Epilepsy is a neurological condition in which a person has chronic, unpredictable seizures. If a friend or family member has a seizure, they can control their symptoms with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). What you may not realize though is that this condition and these drugs sometimes come with oral effects. But managing epilepsy and oral health is possible when you understand the risks and how to deal with them.
What is Epilepsy?
Experts define epilepsy as a nervous system disorder that causes periods of abnormal activity in the brain. This can affect any process your brain controls, causing seizures or changes in behavior or awareness.
Epilepsy can run in families, and other causes include head trauma and brain tumors. In adults over 35, stroke is the leading cause of epilepsy. In addition, diseases such as meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, prenatal injuries or other developmental disorders can trigger this disorder. Although it can affect both men and women of all ages and ethnicities, epilepsy occurs in less than 1% of the population and is more common in men.
Common Epilepsy Symptoms
According to experts, the symptoms of epilepsy vary; however, a person with epilepsy will most likely have the same types of symptoms in each episode. The following symptoms are usually seen in generalized seizures that occur when the whole brain is affected:
.Temporary confusion, blinking or staring spell
.Sudden, uncontrollable jerking or stiffening of the arms and legs
.Loss of consciousness
.Oral Health Risks
Generalized seizures pose a risk of injury to your tongue and other parts of the mouth. Seizures can also damage the temporomandibular joints or cause a person to aspirate a tooth into the lungs.
Unfortunately, medications used to control this disorder can also produce side effects in the mouth. A side effect often associated with AEDs is gingival hyperplasia, an overgrowth of gum tissue. As stated in an article published in the USA, phenytoin is a frequently used AED in children and may cause gingival hyperplasia in 50% of the patients using it.
Research indicates that AEDs can also cause xerostomia or dry mouth. Experts explain that dry mouth can make you more susceptible to tooth decay, as saliva cleans food debris and bacteria from your teeth.
Epilepsy and Oral Health Management
Fixed dentures may be a better option for people with epilepsy, as dentures and removable partial dentures can break during seizures or pose a choking hazard. A dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard to prevent trauma to the teeth overnight. If a patient develops severe gingival hyperplasia, they may need surgical treatment to remove excess gingival tissue.
A dentist will closely assess an epileptic patient for any signs of gingival hyperplasia or dry mouth and will share the following oral hygiene steps to help them prevent tooth decay and gum disease:
.Brush your teeth frequently with fluoride toothpaste throughout the day and before going to bed.
.Maintain a healthy diet and get adequate nutrition.
.Use mint or lozenge with xylitol to stimulate saliva production and prevent cavities.
A medical team of doctors and dentists is there to help you or your loved ones manage epilepsy. If you are concerned about the effects of epilepsy on oral health, know that your dentist is always on hand to help you keep your smile bright and your teeth and gums healthy.