Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month was instituted in April 1997 to commemorate the birth month of Dr. James Parkinson, the first man to formally identify the disease in 1817. His piece, An Essay on the Shaking Palsy, remains one of the defining studies on the chronic, progressive condition that affects 7-10 million people, worldwide. The disease can be attributed to a variety of genetic, environmental, and age-related factors. This year’s campaign theme is #KeyToPD, which stresses that awareness is key toward working on a world without Parkinson’s disease. 

About the Disease

As life expectancy increases worldwide, the burden of chronic diseases, like PD, is expected to grow: 

  • Largely diagnosed in people over the age of 60. 
  • Just four percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before age 50.
  • No objective tests are used to diagnose the condition. 
  • The current criteria for diagnosis are based on cardinal motor symptoms such as tremor, slowness of movement, muscle stiffness, balance problems, and loss of short-term memory. 
  • Parkinson’s disease can manifest itself in the form of non-motor symptoms like depression, dementia, fatigue, sleep problems, digestive problems, loss of self-esteem, and stress. 
  • Although no known cure for Parkinson’s disease exists, studies about the underlying causes and treatment options are making strides in the effort to combat the illness, which is the second most common degenerative neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Remember, stress worsens PD symptoms. Learn and practice anxiety reduction techniques since stress worsens PD symptoms. 

Parkinson’s and Dentistry

Since PD can negatively impact mouth, teeth and gum health, preventative care is crucial. However, PD-related rigidity, tremor and dyskinesia can make it hard to brush teeth. These symptoms also sometimes lead to cracked teeth, tooth wear, changes in the fit and wear of dentures and bruxism. What’s more, symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety and tremor may compromise the patient’s commute to appointments, wait in the dentist’s chair and even in regard to widely opening the mouth. Furthermore, increased saliva production may lead to a fungal infection at the corners of the mouth. Or, on the other hand, lack of saliva (also known as dry mouth) increases the risk of cavities.

Tackling Parkinson’s and Dental Challenges

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends patients take these steps to improve the outcome of their dental visits:

  • Call to alert your dentist about your PD symptoms. This way, they will be better prepared to offer a custom treatment plan.   
  • Schedule wisely. Plan short dental appointments based on when symptoms are most effectively controlled.
  • Provide details to the dentist about your overall health. Someone on staff should record vital signs upon your arrival. (At Blue Ocean Dentistry, this is something we routinely do.)
  • Tell the dentist if your medications include MAO-B inhibitors. 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. The difficulty of dental visits may coincide with increased PD progress.

About Dr. Fred Wong of Blue Ocean Dentistry in Glendora, California

Dr. Fred Wong and the staff at Blue Ocean Dentistry use the latest available dental treatments, equipment, and materials – all of which make a marked difference in our patients’ experiences. We are committed to helping our patients achieve optimal dental health. We creatively combine dental science and artistry — which can literally redesign your smile. Since even a subtle change in your smile will help you to project self-confidence and high self-esteem, we love helping you feel good about yourself. We deliver the finest dental care at the most reasonable cost and accept most dental insurance plans as well as CareCredit. For more about the dental treatment plans we offer or to schedule an appointment, call today (626) 852-6999.

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