Parkinson’s disease affects an estimated 10 million people worldwide, with men 1.5 times more likely to have the illness than women. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disease caused by degeneration of the brain’s basal ganglia and the brain’s dopamine transmitter. Parkinson’s disease most commonly affects persons over the age of 50, but approximately 4 percent are diagnosed with the illness prior to age 50.
Though Parkinson’s disease generally manifests as muscle tremors and rigidity, it has recently been linked to another condition: temporomandibular joint disorder. Temporomandibular joint disorder is a condition of the jaw in which the joints become misaligned from the rest of the skull. Temporomandibular joint disorder has many causes including genetics, injury and a long list of other possibilities. But, according to a new study in PLOS ONE, there is a strong link between temporomandibular joint disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
The study was conducted in Taiwan, using data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Program. It followed the medical histories of 6,815 patients with Parkinson’s disease over a 13-year period. What they found was that patients with Parkinson’s disease had a 2.11 percent higher chance of developing temporomandibular joint disorder than those without Parkinson’s disease. Within the first year after diagnosis, the researchers found that patients had a 4.25 times higher risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder, and a 3.88 times greater risk the second year following diagnosis. They also found that the longer a patient lived with Parkinson’s disease, the greater their risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder.
So, what does this mean for patient’s with Parkinson’s disease?
Well, for starters, awareness is key. Once you know your risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder is elevated, you can be aware of your health and your body and watch for signs of this painful condition. Temporomandibular joint disorder has been known to cause jaw stiffness and tightness; the inability to open and close one’s mouth; teeth grinding or bruxism; head, neck, back and shoulder pain; tinnitus or ringing of the ears; and a popping or cracking sound when you open and close your jaw.
If you or a loved one have Parkinson’s disease and notice any of these symptoms, it may be in your best interest to speak to Dr. Lederman for a temporomandibular joint disorder evaluation. To schedule an appointment, please call 516-882-1764.