Disease - Other

Does MS cause Tooth Decay

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Multiple Sclerosis patients are often at a higher risk for other types of injury due to balance problems and gait abnormalities or other mobility issues. MS patients are at greater risk for falls and fractures resulting from these falls. Could having MS also result in a higher incidence of tooth decay and poor dental health? The answer is yes, and no.

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease of the nervous system. MS is an autoimmune disorder in which the sufferer's own immune system attacks and destroys the protective myelin sheath covering the nerves, a process known as demylination. There is no known cure for MS.

MS patients can experience a wide array of symptoms, depending on which nerves are affected. The patient may suffer problems with mobility, vision, fatigue, muscle weakness and numbness and tingling (parasthesia) in the limbs. To date, there is no evidence that MS directly causes tooth decay to escalate.

One theory that has been examined is the alleged link between mercury and Multiple Sclerosis. First reported on the news program, "60 Minutes" on December 23, 1990, it was suggested that dental amalgam in fillings was a direct cause of MS.[1] Following the program's airing, many MS sufferers descended upon their dentists' offices, demanding to have their amalgam fillings removed. Dental amalgam does contain mercury, but in a stable and bound form, and subsequent studies have proved that there is no danger of mercury poisoning from "silver" fillings, nor do fillings cause patients to suffer from MS. [2] MS patients should not endanger their dental health by having all their amalgam fillings removed nor should they avoid having fillings when necessary.

However, many patients who suffer debilitating effects of MS may neglect other areas of their general health and wellness. One of these may be dental health. Patients with fatigue and weakness may find it difficult to keep up with a daily dental hygiene routine. The significant challenges that the MS patient faces may divert their attention from routine dental care as they focus on managing their disease. Lack of proper dental hygiene may eventually lead to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.

MS patients who have mobility problems may also find it difficult to attend regular dental appointments. Transportation and accessibility are factors, as well as navigating the dentist's office and getting onto the dentist's chair. Patients who require walking frames or wheelchairs for mobility, may not find a dental office that can accomodate their special needs.

What can the MS patient do to maintain good dental health and prevent tooth decay?

* Brush teeth at least twice per day, after breakfast and before bed.

* Use a toothpaste containing fluoride.

* Floss daily

* Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper.

* Avoid too many sugary treats and eat a balanced diet.

* Find a dentist whose office can accomodate your needs in logistics as well as scheduling, then schedule and keep appointments at appropriate time intervals.

[1] http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/mercury.html

[2] http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/news/20041209/mercury-fillings-theyre-not-risky

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