Dental Health and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system that affects motor skills. It is a progressive disease that impacts about one million people in the United States. It occurs most often in older people but can also be seen in people under the age of forty.[1]

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a movement disorder. The most common physical symptoms include loss of dexterity, tremors, impaired balance, and slowness of motion. Due to the impact on fine motor skills, these symptoms can seriously affect a patient’s oral and dental health.[2]

It can also make it difficult for someone to simply get to the dentist’s office. Even then, many dentists have not had much experience with PD patients. But at the Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria, special needs patients, including those with Parkinson’s, are a big focus of our practice.[3]

Dental Health Issues

Nearly half of all PD patients have a problem with brushing and flossing their teeth. This is a serious matter, since the link between oral health and general health is by now well-established.[4]

Dental health issues common in PD patients include:

  • Tooth Decay. Tooth decay results from several factors, one of which is poor dental hygiene. Many PD patients do better when they use an electric toothbrush and a hand-held floss holder or water flosser, which make these tasks a little easier.[5]
  • Gum Disease. Gingivitis (early stage gum disease) is an inflammation of the gums. It is a progressive condition. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to the more advanced periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss and bone damage.[6]
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth). Reduced saliva flow is another common dental health issue with PD, and may be a side effect of medication. Dry mouth makes it more difficult to chew and swallow, and since one of saliva’s functions is washing food debris away from teeth and gums, a reduced flow can also contribute to tooth decay.[7]
  • Burning Mouth. PD patients may experience a burning sensation in the mouth. This is sometimes related to medication, dry mouth, infections, or poor nutrition. It can also occur for no apparent reason.[8]
  • This is a reduced control of saliva and can result in pooling in the mouth, and drooling. One of the problems associated with pooling is saliva leaking into the airway and an increased risk of aspiration pneumonia. It can also affect the patient’s social confidence.[9]

Because of these and other dental health issues associated with PD, regular visits to the dentist are recommended.[10]

PD Patients in the Dental Chair

A dentist and hygienist are essential to the oral health care of Parkinson’s patients.

PD patients should never assume that a dental office is equipped to handle them. When calling to schedule an appointment, make sure the office is fully apprised of the condition, as well as any unique symptoms.[11]

In addition, when scheduling an appointment make sure the dental office knows the following:

  • The name and phone number of your physician
  • Any medications you take, including vitamins and other supplements
  • Motor skill issues, such as involuntary movements or a history of falls
  • Any swallowing or speaking issues you may have
  • Whether you have any dental anxiety

On the day of your appointment, make sure you’re accompanied by a care provider, if necessary. Bring extra medication in case it’s needed. Many patients are also aided by using a U-shaped pillow for neck support.[12]

The Center for Dental Anesthesia

At the Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria, special needs dentistry, including people with Parkinson’s Disease, is a centerpiece of our practice. Dr. Zeyad Mady and Dr. James Geren are committed to outstanding patient care and bring comprehensive backgrounds and training to their work.

We welcome patients with Parkinson’s disease, as well as other physical and mental challenges. We also treat patients with medically complex cases, and with underlying issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart problems. Furthermore, we welcome patients who are in treatment or recovery from cancer. Our doors are also open to the general public.

At the Center for Dental Anesthesia in Alexandria, we are committed to quality dental care, and to treating patients with many different special needs, including dental phobia. Please call our office to schedule an appointment.



[1]      Parkinson’s Disease: What You and Your Family Should Know. Referred to hereafter as What You Should Know.

“What Is Parkinson’s?”

[2]      What You Should Know

“Parkinson’s and Dental Care”

[3]      Limited experience of some dentists: Oral Hygiene in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Referred to hereafter as Patients with PD.

[4]      Oral health/overall health link: see, for example, the Mayo Clinic website, “Oral health: A window to your overall health.”

[5]      Parkinson’s and Dental Care., referred to hereafter as Dental Care.

See also Information: Oral Health and Parkinson’s, referred to hereafter as Information.

[6]      See Information pdf.

[7]      Reduced saliva flow: Information. See also Patients with PD.

[8]      American Parkinson Disease Association, Oral Health and Parkinson’s Disease. Referred to hereafter as APDA.

[9]      Information.

[10]     Information.

[11]     Dental Care.

[12]     Dental Care.


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5284 Dawes Ave
Alexandria, Virginia