Getting dentures reminds me of the importance of oral healthcare

How Parkinson's symptoms can lead to numerous oral health problems

Samantha Felder avatar

by Samantha Felder |

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Growing up, I was often told, “A healthy mouth equals a happy brain.” I wish I would’ve taken this advice to heart sooner, because now I’m learning the hard way.

At 32, I’m in the process of getting dentures.

I was shocked when my dentist told me recently that I’d need to have a number of teeth pulled. I was scared and embarrassed that I had let things go so far. I knew my teeth were bad, but I didn’t realize they were that bad. I keep thinking about what I could’ve done differently to prevent this.

On Jan. 20, I had to have 12 teeth surgically removed. For the next few months while my dentures are being made, I have to be on a no-chew diet, and let me tell you, it hasn’t been fun.

This experience has taught me that oral health is just as important as exercise and nutrition for those of us with Parkinson’s disease.

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The Challenge of Oral Health in Parkinson’s Disease

Protecting our teeth

Because Parkinson’s symptoms can lead to issues with dental care, it’s imperative for us patients to protect our teeth and gums.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, “When it comes to Parkinson’s and oral health, the goals are to preserve dental health and minimize the negative impact disease treatment may have.” Common issues include dry mouth, drooling, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and harmful oral bacteria.

My neurologist warned me about dysphagia, explaining that poor dental health can affect our ability to swallow. This can lead to choking or aspiration (inhaling food or drink particles), which can in turn lead to lung infections like pneumonia. As the Parkinson’s Foundation notes, aspiration pneumonia is the leading cause of death for Parkinson’s patients.

In addition, motor symptoms like rigidity and dyskinesia — both of which I’m exhibiting — can make tasks such as brushing and flossing difficult. These symptoms can even result in broken or chipped teeth and tooth grinding.

The American Parkinson Disease Association offers some helpful oral hygiene tips, such as opting to use an electric toothbrush that’s easier to grip. For those who are technology savvy, there are now toothbrushes on the market that sync up with an app on your cellphone to give you real-time feedback on your brushing technique and efficiency. For instance, the app will show you if you’ve covered the whole tooth or if there are parts that need a little more tender, loving care.

Other tips include drinking water throughout the day to help prevent dry mouth and changing the head of your electric toothbrush every three months.

I never imagined I’d be wearing dentures at 32. My goal now is to take better care of the teeth I still have and make the best of the situation. Hopefully this cautionary tale will inspire others to concentrate more on their oral care and avoid making the same mistakes that I did.

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.


Mike avatar


I am very sorry to hear of your dental woes. Teeth are very important to well being. You amaze me with your coping and positivity as you handle your condition. I am 66 and blessed with good dental hygiene.. brushing is so critical. That folks with Parkinson’s
need to be aware of the potential difficulties with the mouth and teeth is just another thing to be aware of. Samantha Thank you for the reminder. Blessings,Mike


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