As Parkinson’s diseases slowly erodes a person’s control of their movement, many normal parts of life become much more difficult.
In a new study in Brazil, “Evidence-Based Recommendations for the Oral Health of Patients with Parkinson’s Disease,” researchers drew attention to the common dental decay found in Parkinson’s patients, who often find their oral hygiene side tracked while dealing with an entire body of needs. As a person slowly loses control of their movement, new medical needs demand attention. Tremors making brushing difficult, new treatment routines get prioritized, and dentist appointments get taken off the schedule.
While tooth decay and receding gums are typical Parkinson’s symptoms, amongst their long list of doctors, dentists are not part of the typical Parkinson’s interdisciplinary healthcare team. Neglecting to prioritize oral hygiene paves the way for more insidious mouth diseases. In an effort to help Parkinson’s patients achieve oral health, the researchers drew together some recommendations to guide them through.
Parkinson’s disease is rare neurological disorder that progressively takes away a person’s control of their movement. Beginning later in life in most cases, the disease of the central nervous system begins with slight tremors in one hand or side of the body before beginning to cause rigidity, more intense tremors, slurred speech, and loss of balance. In later stages, patients may have hallucinations and have difficulty walking, moving, and living an independent life. While the disease has various medications available to treat symptoms, there is no specific treatment or cure.
Parkinson’s Patients and Oral Health
The researchers set out to better understand the relationship between Parkinson’s and degrading oral hygiene, conducting a review analyzing 14 studies published in 16 papers. Combing through the compiled data, which collectively included information from almost 800 Parkinson’s patients, they found the studies broadly confirmed their suspicions that Parkinson’s patients suffered from extra dental health issues.
They identified links between the disease and cavities, gum remission, gum infections, dryness, trouble swallowing, and drooling. They also saw the increased prevalence of other related diseases including xerostomia, orofacial pain, caries, and taste impairment.
The researchers comment that part of the issue is because oral care tends to become increasingly neglected by patients as fine motor skills become increasingly difficult. They noticed that dentists are not part of the interdisciplinary teams usually used to covered the many needs of patients.
The scientists hope patient’s could lessen their risk of oral decay and mouth diseases with attention and appropriate routines. They recommend, for example, that patients might want to switch hands while brushing or use both hands together if a tremor makes it difficult to use just one. They also recommend scheduling regular visits to dentists, buying an electric toothbrush, and using symptom specific remedies such as easing a dry mouth with artificial saliva and using botulinum toxin, the main ingredient in botox, in order to help drooling.
There are also various chewing and lip exercises that the doctors recommend patients inquire about in order to receive individual instruction. They also recommend neurologists and Parkinson’s specialists included questions and instructions about dental hygiene when dealing with patients.
Helping Parkinson’s patients create realistic routines is key to preventing unnecessary medical mishaps. The scientists contend,
“There is no question that oral health is important for everyone. Although oral diseases are largely preventable, they are among the most prevalent diseases globally, thus creating a public health problem.”