When someone you love gets diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it can be a painful time for everyone involved. Things become more difficult as your loved one becomes more forgetful. You can help make things easier by following some guidelines that will keep their mouth in top shape instead of allowing them to fall into the traps that often come with this diagnosis.
Patients with Alzheimer’s frequently allow their oral hygiene to fail after diagnosis. I have been practicing in the field of dentistry for over 2 decades, and one of my passions is dental education. I want to ensure that your loved ones remain in great shape after their diagnosis, so I’ve written some advice to help you partner with your loved one’s dentist to ensure healthy oral hygiene routines.
Find an Experienced Dentist and Visit Regularly
One of the easiest ways to work with your dentist is to make sure you have experienced one that you and your loved one trust. A positive relationship between everyone is critical to a healthy partnership. Your dentist needs to know how to communicate with your loved one in a way that they understand and can remember and follow, and have the patience to explain the same things several times.
Regular check-ups are critical to oral health, especially in patients with Alzheimer’s. Many patients are unable to communicate when something hurts or feels different in their mouths, and ensuring that they see the dentist regularly allows your dentist to quickly assess and diagnose any problems as they arise.
Maintain Healthy Diets
Patients with Alzheimer’s often receive medicine that contains a lot of sugar. They are also unable to cook for themselves because they forget a lot of basic tasks. This means that it is up to caregivers to plan balanced and nutritious meals for the ones in their care.
Make sure that the food you prepare for them has a lot of nutrients. The goal is to keep their bones strong and decrease the risk that their food will lead to tooth decay. Any food that has high sugar content should be drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. These foods will decay teeth quickly, and older patients are already susceptible to tooth decay due to years of eroding enamel.
A good diet has a balance of fruits, dairy, protein, whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats. These foods will build up teeth and strengthen jawbones, which decreases the risk of oral problems. These foods also help to boost their memory and produce better moods.
Use Simple Instructions
Intermittent memory loss is a major concern in patients with Alzheimer’s. This is one of the main reasons that their oral hygiene falls apart. Things like brushing and flossing, which are second nature by adulthood, are forgotten, and embarrassed loved ones would rather skip the process than admit that they don’t know how to brush their teeth anymore.
It is up to you to remind your loved ones as often as necessary that it is important to brush and floss every day and help them remember how to use their fine motor skills to do this. Just remember that if you speak too quickly or offer up too much information at a time, they will become easily confused and even more frustrated.
It may help if you brush your own teeth with them. When you invite them to brush their teeth with you, you can move slowly. The mirror method will allow them to copy your movements so they don’t have to say they don’t know how to do something and you don’t have to say that you know they’ve forgotten how to do it. Just remember to move slowly enough to allow them to follow your movements.
If you do decide to teach them to brush their teeth, just remember to use simple instructions. Take each step one piece at a time. Show them how to hold the brush, how to put the toothpaste on, which motions to use to brush properly, and how to rinse. This will ensure that trips to the dentist in the future won’t require too much dental work because you’ve drastically reduced the likelihood of cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.