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Oral Health Challenges Parkinson’s Disease Causes

Parkinson’s can increase the risk of cavities
Read Time: 2.5 minutes
Jan 22, 2022

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder that affects the body’s nervous system. In particular, it affects the motor movements, making normal movements difficult because of tremors or stiffness caused by the disease. Because of this, there are significant challenges with oral health that people suffering from Parkinson’s disease may face.

How Does Parkinson’s Disease Impact Oral Health?

There are two primary ways in which Parkinson’s disease can affect someone’s oral health. First, Parkinson’s disease impacts a person’s ability to use fine motor skills. Symptoms of Parkinson’s include uncontrollable movements, tremors, stiffness, and slower movement. Secondly, some medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease decrease or increase saliva production, which can also impact oral health.

Motor Skills

Putting toothpaste on toothbrush

Imagine trying to brush your teeth properly while your hand won’t stop shaking. Holding a toothbrush, applying toothpaste to the bristles, and moving the toothbrush across the teeth in a circular motion to thoroughly brush away plaque, bacteria, and food particles require a lot of fine motor control. Parkinson’s disease negatively affects a person’s ability to control those fine motor movements, making it difficult to properly brush their teeth.

Saliva Production

Parkinson’s disease has no cure, but medications can help to control the symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately for oral health, some of these medications can cause a decrease or an increase in the production of saliva in the mouth. Either case can present a problem for oral health.

Decreased Saliva Production

If your mouth isn’t producing enough saliva, then you may experience dry mouth as a result. Dry mouth can cause gums to swell and become uncomfortable. On top of that, germs and bacteria can thrive in this type of environment, leading to an increased risk of cavities and tooth decay.

Increased Saliva Production

Your mouth needs just the right amount of saliva for optimal oral health. Too little or too much can cause oral health problems. Too much saliva is a choking risk and can start to break down the skin of the lips and around the mouth over time.

How Does Parkinson’s Disease Impact Swallowing?

Parkinson’s disease can also impact a person’s ability to swallow. Dry mouth can make swallowing more difficult, but Parkinson’s can also reduce jaw bone and facial muscle strength. This makes it more difficult for those with Parkinson’s disease to eat healthily, further impacting oral health.

How Can People With Parkinson’s Maintain Oral Health?

Because of the challenges people with Parkinson’s disease can face in maintaining their oral health, it’s especially important for them to regularly visit the dentist. Not only can the dentist help to maintain oral cleanliness, the dentist can also address any oral health issues that may arise. Your dentist may also be able to offer tips on how to overcome some of the oral health challenges.

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