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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Tips and Tools for Better Oral Care

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

In our previous blog post, we discussed the importance of good oral care in PD.

In today’s blog post, we’ll cover the barriers that people with PD experience that can make it harder for them to perform oral care and tools to make it easier to maintain oral health.

Barriers to oral care in PD:

  • Rigidity — when the muscles feel stiff and tighten involuntarily — affects 90% of people with PD at some point. Rigidity can affect one side of the body or both sides — if your dominant side is affected this can impact your fine motor coordination in oral care tasks.

  • Tremor and dyskinesias may make it difficult to control more precise movements.

  • Bradykinesia - slow and small movements — limits the ability to perform tasks that require sustained and forceful actions. When you think about brushing your teeth, you are working with a small space — that may signal to you to make smaller movements and move too small to be effective.

Tips and tools to maintain better oral care:

Simplify the task. Consider all the ways you could cut out steps.

  • Use a toothpaste tube with a flip top instead of a screw on cap

  • Use a wall mounted toothpaste dispenser

  • If you don’t share your toothpaste or live alone, put paste directly on your tongue

Use tools that give you an advantage.

  • All toothbrushes are not created equal. Consider toothbrushes that have a 3-sided design.

  • Build up your grip — wrapping handle in rubberized shelf liner and rubber bands, poking it through a tennis ball, or foam tubing.

  • Use a finger toothbrush or dental wipes.

  • Try a long handled flosser

  • Rinse with a cup that has a lid (like a travel mug) to prevent spills

Try technology.

  • Electric toothbrushes do the work for you. Inexpensive models are more and more available with features like times and apps that give you feedback on your brushing force and effectiveness. Traditional electric toothbrushes retail between 10 and 20 dollars.

  • Water flossers help you clean your gums and rinse at the same time.

Change your setup. Is your workspace helping you or hindering you?

  • Stand at a higher sink to reduce stooping or leaning forward.

  • Increase lighting to make it easier to see what you are doing.

  • Sit instead of standing to compensate for postural instability.

  • Bring your arm next to your body to reduce tremor.

  • Coordinate your medication schedule and oral care to support optimal performance.

  • Try adding rhythmic music to your oral care routine.

Interested in learning more?

Click here to view the handout “Tools for Better Oral Care” and here to access an interview on this topic with Cassie Lorie OTR/L featured on The Parkinson’s Vitality Podcast.


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