Dental treatment and Parkinson's: tips from a dentist

Stuart Littlehales has been a dentist for over 30 years. Here he shares his tips for visiting the dentist when you have Parkinson’s

  • Firstly, don’t worry about visiting your dentist because of how your Parkinson’s symptoms may affect you, or if you are embarrassed about the condition of your teeth or gums. Your dentist can offer you practical advice and with a few adjustments, most essential dental treatment can be carried out both safely and comfortably.
  • If you experience wearing off, try to book an appointment when you’re ‘on’ and your symptoms will be most controlled. as the extra weight may help to reduce hand and arm tremors.
  • If you are cleaning someone else's teeth, you may find it easier to stand behind them like dentists do. Or you could clean one side of their teeth standing behind them and the other side while standing in front of you. This can help you use your strongest, writing hand to reach all the parts of their teeth.
  • Make sure your dentist knows you have Parkinson’s and what medication are you taking (not just for Parkinson’s). Some medications can cause dry mouth, or may affect your dental treatment.
  • Depending on what Parkinson’s symptoms you are experiencing, there are different strategies a dentist can use to make sure you get the treatment you need. For example, they may ask you to bite on a block to help keep your mouth open, or get you to do something active in the chair, such as squeezing a ball, to reduce a tremor.
  • Speak to your dentist about how often you should see them. Often it will depend on your individual needs, rather than having to attend every six months.
  • If you're unhappy about any aspect of your treatment, it's important to tell your dentist. Talking to them can often resolve the problem and lead to better care. But if you are still unhappy, you might want to find another dentist who can meet your needs.
  • When choosing a dentist, don’t be afraid of asking how they and the surgery setting can meet your needs. For example, have they treated patients with Parkinson’s before and how accessible is the surgery?

Read more about mouth and dental issues in people with Parkinson's.