The Dental Patient with Parkinson’s Disease

Chewing and Swallowing with Parkinson’s Disease

About 1 million Americans are living with Parkinson’s disease or PD, that we know as a neurodegenerative disorder wherein brain cells progressively die. Parts of the brain affected will manifest in motor and nonmotor symptoms. Hence, there’ll be tremors, rigidity, extreme slowness of movement, and impaired balance. Swallowing and speaking difficulties are also common, all seriously affecting quality of life.

Persons with Parkinson’s also have oral health issues just like anyone else. However, they face more challenging scenarios that impede or at least make difficult dental problems that are otherwise simple for healthier individuals.

If facial muscles are affected, it can change the way they speak or chew food, more so if they have a toothache or are missing some teeth. Unable to chew, Parkinson’s sufferers are unable to swallow more than bite-sized food and can run the risk of choking. They can also accidentally aspirate or inhale food or drink particles that can lead to lung infections, like pneumonia. If they have rheumatoid arthritis and are taking medications for that, the drugs can depressed their immune system and leave them open to a higher risk of infections that their oral cavity and structures may not be able to handle.

It may seem that little may have changed with regards to the dental challenges faced by persons with PD. Many years ago, a study in Hokkaido, Japan tested a group of patients with the condition as against a control group. It concluded that PD patients had more complaints about their oral health and more problems in oral health behavior than the general population.

It reported also that PD patients had more complaints of chewing difficulties and denture discomfort than controls. Fewer PD patients had their own teeth. Likewise, it also said that few PD patients cleaned their dentures every day and more than half of them had problems with swallowing.

Be that as it may, regular visits to the dentist, as well as twice daily brushing and flossing, and proper cleaning of dentures, will help to eliminate most dental issues with persons suffering from Parkinson’s.

Caring for the Parkinson’s Patient in Bellingham

Bellingham dentistry recognizes the special needs of persons with PD, the condition making proper oral hygiene and oral health behavior full of challenges. We are more than capable to meet those. Come visit us for an appointment.