We all know good dental care prevents infection, promotes better nutrition and keeps your smile happy. Regular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentist can even help forestall expensive future procedures, like root canals.
But, brushing and flossing can be difficult if you experience numbness, spasticity, tremor or fatigue. It may be the last thing on your mind to schedule your twice-a-year cleaning and dental exam with so many other medical appointments to handle. But don’t give in. Here are a few things you can do.
Get a grip with tooth “aides.” Ask an occupational therapist about electric toothbrushes, or toothbrushes with a built up or extended handle. You can also try wrapping the handle with a washcloth or sliding it into a tennis ball with a slit cut into it. Weighted toothbrushes may help with tremor. Visit abledata.com for some examples, plus a few other items such as one-handed toothpaste dispensers.
Save energy for the important things—like flossing. There are easy-to-use flossing “swords” available in drugstores so the job can be done one-handed. Multitask—floss while watching television or in bed. If you’re too tired at night, floss in the morning. Before sleep is preferable, but any flossing is better than no flossing at all.
If standing at the sink is tiring, sit down to brush and floss. You can also try asking a family member to help. Long-handled toothbrushes can be held by a second person.
Schedule dental appointments for the time of day when you have the most energy.
Keep your powder dry and your mouth moist. Some medications used to treat MS symptoms can cause dry mouth, which in turn can lead to gum disease or mouth infections.
Talk to your health-care providers. They may be able to adjust the dose or even change the medication. If not, ask about a prescription for an oral rinse or a recommendation for an over-the-counter remedy. You can also try squirting small amounts of lemon juice into your mouth or sucking on sugar-free lemon candies. Drink plenty of water—staying hydrated will help. Use a humidifier at night and avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
The Mercury Question
Very little evidence exists to link mercury-containing amalgam dental fillings and MS. And to have dental fillings removed or replaced is expensive. However, if you are worried about having new amalgam fillings, ask your dentist about alternatives, such as porcelain.
Speak up. MS pain is real. More than half of all people with MS experience pain at some time or another. A best first step is to describe it. Make a list of when it kicks up, where it is in the body, and what it feels like. Tingling, burning, aching, stabbing, whatever. This will help a physician make a diagnosis. See next item!
Get an assessment. Take the list to a physician who will work with you to figure out if your pain is muscle-and-bone pain (usually from posture problems), neurologic pain (from short circuiting nerves), or spasticity (common in people with MS). If necessary, refer your professional to “Pain in Multiple Sclerosis” on nationalMSsociety.org. Click “For Professionals” in the gray banner at the top.
Follow a regular pain medication schedule. If you are prescribed a pain med, take it according to a schedule, not after pain gets going. Many people try to tough it out, believing less medication will be better, but medications don’t work as well if taken after pain has started.
Take a “whole person” approach. Regardless of the type of pain or the therapy prescribed, other things can be added to reduce pain’s impact: meditation, music, humor, hypnosis, massage, behavioral therapy, exercise, relaxation techniques, yoga. Discuss options with your provider.
Connect with others. Most people find life easier when they learn more about MS pain and reach out to others to share successful coping. Go to the yellow “Symptom Information” box on our home page, click on Pain, and review the resources. And call us at 1-800-344-4867.
Watch, read, or listen at nationalMSsociety.org/mslearnonline. MS Learn Online offers an extensive menu of topics on MS, available 24/7 and in the format of your choice. Whether it’s a PDF printout to relax in a chair with, an audio file on your MP3 player, or an online webcast, all you need is a computer and a reliable Internet connection.
Visit archived presentations, or explore new ones. Feature Presentations go live the first and third Thursday of each month. Upcoming topics include Disease Modifying Therapies; Hormones, Gender and MS; and a series of programs on primary-progressive MS. Other topics will include Pediatric MS, Complimentary & Alternative Medicines, and Gait Issues in MS. Click on the Daily Minute for a one-minute factoid about MS. At Q&A, distinguished neurologist, Dr. Mary Hughes answers a viewer’s question each week. E-mail your own question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Six-week Teleconference Series
8 Hours to a Lifetime of Relationship Satisfaction teaches basic communication skills. While there is some discussion about MS, it is not the focus of the teleclass series.
Tuesday evenings from January 5 to February 9, 2010
9:00 - 10:30 p.m.
Jan. 5, Jan. 12, Jan. 19, Jan. 26, Feb. 2 and Feb. 9
Register by Tuesday, December 15, 2009
1-800-344-4867 or email@example.com.
If you are covered by Medicare, now is the time to weigh your prescription drug coverage options. The annual enrollment period for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program begins November 15 and runs through December 31. Coverage itself begins in January.
During this period people with Medicare can enroll in a plan or change their enrollment from one plan to another.
All plans have different costs and benefits from year to year. It is crucial for all beneficiaries to carefully review the 2010 options and make the best choices for the coming year. Watch for a letter from your current drug plan for details on increased costs to you and other changes they’re planning for 2010. Reforms to Medicare are in the news but no changes have been made, so consideration of the “donut hole” remains important.
For more information contact Medicare at 800-MEDICARE, visit medicare.gov, or call us and ask to speak with an MS Navigator™.