The Challenge of Oral Health in Parkinson’s Disease

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by Jo Gambosi |

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is known to affect oral health because of disease-related symptoms. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, physical issues such as rigidity, shaking, uncontrolled movements, and even balance problems can prevent a person with PD from keeping up good oral hygiene. Increased or decreased amounts of saliva, which also are associated with medications taken to treat PD, can lead to dental issues such as infections in the mouth or an increased risk of developing cavities.

My sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s, takes selegiline and an antidepressant, both of which can cause dry mouth and decreased saliva production. In the past year, she visited me in Arizona to obtain full-mouth teeth extraction for dental issues and for full denture fitting at the university dental clinic where I used to work. Because of her decreased saliva, she continues to have some issues adjusting to her bottom dentures.

However, the dentist told her that most people with dentures seem to have problems adjusting to their bottom dentures, even without PD. The dentist recommended that Bev use saliva-increasing lozenges or mouth rinses such as Biotin or Act for dry mouth.

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Another PD issue that can affect oral health is swallowing. Dry mouth and decreased strength in jaw, tongue, or facial muscles affect swallowing. Eating nutritious foods because of problems with chewing and swallowing can lead to more dental problems such as cavities and mouth ulcers.

Bev had speech therapy for swallowing issues that started in the past year. The therapist recommended taking smaller bites when chewing and before swallowing, eating more slowly before swallowing, and sitting upright with her head up when eating.

Jaw exercises to strengthen muscles in the mouth and jaw may also help PD patients with improved quality of life and oral health.

A literature review titled “Evidence-Based Recommendations for the Oral Health of Patients with Parkinson’s Disease,” published last March in the journal Neurology and Therapy, concluded that “Patients with PD had reduced quality of oral health and hygiene, and high prevalence of gingival recession [gum recession], periodontal disease [gum disease], dental calculus [tartar], tooth decay, tooth mobility and loss, drooling, xerostomia [dry mouth], dysphagia [swallowing] and temporomandibular [jaw] disorders.”

Because of the challenges of oral health for people with PD, routine consultations with an oral surgeon in addition to a general dentist may be recommended.

Although original Medicare does not provide dental care coverage, some Medicare Advantage plans do. Also, there are discount dental plans, university dental school-associated clinics that have reduced charges, and free services that may be offered through the Dental Lifeline Network.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Angus Macqueen avatar

Angus Macqueen

I find that I can maintain the health of my PD-affected teeth and gums through use ofan electric toothbrush


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