Declining Oral Health Affects Patients’ Life Quality, Study Suggests

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by Patricia Inacio PhD |

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Oral health affects life quality in adults with Parkinson’s, with oral health worsening with disease progression and resulting in a related greater decline in quality of life than is evident in adults of similar age without this disorder, a small study from the Netherlands reports.

Motor difficulties impacting daily living activities, a worsening in oral hygiene, tooth wear, and burning mouth syndrome were all associated with a poorer oral health-related quality of life.

Dentists need be attentive that care is given to help prevent further deterioration in oral health and life quality for these patients, its researchers noted.

The study “Oral Health-Related Quality of Life in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease” was published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation.

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The Challenge of Oral Health in Parkinson’s Disease

Oral health is affected by Parkinson’s disease, with issues such as dry mouth (a condition called xerostomia), drooling, and difficulties in swallowing.

Scientists at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam set out to do what they reported would be a first study of oral health-related quality of life in Parkinson’s patients living in the Netherlands, and factors that may associate with it.

Increasing difficulties with movement and motor control over time can limit oral hygiene, the team noted, which “can increase the incidence of dental pathology, resulting in, for example, dental pain and, therefore, reduced quality of life.”

These scientists evaluated oral health-related quality of life in 341 Parkinson’s patients (mean age, 65.5) compared with that reported by 411 adults without Parkinson’s (mean age, 62.6), who served as controls.

Oral health-related quality of life was assessed using the Dutch 14-item version of the Oral Health Impact Profile (OHIP-14), a validated questionnaire whose 14 items are scored by responses ranging from one (never) to five (very often). Higher scores indicate a worse oral health-related quality of life.

Parkinson’s patients had significantly higher scores on the OHIP-14 — indicative of poorer oral health — when compared with controls (mean of 19.1 vs 16.5), an analysis of results showed.

Mean OHIP-14 scores were also three points higher among patients younger than 75 compared with mean scores of those 75 or older. But this difference was not statistically significant, meaning it could be do to chance.

Several factors were seen in further analyses to significantly correlate in an inverse or negative way with oral health-related life quality. These included motor symptoms affecting daily life experiences, a worsening of oral health during the disease’s course, tooth wear, and possible burning mouth syndrome (a permanent burning sensation in the mouth without an obvious cause).

Being “dentate,” which refers to having a sufficient set of teeth, including teeth with serrated edges, associated with a better oral-health quality of life.

“Although problems concerning oral health are probably subordinate to other problems present in PD [Parkinson’s disease] patients, this article suggests that the OHRQoL [oral health-related quality of life] may be impaired in patients with PD,” the researchers wrote.

“By being aware of this, dentists may be more alert and thus improve PD patients’ oral health to prevent further deterioration of their OHRQoL,” they concluded.

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