Large mouth with tiny scared person peeking out from a gap in the teeth

My Trip to the Dentist With Parkinson's

Nothing strikes more fear in me than a trip to the dentist. I will make any excuse to avoid it. I know I should go but my head won’t engage my legs to move in that direction and it isn’t a Parkinson’s thing.

I just have always had a fear of dentists. Webster defines that as “dento-phobia.” I know that good dental hygiene is not only important for normal healthy living, but it is essential for living well with Parkinson’s disease and any chronic illness.

Barriers to dental health

Long-term prescription medication usage can have an adverse effect on early and accelerated tooth decay.1 It is my opinion that some medications, although not directly to blame, do cause excessive saliva causing fungal infections in your mouth.

The same can be said about dry mouth which can lead to eroding of enamel and gum disease. The Parkinson's Foundation is a wonderful resource for dental health. Here are some dental health considerations:

  • Dental health is rarely discussed by neurologists.
  • Parkinson’s symptoms often present a problem in regular dental visits.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation can make visits especially complicated.
  • Depending on symptoms, just getting to the dentist could be difficult.
  • Your visit may result in prescribing medication that is contraindicative to your PD meds.

Communication with your dentist

As I mentioned before, I was recently at the dentist to remove some bad teeth that had broken and were giving me trouble. I knew deep down the importance of healthy teeth and the adverse health effects overall if I waited. So, I chose a dentist based on a recommendation by my neurologist, with whom he consulted with regarding sedation and other precautions.

This gave me a little less anxiety, but I feared the pain and anguish of drooling all over myself. Which I did! But I digress. After the procedure, I was prescribed appropriate pain medication and given instructions that would avoid infection.

Looking back at the whole experience, I needed to address two real problems: (1) the importance of oral health in general and, (2) ensuring the dentist is understanding and accommodating for people with Parkinson's. I can’t say that I am for sure dento-phobic, but I am assured that my dentist understands my Parkinson’s and accommodates me accordingly.

A letter to my dentist

Dear Dentist,

  • I have PD and it is difficult for me to sit still.
  • I’ve also had deep brain surgery, and now I have medical implants.
  • You might want to warn the x-ray tech. It’s not a tumor!
  • I am experiencing some anxiety about this procedure.
  • Could you consult with my neurologist prior to this procedure?

Don’t be scared. Even those people living with PD need regular dental checkups. Maybe you can get a sticker too that says “really cool patient”! Remember to keep battling my friends.

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