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For medically compromised patients, dental care can be as important as medical care.
Outside of flying, there is nothing Shari Zelin fears more than dentists. That’s why she initially ignored all the suggestions she received from family and friends to visit a dentist not long after she suffered a stroke a few years ago.
“At the time, it just seemed unheard of for me to visit a dentist,” the 55-year-old Long Island, New York native explains. “I’d just had a stroke. I was focused on learning how to walk again. Going to see a dentist? That was the least of my worries.”
It was, until a cap came off one of her front teeth about a year into her recovery. That’s when Shari finally acted on the advice of her mother and went to Regency Court Dentistry to see Naved Fatmi, DMD, who soon educated her on why she should have come to see him sooner.
Stroke victims sometimes develop trouble either with swallowing or retaining saliva. The latter can lead to tooth decay, which is why Shari’s cap fell off. In Shari’s case, however, the first cap to go would not be the last.”
Dental Domino Effect
Not long after she first visited Dr. Fatmi, Shari lost another cap. In addition, she began to experience a lot of pain and discomfort on one side of her mouth, so much that she began chewing her food exclusively on the other side. Dr. Fatmi soon discovered that all of Shari’s problems stemmed from a lack of proper saliva levels in her mouth, an issue that he knew would grow far worse if she didn’t take action.
“Shari came to us as a medically compromised patient who was on many medications that have a side effect of decreasing the amount of saliva produced,” explains Dr. Fatmi. “If there’s not proper saliva flow, you start getting cavities and dry mouth.
“Dry mouth can cause even more dental issues, which is why it’s so important for somebody who becomes medically compromised not to push dentistry aside just because they believe the medical issues need to come first. The medical and the dental really have to go hand in hand. If your overall health starts to deteriorate, you need to pay even more attention to your dental health and not neglect it because it will become harder to chew and eat food properly.”
Shari can attest to that. She eventually had 14 teeth pulled as a result of the complications stemming from her stroke. In addition, had she not gone to see Dr. Fatmi when she did, her medical problems might have been worse.
Left untreated, tooth decay has the potential to create abscesses, which are pockets of infection in the mouth. Those infections can lead to sinus problems and sometimes even spread to the jawbone, heart and brain.
“That’s why it’s paramount, Dr. Fatmi says, to continue to see a dentist regularly while recovering from other medical issues. In Shari’s case, Dr. Fatmi discovered the issue before it had become too big to tackle.”
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