Dental Implants for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis
Nearly 1 million adults in the United States are living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). For patients with MS, sitting through a routine dental visit, without pain and discomfort can be a challenge. Additionally, added oral health issues are one of the many health complications patients with MS face. It may also be difficult to find appropriate dental treatments and dental providers who are experienced with working with patients with MS. If you or someone in your family is living with MS, you may be search of more information on what specific dental treatments are possible for you or your loved one. Below is more information about the unique oral health problems faced by patients with MS and appropriate tooth replacement treatments.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neuromuscular condition where the immune system attacks the nerve cells in the central nervous system. Over time, the immune system breaks down the myelin sheath, or fat-like protective tissue surrounding the nerves, which results in disruption of communication between the brain and muscles in the body. This breakdown of communication between the brain and body decreases the speed or blocks nerve conduction, alters the transmission of nerve impulses, or completely stalls the transmission of nerve impulses. Impaired muscle control, coordination, balance, and memory, and uncomfortable sensations of prickling and numbness are all resulting symptoms of MS. The neuromuscular condition progressively worsens over time and can lead to partial or full paralysis. However, partial or complete remissions are common. Unfortunately, all of this leads to individuals with MS continuously battling unnecessary pain and health care treatments. Due to the numerous symptoms of MS, oral health care can also be a challenge. Difficulty maintaining daily oral hygiene can result in decay, tooth loss, and added pain. Prioritizing preventative dental care can significantly improve both the oral health and quality of life of patients with MS.
Common Dental Problems Faced by Patients with Multiple Sclerosis
It is common for patients with MS to experience additional oral health complications. The weakening and impairment of muscle control can contribute to oral health issues. For example, performing routine dental hygiene such as daily brushing and flossing may be challenging for patients with MS. Maintaining daily oral hygiene at home plays a critical role in preventing the buildup of bacteria, which if left to accumulate will attack gum tissue and compromise oral health. Patients with MS who struggle with daily hygiene practices are often at a greater risk of developing cavities, gum disease, and in some cases infections. To help maintain daily hygiene practice, modified brushing and flossing aids are available at pharmacies or through dental providers. Additionally, caregivers can help with daily hygiene when appropriate.
Additionally, routine dental visits may also be uncomfortable and prolonged for patients with MS. Dentists who are not experienced may take longer to perform examinations and dental procedures in an attempt to minimize discomfort. Finding a good experienced dentists will ensure dental appointments are as short as possible, treating the oral health issues while avoiding exacerbating MS symptoms such as fatigue, stress, and muscle spasms.
Medications that are commonly prescribed to patients with MS, including immune-suppressant drugs, corticosteroids, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants, tend to cause dry mouth. Dry mouth is not only unpleasant but plays a role in stimulating cavity growth and the development of gum disease. For patients with MS, efforts should be made to keep the mouth hydrated and to add extra fluoride treatments when possible.
Is Dental Care Impacted by Multiple Sclerosis?
It is essential to keep dental appointments short and comfortable to effectively treat dental problems in patients with MS. Dental providers will need to consider the severity of a patient’s condition as well as the dental treatment process, when determining which special considerations may needed. For example, if a longer appointment is required for a dental treatment, the provider should offer the patient 5-10 minute breaks every half-hour. If the patient has issues with sitting for prolonged periods, they should ask for short breaks prior to the start of the treatment. Some patients with MS struggle with respiratory problems, therefore it is important to make sure the patient is seated at a 45-degree angle to open the airway or to confirm the placement of a rubber dam will not cause additional difficulty. For some patients, keeping the mouth open for an extended period of time may be a challenge. Mouth props are a good option to help the mouth remain open comfortably, if needed. Some patients with MS experience periods of numbness in the teeth, jaws, and lips that cannot be treated through dental procedures. Additionally, partial or total paralysis of the face can occur, making dental care more challenging. Due to the number of possible causes, if a patient with MS is experiencing oral pain, the provider should perform a thorough exam prior to committing to treatment procedures.
Dental providers should also ensure there is appropriate ADA access to their dental clinic.
Dental Implants for Patients with Multiple Sclerosis
Due to the difficulty patients with MS have maintaining oral hygiene practices, many eventually experience tooth loss. Identifying the right tooth replacement option for a patient with MS will take some extra consideration. Dentures are an affordable and easy tooth replacement option, however for patients with MS, dentures may be difficult to wear. For patients with MS, eating and speaking may be especially challenging with dentures. Additionally, the patients may struggle with maintaining proper denture fit. Dental implants or implant supported dentures, offer a solution to these problems, including improved fit, restored speaking and eating, and overall better comfort.
Despite what many first think, dental implant treatment is often the perfect tooth replacement solution for patients with MS. Dental implants are metal posts that are surgically inserted into the jawbone. Implants are designed to act like the root of a natural tooth, providing a secure and stable foundation for an artificial crown, dentures or a bridge. Each of the steps of the implant process, including the surgical procedure and follow-up appointments, are individually relatively quick and easy. If you or a loved one is living with MS, you should contact your dental provider to determine if dental implants may be a good tooth replacement solution.