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Oral Health and Parkinson's Disease

How can oral care change with Parkinson's?

Dental health is important for everyone, but especially for people with Parkinson’s, because the consequences of disease can be quite serious. Enjoy eating the foods you prefer rather than limiting yourself to what your teeth will tolerate.

The Importance of Oral Health

  • Life is sustained by what we drink and eat, as well as the air we breathe. Except for the air that goes through our noses, the portal of entry for the rest is our mouth. So keeping the mouth healthy is essential! If it becomes dysfunctional or contaminated with disease, our overall health, wellbeing, and quality of life can be degraded. 
  • Energy and vitality require proper nutrition, and proper nutrition requires effective digestion of food. That process starts in the mouth with adequate chewing of food and saliva that adds digestive enzymes. Value your natural teeth, or dentures, as they make chewing less labored and more effective.
  • Inflamed gums and dental cavities are bacterial infections. Inflamed gums are a sign of periodontal disease, which destroys the bone supporting teeth. A cavity is not some inconvenient hole in a tooth; it is a breeding ground for bacteria that can easily infiltrate the blood stream and harm other parts of the body.
  • Bacteria launched from infected teeth and gums can create serious complications if they attach to and infect devices such as deep brain stimulation electrodes, prosthetic hips and knees, vascular stents and grafts. Anyone with these devices should be uniquely attentive to their oral/dental health. 

The Importance of Oral Health for People with Parkinson’s

  • Because Parkinson’s can involve muscles in the face and tongue, speech and chewing can be affected. Those vital functions can be aggravated by missing teeth which can contribute to depression and unhealthy dietary adjustments.
  • Some people with Parkinson’s experience problems with swallowing. Healthy and functioning teeth are particularly important, since poorly chewed food can increase the risk of choking and aspiration which, in turn, can contribute to life-threatening pneumonia.
  • Many drugs used in managing Parkinson’s are generally not those with warnings to “tell your doctor if you have any infections.” However, some people with Parkinson’s may take such medications that suppress the immune system for other unrelated diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. If you take a medicine with a warning to tell your doctor about infections, make sure you report dental cavities, loose teeth or inflamed gums. These bacterial infections can spread more easily when your immune system is suppressed. This is particularly important for individuals taking clozapine for Parkinson’s-related psychosis. Clozapine can significantly reduce white blood cells, a natural defense against infections, increasing the risk that bacteria causing dental diseases will spread elsewhere.

Page content provided by the Dental Lifeline Network.