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Dental Health: The Basic Facts

Dental care and MS symptoms
There are several symptoms of MS that can interfere with adequate care of the teeth and gums. Fatigue, spasticity, weakness, tremor, facial pain (trigeminal neuralgia) and sensory changes (numbness, tingling, and/or pain) in the hands can all challenge a person’s efforts to brush and floss adequately. The following strategies and assistive devices can compensate for these problems:

  • Use toothbrushes with built-up handles (or cut a small slit in the sides of a tennis ball and slide it onto the handle of the toothbrush); use flossing tools; consider electric toothbrushes and flossing devices.


Elements of Good Care

Routine Dental Visits and
Common Dental Problems that May Be Identified

Dental care and MS symptoms


  • Sit to brush and floss, if standing at the basin is tiring.
  • Floss in the morning if you are too tired at night. Since flossing at bedtime is preferable because it removes bacteria that will multiply while you sleep, try flossing in bed.
  • Allow a family member or personal assistant to help with tooth brushing/flossing.
  • Manage tremors by wearing a weighted glove while brushing.

Some medications used to treat MS symptoms can cause dry mouth. Saliva helps to cleanse the mouth and teeth. A dry mouth is not only uncomfortable, it may cause bacteria to accumulate and may also interfere with chewing. In addition, spicy or salty foods may cause pain in a dry mouth. You can minimize the effects of dry mouth by:

  • Sipping water or sugarless drinks often
  • Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol
  • Using a small squirt of lemon in the mouth or sugarless lemon candies to stimulate the parotid glands (which control saliva)
  • Using a humidifier at night
  • Using special products that are available in pharmacies to moisten dry mouth

Dental visits and MS symptoms
Plan to handle the challenges of fatigue, poor balance, spasticity, and/or transportation issues by:

  • Finding out ahead of time whether the office building is sufficiently accessible
  • Making your special needs known to the office staff before your appointment
  • Determining whether the office has a dental chair that is sufficiently accessible for you (keep in mind that persons who use wheelchairs may need other types of assistance as well)
  • Getting some extra rest beforehand to compensate for the traveling and the office visit
  • Scheduling visits for a time of day when you usually feel the most rested
  • Planning to rest upon returning from the dental visit


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