Parkinson’s Disease And Dental Health: What You Need To Know

Doctors diagnose 60,000 Americans with Parkinson's disease every year, and experts estimate that around one million people in the United States now have this condition. Parkinson's disease causes problems with vital nerve cells in the brain, and the condition leads to a variety of serious and increasingly debilitating side effects. If you or someone you love has Parkinson's disease, learn how the disease can affect dental health, and find out what you can do to look after your teeth and gums.

How Parkinson's affects the body

Parkinson's is a progressive condition. While the symptoms often only start on one side of the body, people with the condition eventually experience the same side effects on the other side. There's no cure for Parkinson's disease, but people with the condition can often control their symptoms with medication, surgery and other types of therapy.

In the early stages of the disease, several primary motor symptoms often occur. People often get a slight tremor in a hand or foot or one side of the face. Bradykinesia is also a common side effect, causing slower movements and a decrease in facial movements. Parkinson's can also cause rigidity in the muscles in your limbs, as well as instability when you stand upright.

Parkinson's can also cause problems with your dental health.

Difficulty swallowing

The motor symptoms that doctors associate with Parkinson's disease can sometimes affect the face. Weak or stiff muscles in your face can make it more difficult to chew and swallow, and some people also find it difficult to close their lips tightly. When this happens, it becomes increasingly difficult to swallow.

If you find it difficult to swallow, changes to your diet can help you cope. Your doctor can recommend different types of food and drink that are easier and safer to swallow. A speech therapist can also often help you learn to swallow more effectively, thanks to exercises that strengthen your lips and throat muscles.

Dry mouth

The medication that your doctor prescribes for Parkinson's can sometimes cause unwanted side effects. Dry mouth is a relatively common side effect, and the condition can increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. What's more, more serious cases of dry mouth can create an unpleasant burning sensation in your mouth.

If you suffer with dry mouth, it's important to take frequent sips of water. Chewing sugar-free gum can also help. Good dental hygiene is also vital, and it's important to regularly brush and floss your teeth to cut the risk of tooth decay. If the problem is too severe, you may need to ask your doctor if it's possible to change your medication.

Good dental hygiene

With Parkinson's disease, you may also find it increasingly difficult to look after your teeth. To brush and/or floss your teeth, you need a good muscle-eye coordination and digital dexterity. Both these skills can become harder with the onset of Parkinson's disease. In fact, experts estimate that the symptoms of Parkinson's disease make it difficult for nearly 50 percent of people to take care of their teeth properly.

There are several ways you can change your cleaning regime to make life easier. Many Parkinson's sufferers use electric toothbrushes because they are easier to use than their manual counterparts. A dentist can also sometimes prescribe fluoride gel treatments. This type of gel has a much stronger fluoride dosage than conventional toothpaste, which means the benefits of the mineral last longer.

You can make a dental check-up easier by taking your medication 60 to 90 minutes before an appointment, so your symptoms are less likely to cause a problem. Many people also find it easier to book an appointment first thing in the morning, as this will cut unwanted waiting times. Longer visits will often become more difficult over time, so it's also a good idea to book several shorter appointments instead.

Parkinson's disease is a serious progressive condition that can make life increasingly difficult. Talk to your dentist for more advice about steps you can take to protect your teeth and gums. For more information on how a dentist can help you with your condition, consider a site like