Objective: The aim was to assess orofacial function and monitor oral care in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to maintain oral comfort and oral health.
Materials and methods: A case series of 14 patients newly diagnosed with ALS accepted to participate in a quality improvement project. After initial examinations, baseline oral conditions were obtained and the patients were seen every 3 months. Nordic Orofacial Test-Screening (NOT-S) was used for evaluation of orofacial function.
Results: Patients were grouped according to initial symptoms in a bulbar group and a spinal group with eight and six patients, respectively. The mean age at diagnosis was 62.8 years. All were dentate with a mean of 26.7 natural teeth. Most patients had very good oral and dental conditions. As expected, orofacial functions were differently affected in the two groups; at initial NOT-S registration, the mean total score was 5.6 (range 3-8 domains) in the bulbar group and 0.7 (0-2 domains) in the spinal group. At final registration, the corresponding figures were 6.1 and 3.2. Oral and dental aids were introduced according to need.
Conclusions: In the bulbar group, several orofacial functions became impaired at an early stage of disease development, and at final registrations many vital orofacial functions were severely compromised. The spinal group was less severely affected orally. However, all individuals irrespective of type of initial symptoms needed assistance in performing oral hygiene measures in the latter part of the disease period. Good oral health and oral comfort could be maintained in all participants and no other dental treatment was needed.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; NOT-S; oral care; orofacial function.