Huntington’s disease is an inherited disorder that typically strikes when the patient is in their 40’s or 50’s. It causes nerve cells in the brain to degenerate, resulting in movement disorders such as involuntary jerking, muscle contractions, and difficulty swallowing. Patients also often lack the ability to control their impulses and may suffer from mania, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Good dental care is important for individuals with Huntington’s disease. Due to the difficulty in swallowing, patients have a difficult time eating enough and often turn to a diet high in sugar to get the calories they need. At the same time, they often lack the physical dexterity to brush their teeth properly. The combination of a high sugar diet and poor brushing habits results in poor oral health and a higher than normal rate of developing cavities.
Regular routine dental care including frequent cleanings can help, but normal dental practices can be dangerous for Huntington’s disease patients because of their inability o control their movements. If you are a caregiver for a person with Huntington’s disease, talk to your dentist about increased focus on the prevention of tooth decay in the patient. More frequent cleanings and the application of fluoride can help slow tooth decay.
In addition, look for a dentist that specializes in sleep and sedation dentistry. Only a few dentists have the training and experience needed for this specialty practice area, but sleep and sedation dentistry is a humane way for Huntington’s disease patients to get high quality dental care safely, comfortably, and without pain or anxiety.
The dentist will recommend a level of sedation appropriate for the individual patient and the dental procedures needed. The sedation can range from moderate conscious sedation to full general anesthesia. Sleep and sedation dentistry has helped millions of special needs patients get the dental care they need.
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