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.