The four primary Parkinson’s symptoms – rigidity, tremors, bradykinesia, and postural instability make it hard to maintain daily oral hygiene regimen. When combined with medication fluctuations, the simple task of brushing or flossing turns into a nightmare. A hygienist, Parkinson’s fighter will understand this nightmare, which can be compounded if he/she also has missing teeth or toothaches. Not being able to chew food properly can also lead to an increased risk of choking and dangerous lung infections.
Luckily, regular visits to the dentist, proper daily brushing and flossing technique can help you eliminate most dental problems. Wondering how? Read below.
1. Use Parkinson’s friendly products
Tremor and reduced hand-to-mouth mobility in Parkinson’s can make thorough dental hygiene very challenging. This is why it is important to use:
- A toothpaste containing fluoride. If you are not sure about the level of fluoride in your toothpaste, ask your dentist for the recommendation.
- An electric toothbrush (battery-operated with large handles) as the extra weight can help reduce tremor in your hand or arm. Interdental brushes with handles may be helpful if you have spacing in between teeth. Some may even find it easier to use a 3-sided toothbrush or one with an angled head.
- A fluoride mouthwash at a different time to brushing. Rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash will help prevent cavities. Using an over the counter rinse can also help dry mouth increase saliva.
- A flossing device with a large handle for a more comfortable grip and hold. Use Water Flosser one minute a day, prior to brushing to remove debris in between the teeth.
2. Develop a cleaning strategy
Establish a fixed dental routine to ensure that all tooth surfaces are cleaned twice a day. If it is hard to clean all teeth in one go, concentrate on one half of your mouth in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Clean systematically from one side to the other and from front to back. Pay special attention to cleaning the area where the tooth leaves the gum. You may find it easier to stand behind while brushing your teeth.
If it is difficult to hold even an electric toothbrush, slip the brush into a velcro sleeve you strap to your hand. Inserting the brush handle in a tennis ball or bicycle handlebar grip can give you something larger and less slippery to grip. As a general rule, change your toothbrush or head of the brush every 3 months.
3. Look after your denture
If you have dentures, their proper cleaning and maintenance can make a huge difference to your dental health. Loose dentures that rub parts of the mouth can cause blisters or ulcers. In addition to this, plaque can build up on them and cause irritation to the skin on the roof of your mouth, cheeks, and gums. To look after your dentures:
- Always clean them over a sink full of water.
- Soak them overnight in water and then brush gently under water.
- Use special denture paste to clean them.
- Avoid leaving them in the solution for too long. Ensure that the solution is not too hot, as heat can damage the denture plastic.
4. Watch what you eat
Reduce the amount of sugary food and drinks. A dietician should be able to prescribe a healthy, well-balanced diet that minimizes the risk of harming your teeth and gums. Drink water throughout the day to wash away food and drinks.
It is also important to be mindful of the number of meals you eat during the day. If you eat a number of smaller meals or snacks, greater care should be taken to keep your mouth clean. However, it is not necessary to brush your teeth every time as too much rubbing is a risk. Instead, rinse with mouthwash.
5. Visit your dentist regularly
It is important to ensure that any dental problems are dealt at their early stages. Regular visits to a dentist will help you identify problems quickly and prevent them from getting worse. Your dentist or hygienist may:
- Show you some aids to help you clean between your teeth.
- Advise you on toothbrush handle adaptations which can help improve your grip.
- Remove persistent stains for better hygiene.
- Check poorly designed, old and worn dentures.
- Recommend you to have more frequent check-ups to keep your gums and teeth healthy.
As a general rule, you should consider visiting your dentist every 6 months.