Exclusive Content

MS and Oral Health

By Matt Cavallo
I dread the dentist now but it wasn’t always that way. When I was growing up, I always had perfect teeth. In my twenties, when I moved to Arizona, my family dentist I had since I was little told me my teeth were hard as rocks and I had a very healthy mouth. With so many other health problems due to multiple sclerosis, my trips to the dentist were always a validation I was doing something right. I would brush my teeth and go for an oral exam and cleaning and get nothing but praise for how good I took care of my teeth.

However, the last three years have been completely different. I have had an increasing number of cavities and had to have a root canal seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, after my last three checkups, I was sent home without a cleaning because I now have deep pockets because of bone loss. It was confusing and upsetting because my dental habits hadn’t changed, and if anything, I eat better the older I get. 

So, I talked to my dentist about my concerns. I also shared with him my history of MS and the treatments I have used. What he told me was shocking. He told me that even though MS is a neurological disorder, it can affect my oral health. He also said the medication I take can lead to bone loss, as evidenced by my deep pockets, and other oral issues.

This news was really frustrating to me. I have spent the past 15 years of my life researching my MS to live my best life and I had neglected to look into MS and oral health. Now instead of being a healthy mouth, I have an oral diagnosis. I can’t get a regular cleaning. I need a deep cleaning and a periodontics plan, which includes increased trips to the dentist and increased out of pocket costs.

If I had known earlier my oral health could be negatively affected by my MS and my treatment plan, I would have been more active in my dental care.  Here are some strategies for maintaining good oral health with MS.

1. Tell your dentist about your MS diagnosis and the treatments you are on to manage MS. Your dentist is like any other doctor who is in charge of your care. Letting them know you have a pre-existing condition and the medications you take can help them determine your oral plan of care.

2. Don’t put off seeing the dentist, especially if you are experiencing any pain or sensitivity. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it can lead to an infection that can get to the nerve. If that happens, you will need a root canal. I always thought because I had good habits that it wouldn’t happen to me, but it did.

3. Brush and floss after each meal. My dentist told me that because I have risk factors because of MS, correct flossing technique is extremely important. If you don’t know the proper technique ask your dentist or hygienist. 

4. Invest in a good tooth brush and make sure you brush for at least two minutes. I prefer an electric toothbrush because they are a timed brush for two minutes, so I know how long to brush.

5. If flossing is uncomfortable invest in a water pick. Water picks are as effective as floss, but don’t have the same sensitivity around the gums as floss. I cannot reiterate enough how important flossing is.

6. Make oral health a priority. Good oral health can lead to better health overall. MS is a lot to manage, but it is a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about your oral health also. 

7. Smile. When you have good oral health, it makes you want to smile and show the world. It also helps build confidence and makes eating and drinking easier. So, go ahead and share that award-winning smile, you deserve it.