April 2013 Professional Oral Care Newsletter

Carla Gantz, RDH

Understanding Parkinson's Disease And Its Oral Health Implications

By Carla Gantz, RDH
A dental hygienist living with Parkinson's disease

Parkinson's disease is one of the most baffling, mysterious and complex neurological disorders. It is estimated that one million people in the United States have Parkinson's with 50,000 to 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease requires having two of the four cardinal symptoms.

The four cardinal symptoms are rigidity, tremors, bradykinesia, and postural instability. Rigidity can cause pain, cramping and may feel like the stiffness of arthritis. Seventy percent (70%) of patients with Parkinson's will have tremors. Bradykinesia means slow movement such as walking or moving fingers. Postural instability affects balance and coordination. Each of these symptoms will cause difficulty for the caregiver and the person with Parkinson's daily oral hygiene regimen.

Unfortunately, the symptoms are not the only obstacle to interfere with their regimen; some Parkinson's medication can fluctuate, meaning there may be periods when the medication will suddenly and unpredictably stops working; this is referred to as the "on" and "off" time. Combine this with any one of the four cardinal symptoms and the simple task of brushing or flossing turns into a nightmare.

As a hygienist and a person with Parkinson's disease I truly understand this nightmare. And it is my opinion that to ease these difficulties the Waterpik® Cordless Plus Water Flosser should be implemented into the daily oral care routine of a person with Parkinson's disease.


Author Bio: Carla Gantz has a combined 30 years' experience as a dental assistant, clinical dental hygienist, and business/office manager. She is a product consultant, author, speaker, and webinar presenter. A graduate of Western Kentucky University, she is a member of the American Dental Hygienists' Association, CAREER/fusion, and the American Academy of Dental Hygiene. She can be contacted at carlagantz@gmail.com.
Cordless Plus Water Flosser

The Waterpik® Cordless Plus Water Flosser: A Great Product for People with Parkinson's

Recommendations from Carla Gantz, Waterpik® Cordless Plus Water Floss User and Dental Hygienist living with Parkinson's

In my experience, I see the best results in people who use the Water Flosser one minute a day, prior to brushing. The progression of Parkinson disease varies from person to person sometimes causing brushing to be postponed; but by no means, should the entire daily oral hygiene regimen be suspended. Many will still be able to use the Water Flosser. Studies have shown the Water Flosser is twice as effective as string floss at reducing bleeding and 29% better at removing plaque.

The Cordless Plus is ideal for Parkinson's patients because there is no cord to struggle with while using it. The reservoir creates just enough weight to aid during tremor and the ergonomic design provides a non-slip grip. Operating the Cordless Plus Water Flosser is quite simple. Fill the reservoir with room temperature or an alcohol free mouth rinse (I prefer a Xylitol mouth rinse). Choose a tip (I like the Plaque Seeker® Tip) and lean over the sink. Place the tip inside your mouth and turn on the unit starting with the water at a low pressure. Slowly move the Cordless Plus while slanting the tip at a 90° angle around each tooth; for one (1) minute a day. You may need to fill the reservoir more than once to complete the entire mouth.

Some people describe Parkinson disease as a journey that once it starts it will last a lifetime. On this journey to help us through rough spots will be our family, friends and several doctors and in my opinion, the Waterpik® Cordless Plus Water Flosser should be a part of the journey

parkinson's patient

Tips for Helping Parkinson's Patients and their Caregivers use the Waterpik® Water Flosser

  • If rigidity is an issue, the person with Parkinson may experience limited hand closure, which results in being unable to manipulate a simple toothbrush handle or floss. Because the Cordless Water Flosser is ergonomically designed and has the non-slip grip handle, it allows the hand and fingers to easily grasp the handle.
  • Once the reservoir is filled, the added weight will help reduce the tremors, plus the reservoir may be filled with mouthwash.
  • The caregiver may prefer to seat the person either in a chair or bath chair, if balance, coordination, swallowing or rinsing, are a concern. To avoid choking, have the person to lean forward, with the water pressure set on low and keeping your thumb on the on/off switch.
  • Gently insert in mouth before turning unit on, aim the tip just above the gum line at a 90° angle, slowly move from side to side, upper and lower
  • The freedom of being cordless helps the caregiver reach any area in the mouth because each of tips (four are included) rotates 360°.