Treating Dental Issues

Parkinson’s disease (PD) symptoms can affect mouth, teeth and jaw health, sometimes complicating dental treatment.

  • PD-related rigidity, tremor and dyskinesia can make it hard to brush one’s teeth. These symptoms can also cause cracked teeth, tooth wear, changes in the fit and wear of dentures and tooth grinding.
  • Symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and tremor can make the commute to appointments, sitting still in the dentist’s chair or opening the mouth wide challenging.
  • Too much saliva can lead to a fungal infection at the corners of the mouth. By contrast, too little saliva or dry mouth increases the risk of cavities.

Tackling Care Challenges

These tips can significantly improve dental visits:

  • Call first to make the office aware of your PD symptoms. This will help the dentist and the staff provide better treatment.
  • Schedule wisely. Plan short dental appointments for the time of day your symptoms are most effectively controlled.
  • Give the dentist the details of your overall health. Someone on staff should record vital signs upon arrival.
  • Tell the dentist if you are taking MAO-B inhibitors (rasagiline and selegiline), as these may interact with anesthetics.
  • Consider replacing old fillings, crowns and bridges and ill-fitting dentures or mouth guards during the early stages of PD. Dental visits may become more difficult as PD progresses.

Costs and Resources

The best way to control the cost of dental care is to prevent problems from developing. Regular care can help.

  • Some commercial health plans have a dental benefit.
  • Medicare does not cover dental care, although some Medicare Advantage plans offer a limited benefit.
  • Dental coverage for adult Medicaid recipients varies by state.
  • Most Federally Qualified Health Centers have a dental department. Fees are adjusted based on income for those who qualify.
  • Free dental care is available in some areas. The Donated Dental Services program is offered through the nonprofit Dental Lifeline Network.

Portions of content provided by the Dental Lifeline Network.and a Expert Briefing presented by Michelle R. Ciucci, Ph.D., S.L.P., of the University of Wisconsin and Jane Busch, D.D.S., a person living with Parkinson’s.

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