Sunday, May 23, 2010

dental care Multiple Sclerosis

While a day in the life of caregiving rarely has epic moments you can still find yourself pumping your fist into the air over moments atop the Mundane Mountains of life.

Receiving a glowing report card call from the visiting dentist at Patti’s care facility Saturday morning was just such one of those moments. With his mention of “no cavities” I could not help remembering the good ol’ Crest advertising slogan.
Living with Multiple Sclerosis it’s not easy to keep up with a daily dental hygiene routine. Above and beyond fatigue and weakness, progression of Multiple Sclerosis symptoms including wheelchair necessity, physical dexterity, spasticity, eye hand coordination, numbness, tingling, and cognitive / memory impairment all conspire against efforts to brush and floss teeth.

Plus some medications actually work against gum health.

Additionally, there are no such things as ‘routine dental visits’. Finding an accessible office much less an accessible dental chair is only the tip of an iceberg including socioeconomic factors (lack of dental insurance, inability to pay out of pocket), and assisted transportation to get there and back.

As Patti’s inability to participate in her own activities of daily living have diminished, dental care challenges have increased. Trying to help someone to effectively brush their own teeth, and/or brush their teeth for them, is more demanding than can be imagined.

Do not assume modern technology is an answer. If someone is already challenged physically to hold anything, legally blind, and way too easily confused just go ahead and hand them a buzzing vibrating toothbrush and see what happens. … You may as well have handed them a snake.

It takes time, commitment, patience, and respect to make the experience work. Having someone help you or brush your teeth for you a couple times a day is frankly damn intrusive. I find if I make a pinch of entertainment part of the caring mix it works so much better. After all a smile is far easier to brush no matter who is doing the brushing. 

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick Leer
web site: 
musings: patrick ponders


  1. Patrick - cooperation is such an important part of dental care. BR always took care of it himself, so we had no struggle there

    Up. Down. Left. Right.

    Seems simple.

  2. "commitment, patience, and respect" -- you seem to be made of a rare genetic cloth. I salute you.

  3. I just laugh now when dentists tell me to use an electric tooth brush because it is easier. They don't get it and I'm done educating them. You described it so well, " a snake..." I am blessed with good teeth genes and was in the first Crest tests back in early '60s---use it ever since. But yes, a small conquest that makes me feel great.

  4. never thought of this before, Patrick, but I can see how this would be a challenge to keep on top of something we take for granted with brushing our teeth and good dental hygiene. Hats off to you for your efforts in caregiving completely every aspect of Patti's health and care and taking such wonderful, meticulous care of her!!!


  5. LOVE my electric toothbrush! I need help getting set up, but it's one thing I can still do partly by myself. Good thing, too, given the difficulty of getting in and out at the dentist's office. Just, you know, different strokes...

  6. I would like to say that it is very interesting to read your blog... Teeth Cleaning


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