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8 Great Reasons for Keeping Up Your Dental Care

By Gay Falkowski

When you’ve got a whole lot of MS symptoms to manage, it can be difficult to keep up with everyday good hygiene routines such as brushing your teeth and flossing. While you may be tempted every now and then to skip your daily dental care (the American Dental Association recommends two brushings with fluoride toothpaste and one flossing a day), the harm in doing so could be greater than you realize. Here are just some of the reasons good oral hygiene habits and regular visits to the dentist should be an essential part of your overall healthcare plan:
  1. Harmful bacteria left on the teeth turns into plaque and plaque turns into tarter, which can lead to tooth decay and painful gum disease. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses and becomes periodontitis. Periodontitis can destroy the bones and connective tissue that help hold your teeth in place.
  2. Some of your MS symptoms can interfere with your ability to keep your teeth and gums as clean as they should be for optimum oral health. With regular visits (your dentist will determine how often you need to go), he or she can identify areas of concern before they develop into major problems and help you adjust your cleaning techniques so you avoid tarter accumulation in the areas where it appears you are missing with your brush.
  3. No matter what your level of disability, you can’t clean your teeth and gums as well as your dental hygienist can. Dental hygienists are healthcare professionals who have received specialized education and training in the practice of oral hygiene. They have the latest tools at their disposal and know the best cleaning methods to get the job done right. When you make your appointment, let them know if you’ve got symptoms that may affect your cleaning or check-up so they can plan to accommodate your needs.
  4. Autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus have been associated with a higher incidence of periodontal disease, according an article in the New York Times. The article also mentions a 2002 study which suggested that P. gingivalis, one of the major bacteria in periodontal disease, was associated with destructive processes in the brain leading to multiple sclerosis. But, it cautioned, more research is needed to determine a definitive association between these diseases.
  5. If symptoms such as tremor, fatigue, or muscle weakness make brushing difficult, your dentist and dental hygienist can tell you about the latest adaptive equipment and techniques that may help. In addition to electric toothbrushes, which have been on the market for some time, there are tools such as three-sided toothbrushes (so you can brush the tops and sides at once) and easy-grip handles that you can use to compensate for the disabilities.
  6. More than 400 prescribed and over-the-counter medications cause xerostomia, more simply known as dry mouth. Dry mouth increases the risk of oral disease because there is less saliva to coat the teeth with fluoride and wash away food particles. Have a list of your medications ready for your dentist so he or she can identify those that tend to reduce saliva. Use water, sugar-free chewing gum, or solutions recommended by your dentist to reduce dry mouth — never use hard candy, chewing gum, or beverages that have sugar.
  7. Preventive dental care costs less than dental repair. If you don’t have dental insurance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for your cleanings. But, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. With the cost of a single crown running as much as $1,500 or more (actual cost of repairs depend on many factors), you’ll save in the long run.
  8. Your smile can make someone else’s day brighter. You’ll likely feel better about sharing it when you know it’s sparkling clean!