3 Tips for Improving Dental Care When You Have Parkinson's Disease

Symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease such as impaired muscle control and tremors can make it difficult for you to get the most out of dental visits and look after your teeth at home. Common problems include difficulty restricting head and tongue movements, keeping your mouth open wide enough and secreting too much saliva during dental examinations.

The same symptoms that can make dental care challenging can cause dental problems in Parkinson's patients. For example, tremors and lack of muscle control can make it difficult for you to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly, leaving you more susceptible to tooth decay. Changes to saliva production can create an acidic environment in your mouth, which encourages the growth of bacteria and puts you at an increased risk of gum disease. There are some steps you can take to ensure you're getting the most out of your dental care. Here are a few tips for you to consider.

Maintain Good Oral Hygiene at Home

If you're struggling to keep your teeth clean, consider using an electric toothbrush, which requires very little controlled movement from you and has the added advantage of having a thick, heavy handle. The weight of the handle causes the muscles in your hand to engage more when using it and the thickness makes it easier to grip than a standard manual toothbrush.  

You can also ask your dentist to prescribe fluoride gel for you to use at home. The gel is rubbed over your teeth and creates a protective coating that can reduce tooth enamel erosion and cavities. It's easier to rub the gel onto your teeth than it is to try and brush each tooth, but it's a strong substance that should be used according to your dentist's instructions.

Cleaning your dentures typically requires both hands, but many people with Parkinson's disease have a side of their body that's stronger than the other. If this is the case for you, consider having a soft nailbrush attached to a firm surface in your home and use your stronger arm to rub the dentures across the brush.

Schedule Appointments at the Best Time for You

You may get more out of your dental appointments if you schedule them strategically. It's been shown that patients with Parkinson's disease are more able to cooperate during dental appointments if they are scheduled ninety minutes after they take their medication. This gives the medication, which helps with muscle control, enough time to take effect without missing its peak performance time.

Additionally, if you need to have quite a bit of dental work done, such as several fillings, it's best to schedule multiple short appointments and have the work carried out in stages.

Help Your Dentist Help You

If you change dentists or see someone who is not used to treating patients with Parkinson's disease, you can help them help you by letting them know what you need from them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Ask the dentist to avoid tilting the chair back more than forty-five degrees, which will help you be able to swallow.
  • Ask the dentist to use an aspirator throughout the course of your examination, which will control the flow of saliva and prevent contamination.
  • Ask the dentist to raise the chair slowly to prevent loss of balance.
  • Ask your dentist to use an intraoral rubber bite block if you're having difficulty controlling your facial muscles. This will hold your mouth open and restrict tongue movements.
  • Keep your dentist up-to-date on changes to your medication as anaesthetic can interact with some Parkinson's medications.

If you're struggling to maintain your oral health due to symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, discuss your concerns with your dentist. They'll be happy to troubleshoot with you and can advise you on the latest dental products. For more information, consult clinics such as Swansea Family Dental.