This week is Dental Health Week, and the theme for 2018 is “Watch your mouth: Not just your teeth, not just your gums, your whole mouth.”
Everyone’s dental health is important, yet for one reason or another sometimes we let it slide. For people with MS, there can be other unavoidable barriers to maintaining and receiving adequate oral health care, or accessing dental services.
Effects of MS & medications
MS progression and symptom-management medications can affect dental health, so people with MS may need to be even more vigilant in their oral hygiene regime.
Also, symptoms like “muscle weakness, spasticity, or lack of coordination” can make brushing difficult, as can swallowing or pain issues. (1) And this can sometimes be compounded even further by medication side effects, such as dry mouth. Another contributing factor can be depression (a common symptom of MS), which may lead to a decline in self-care, including oral health. (1)
The good news is there are changes you can make to your routine to improve your oral health. To learn more about MS and oral health, and for some tips and techniques, read this Everyday Health article.
Dental Care & Services
A University of Queensland School of Dentistry study led by researcher Dr Kelsey Pateman, found that for many people living with MS, “accessing dental care can be very complicated” and can lead to “poorer oral health outcomes.” (2)
Study participants found that alongside issues around their oral health, they also encounter problems receiving adequate dental care.
“These patients often experience difficulties such as lack of transport to-and-from dental appointments, space limitations in the dental surgery, and financial barriers to receiving care.” (2)
The study called for the industry to, “look into oral health education that includes altered strategies for performing daily oral hygiene, and advice regarding suitable diets for patients with swallowing difficulties” and recommended that future research, “should focus on enhancing access through transport, infrastructure changes, reducing the cost of dental services, and providing at-home oral health care.” (2)
Read a summary of the University of Queensland study here, or for the full research paper visit: “How do Australians living with MS experience oral health and accessing dental care? A focus group study.” This study has formed the background evidence for an Australian-wide survey currently being conducted as part of the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Longitudinal Study (AMSLS), one of MS Research Australia’s collaborative research platforms.
To learn more about Dental Health Week and the Australian Dental Association, visit their website for information.