Impacts of a Stroke on Dental Health

Image of a stroke patient doing physical activity.

How does a stroke affect a person’s oral health?

The effects of a stroke can include difficulties with:

  • Speech
  • Chewing
  • Swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Tongue function is sometimes poor, and food may collect in the cheeks and floor of the mouth.
  • Paralysis of the hand or arm (i.e. Assistance with  brushing will be needed)

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How can I help with daily dental care?

In addition to daily dental care tips for natural teeth or daily dental care tips for dentures , you can make sure the person’s dental professional is aware of the stroke so that they can modify dental treatment.

For natural teeth

  • Assess the ability of the person to take care of his or her own mouth and teeth.
  • If they have difficulty grasping a toothbrush, try modifying the handle with tubing, a tennis ball, or bicycle handle grip.
  • If flossing is difficult, a rubber tipped stimulator, special toothpicks, or a small pointed toothbrush may replace flossing.
  • If there are swallowing problems :
    • The person should sit upright with their chin tucked down to keep liquid from pooling in the back of the throat.
    • Clean the mouth prior to brushing by swabbing with the corner of a soft moistened cloth.
    • Toothpaste should not be used only toothbrush slightly moistened with water.

For denture(s):

  • A denture brush with a wide modified handle will help.
  • Decreased oral muscle function increases the risk of dentures being swallowed.

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What are common oral health problems caused by a stroke?

  • Dry mouth (xeristomia)
    • Some medications can make the mouth very dry. Moisturizing products available in a pharmacy will help ease the dryness.
  • Swallowing difficulties (dysphagia)
    • The person should sit upright with their chin tucked down to keep liquid from pooling in the back of the throat.
    • Clean the mouth prior to brushing by swabbing with the corner of a soft moistened cloth.
    • Toothpaste should not be used only toothbrush slightly moistened with water.

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