2 Reasons Why Parkinson's Patients Should See Special Needs Dentists

You may think that a special needs dentist only works on patients with behavioral disorders, but special needs dentists see a wide variety of patients. If you've just been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you may need to visit a dental office more often since the disease can affect your oral health. Here are two reasons why you should seek out a special needs dentist.

Special Needs Dentists Understand How Parkinson's Affects Oral Health

Special needs dentists understand that muscle rigidity and tremors can make it hard to brush and floss well. Patients with Parkinson's may be more prone to cavities simply because poor motor control makes it difficult to achieve good oral hygiene. Your dentist will understand this, and he or she can prescribe electric tooth brushings and adaptations that can make it easier for you to maintain good oral health. Your dentist may prescribe fluoride rinses or toothpastes with higher concentrations of fluoride compared to other patient populations.

Other oral health issues that can affect patients with Parkinson's include:

  • dysphagia

  • dry mouth—especially because some Parkinson's medications can cause this as a side effect

  • bruxism

  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

A special needs dentist understands all these issues and can prescribe more frequent check-ups so that you can keep oral health issues at bay.

Special Needs Dentists are Trained to Work with Parkinson's Patients

Because this disease affects the central nervous system and causes tremors, it can be uncomfortable and hard for some patients to stay still during dental visits. A special needs dentist can book enough time for you to feel comfortable.

You may be able to use sedation dentistry and/or soft arm restraints to reduce tremors. Auxiliary dental staff may gently cradle your head while the dentist is examining your teeth. Your dentist may even use foamy bite blocks to support your jaw so that you don't have to strain to open your mouth for long periods of time. Because some patients deal with dysphagia and too much saliva, a dentist can use a high-volume evacuator to keep your airway clear.

Because certain anesthetics can sometimes interact with Parkinson's medications, it's important to give your updated health history so your dentist can make sure you are safe during your appointments. A special needs dentist will understand which types of anesthetics have contraindications and can adjust your treatment accordingly. For instance, the Journal of the American Dental Association says that to avoid drug interactions, a dentist may limit local anesthetic agents to three cartridges with smaller percentages of lidocaine.

Because Parkinson's can affect your oral health and because dental visits have unique requirements, it's important to seek out a special needs dentist in your area.