stretches of time.
Other common dental care challenges for people with multiple sclerosis include:
- an inability to keep your head still and in the correct position during a dental exam
- respiratory issues that make it difficult to take deep breaths while fully reclined in a dental chair
- dental pain and numbness that makes it hard to hold the mouth open without assistance
Regular dental visits can be a challenge for people with multiple sclerosis. Visits for procedures such as dental extractions can add to those challenges.
Tooth extractions require longer visits and can add to the pain and difficulty of standard dental work. The exact challenges and accommodations depend on the patient, the severity of their symptoms, and the number of extractions needed.
Common steps a dentist will take when a patient has multiple sclerosis include:
- taking breaks in the procedure every 5 to 10 minutes to ensure comfort
- using a mouth prop so that the patient does not have to hold their mouth open on their own
- using specialized cushions or pads on the dental chair
- coordinating with the patient’s primary care doctor about medication doses on the day of the procedure
Over time, multiple sclerosis can weaken the gums. If your gums are weak and multiple sclerosis has made dental health challenging, a dentist might recommend dental implants as a solution for this issue.
Dental implants are more permanent than dentures and are often considered a better option for people with multiple sclerosis.
Consult with both your doctor and dentist for advice on how to proceed with a dental extraction. A dentist can tailor an extraction procedure to meet your individual needs.
There are some tools you can use at home to help make your daily dental care easier. These include:
- Electric toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes can help make brushing your teeth more feasible and less tiring.
- Wide or long-handled toothbrushes. Toothbrushes with wide and long handles are easier to grip and control.
- Plastic flossers. If regular floss is hard to manage, a plastic-handled flosser can be a big help.
- A Waterpik. A Waterpik can help clean between your teeth and is easier to manage than flossing.
- A weighted glove. A weighted glove can help keep your hand from shaking while you brush.
- Bathroom seats. Stools and benches in your bathroom can give you a place to rest while you brush.
You can take steps to boost your dental hygiene by following a few at-home steps. These include:
- Avoiding smoking. Smoking is hard on teeth and your gums.
- Staying hydrated. Drinking water can help avoid dry mouth and help your mouth stay cleaner.
- Using a humidifier. A humidifier can keep the air around you moist and help prevent dry mouth, especially at night.
- Chewing gum. Chewing gum encourages saliva production in your mouth. This prevents dry mouth and that can help prevent cavities. Sugar-free gum is recommended.
- Making regular dental appointments. Seeing the dentist regularly is an important part of staying healthy.
- Eating a well-balanced diet. Limit foods high in sugars and acids.
- Replacing your toothbrush every 3 months. Bacteria and plaque can build up on your toothbrush, also, worn-out bristles can be overly abrasive on your gums, which can lead to gum recession and inflammation.
Can multiple sclerosis affect the nerves in the teeth?
Multiple sclerosis can cause a type of nerve pain called trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia is not in your teeth. Instead, it’s nerve pain on the side of your face.
However, this pain is often felt in the teeth and in the jaw. It can make having dental work or even brushing your teeth very painful.
Can a tooth extraction with multiple sclerosis lead to a stroke?
No, there is no link between multiple sclerosis, tooth extractions, and strokes.
Are there certain dental treatments you should avoid with multiple sclerosis?
Usually not. But multiple sclerosis can vary from person to person. Even people with the same type of multiple sclerosis can have very different symptoms and progressions.
Since this is the case, some people may have specific symptoms or take medications that could potentially interfere with certain dental treatments. Talk with your doctor and dentist before you have any treatments to make sure they are safe.
Is the risk for post-extraction infection greater due to a multiple sclerosis-weakened immune system?
Although multiple sclerosis is an immune system-related condition, it does not directly weaken your immune system.
It causes your body’s immune system to attack healthy nerve cells but does not prevent your immune system from fighting infections. This means you’re not at an increased risk of post-extraction infections.
However, many people with multiple sclerosis are on medications, such as corticosteroids, that can lead to a weakened immune system. This is why it’s important to tell your dentist about all the medications you take before you have an extraction or any other dental procedure.
You might need to take antibiotics to help prevent infection after your extraction.
If you do develop a dental infection, it may lead to a pseudoexacerbation, which is a temporary increase in multiple sclerosis symptoms.
Dental health can be a challenge for people with multiple sclerosis. Symptoms and medications can increase the risk for tooth decay and gum disease. This can make visiting the dentist a challenging and difficult experience.
People with multiple sclerosis who need tooth extractions might have difficulties with long dental procedures. It’s best to consult with both your doctor and dentist about how best to proceed with an extraction. Some dentists and dental offices may be better prepared to help people with multiple sclerosis.
Taking steps to protect dental health is one of the best ways to avoid dental extractions. Using resources like adaptive dental hygiene equipment and taking time to build good oral health habits can help people with multiple sclerosis manage their dental health.