Keeping teeth and gums healthy can be more challenging for those with Parkinson's, due to the nature of its symptoms and to some of the medications used to treat it.
Research shows that the most common problems related to the teeth and mouth for those with Parkinson’s are:
- difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia) – may result from reduced muscle or lip control, or a dry mouth. If teeth are missing or poorly looked after it can be difficult to chew food properly in preparation for swallowing. Inflamed or bleeding gums, decayed fillings or faulty dental fittings, such as bridges or dentures, can cause distress and make eating and swallowing uncomfortable and painful
- dry mouth - may occur as a side effect of some Parkinson’s medications or because the condition causes some people to swallow repetitively. This uses up the saliva that is needed for comfortably swallowing food and smoothly moving it through the throat and can result in a sore, rough or dry throat making talking may be uncomfortable. As saliva contains antibodies that fight infection, a dry mouth can increase the chance of tooth decay and gum disease. A dry mouth may lead to dentures fitting poorly so that eating becomes more difficult and uncomfortable. You may also experience a loss of taste or a burning sensation in the mouth
- drooling - generally occurs as a result of poor Posture and/or difficulty swallowing the small amounts of saliva that are produced throughout the day. As saliva builds up it may overflow from the sides of the mouth, often causing soreness at the corners of the mouth and on the chin. Drooling can be a very embarrassing symptom that can lead to people avoiding social situations
- difficulty controlling dentures – causes include loss of muscle tone, difficulty in controlling the facial muscles, dry mouth, pools of saliva building up in the mouth, or poorly fitting/old dentures. A build-up of plaque can also accelerate changes in the structure of the mouth and this can lead to dentures not fitting properly. If you have poor control of your dentures they may rub parts of your mouth and cause ulcers or blisters. These can be painful and could lead to difficulties eating and speaking.