Having cerebral palsy and good oral health can be difficult to achieve. The physical act of brushing teeth is far from easy when you have trouble keeping your mouth open, staying still, fighting the gag reflex, biting and tongue thrusts. Unfortunately, many with cerebral palsy often forego the dentist or doing what they need to do to maintain proper dental health because it is just too hard.
When you procrastinate taking care of your mouth, major problems arise. These problems can be costly, time-consuming and painful. Trust me. I have learned the hard way about finding a good dentist, but also about taking good care of your mouth.
I always needed others to brush my teeth, but everyone has a different approach. Also, perhaps laziness figured into others not doing an effective job of brushing my teeth. I would put up with pain in my mouth longer than I should, which eventually hurt me physically and financially.
I finally found a dentist who would work on me. Surprisingly, finding a dentist that works on people with disabilities is not easy. When I was younger, I don’t remember having such a problem with finding dentists as I do now. Perhaps they are concerned about possible liability from hurting someone. But what they need to remember is that people with disabilities still deserve quality dental care, regardless of their disability.
The dentist I first found examined me and said I needed lots of work done. She had a practice that had sedation dentistry. She prescribes medication that makes you tired before bed. On the morning of a procedure, you take more medication, and she gives you more when you arrive. You also might get nitrogen oxide, better known as laughing gas, to further relax you. All of this is expensive and only top-of-the-line insurance covers it.
I’m embarrassed to say that I stayed with this dentist for a few years as she told me I needed more and more procedures. I often had trouble with her work (keeping a cap on my tooth). By the time she quoted me for a final procedure, my dad told me I should get a second opinion. I’m so happy I did!
I found a dentist who had a room designed for patients in wheelchairs. I didn’t have to transfer in and out of the dentist chair because all I had to do is tilt back in my chair. But here is the news: My former dentist had said I had a cavity. This dentist said he didn’t see anything. In fact, he said my teeth were in very good condition, but I had pain due to the other dentist’s faulty work securing the cap. Thinking about all that money I possibly didn’t need to spend made me feel nauseous. My new dentist also had no trouble working on me, which leads me to believe I didn’t need to be medicated all of those times.
My advice to you is prevention is key. I now use an electronic toothbrush with a two-minute timer so my attendants need to continue brushing until it stops. I rinse with two different mouthwashes and brush twice a day. I also get regular dental exams.
Please don’t be discouraged as you seek good dental health professionals. They exist, and it will take time and possibly multiple appointments, but you can do it.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.