Epilepsy is a neurological condition affecting only one percent of the population. However, it doesn’t discriminate in its victims, with epilepsy seen in men and women of all ages and backgrounds. Epilepsy is most commonly characterized by involuntary and chronic seizures due to the abnormal responses in the brain.
While the exact cause of epilepsy for 75% of diagnosed people is unknown, what is apparent is the effects of its symptoms on cognitive, mental, and physical health. This might surprise you, but epileptic seizures pose a direct risk to oral health.
The University of Washington School of Dentistry released a fact sheet that recognizes how epilepsy can increase a patient’s risk of oral health issues. Because of unpredicted and uncontrollable rigorous body movements, patients diagnosed with epilepsy have a tendency to gnash their teeth and bite on their tongue or cheeks during a seizure.
When unmanaged and prolonged, these can cause a myriad of oral health problems, such as:
Because of these, dentists are specially trained to deal with oral health issues caused by epileptic seizures. They analyze the frequency and severity of each patient’s seizures and recommend a course of treatment, while mitigating risks such as choking hazards or seizure triggers, for example.
Aside from the seizures themselves, the medications prescribed to alleviate and control them can also produce oral health side effects. These consequences can be mild and easy to treat, such as the bleeding of the gums, xerostomia (dry mouth), and tooth decay.
However, there are also side effects that have permanent or severe connotations. The most common one associated with most anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) is gingival hyperplasia, which is a condition that causes the overgrowth of gum tissue. An article published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology reveals that gingival hyperplasia happens to 50% of epilepsy patients who take phenytoin, the most frequently prescribed anti-epileptic drug.
Further, AEDs also affect the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin D, a crucial mineral that fosters bone and dental health.
While AEDs cannot be ruled out to control and manage epileptic seizures, it’s important to supplement them with proper oral hygiene and regular dental appointments. Below are some tips for dental care tailored to epilepsy patients.
A proper oral health routine is beneficial for everyone, but even more critical for epilepsy patients because of their increased tendency to develop dry mouth, which causes tooth decay. A complete and excellent oral health routine should include:
Some dentists may also prescribe a 1.1% fluoride gel that patients need to apply in their mouths for two minutes after brushing. The excess gel should be spit out and not rinsed with water. Eating or drinking before bed should also be avoided.
Further, taking mints, gums, and lozenges regularly can stimulate saliva production, prevent dry mouth and cavities, and strengthen tooth resistance.
Some dental procedures can trigger epileptic seizures among patients, which is why it’s important that your dentist knows about your epilepsy, as well as treatments, medications, and dental history. This will help them analyze your conditions and conduct a more suitable dental plan.
Dentists may recommend cosmetic dental procedures for missing, chipped, or damaged teeth. When dealing with epilepsy patients, dentists need to be aware of the best procedures to conduct as well as the most ideal materials to use. Dentures and removable prosthetics may become choking hazards during seizures, so fixed prosthetics are better alternatives.
If they see fit, dentists may also recommend the use of mouth guards. If you are undergoing a dental procedure, it would be helpful to use eye and earplugs or wear earphones to minimize triggers.
Seizures are unpredictable in nature, and various things can trigger them — including dental procedures. Be sure your dentist is aware of your epileptic condition so that they know how to respond to emergency seizures during your appointment. Create a written plan and send a copy to your dentist or carry it with you when you visit.
Epilepsy is a difficult condition in itself, but its effects on dental health are severe as well. Patients should make their oral health one of their top priorities, practicing excellent dental hygiene and making regular trips to the dentist.