Dental care can be become a challenging task for stroke patients. This condition (also called cerebrovascular accident (CVA) is caused by a disruption in the blood supply in the brain and can affect the normal activity of our nerves.
The effects of this disruption ranges from mild to severe forms of visual impairment, difficulty in understanding as well as speech and varying degrees of difficulty in mobility in the affected side of the body. These collective effects have a big impact in these patients’ oral health and extra care is needed to maintain their oral health.
Due to the disruption in normal nerve activities, stroke patients might have difficulty in swallowing (also called dysphagia). These patients need assistance in eating food and it may be advisable to alter their diet by changing the consistency of their food. They are also encouraged to eat slowly while sitting up straight and with the chin tucked down to avoid regurgitation of the food they eat.
Those experiencing dysphagia are also encouraged to have their mouth cleaned before brushing and to only use minimal or no toothpaste to prevent further irritation on the throat.
The quality of muscle and nerve activity on the face can be altered and may include difficulty in speech as well as tongue movement. These problems are usually addressed by a speech therapist when the patient undergoes rehabilitation.
The severity of muscle impairment on the hands and arms will also need modified designs of toothbrushes so that the patient can grasp these properly. Battery-operated toothbrushes are also recommended as these decreases the amount of effort the patient needs to exert. In some cases, other people might need to aid the patient if he/she cannot adequately brush the teeth and gums.
Patients who are prescribed blood thinners (to prevent another bout of stroke as well as heart disease) might also experience dry mouth (also known as xerostomia). The decreased saliva in the mouth makes the teeth more prone to decay because there is decreased protective and buffering action coming from the saliva. Artificial saliva and other alternatives can be given by the dentist to address this problem.
Maintaining the patient’s good oral health is important for stroke patients as these affect their nutrition, over-all well-being as well as quality of life. The dentist needs to be informed about the patient’s condition as well as the drugs they are currently taking so that caution is exercised for any procedure to be done and oral hygiene advices can be given to the patient.