For people living with dementia, taking care of their own dental and oral health often prove to be a challenge.
With the way dementia causes problems with their thinking, behavior, and memory, those diagnosed with it will likely fail to remember to brush their teeth or even use a toothbrush as their condition progresses.
If they’re using dentures, they could also forget to remove or clean them regularly.
People from all walks of life need to take care of their oral health, but those who are living with dementia are going to require help with their routine dental care, especially when they approach the middle and later stages of their condition.
For those who provide care for a person with dementia, here are a few things about looking after their dental and oral health that you need to know.
People With Dementia Are More Prone To Dental Issues
The susceptibility of persons living with dementia to dental problems doesn’t just stem from their diminished ability over time to keep up with their dental and oral care.
Keep in mind that the medications that those with dementia regularly take affect the production of saliva, which plays a huge role in preventing tooth decay.
With reduced saliva levels, people diagnosed with dementia will have a hard time washing sugar out of their mouth and stopping acid from damaging the enamel of their teeth and causing dental decay.
People with dementia also tend to be prone to tooth decay because some of the medications they take are sugar-based, which can also give them dry mouth, which, in turn, could lead to mouth sores, increased plaque, and gum problems.
Persons Living With Dementia Might Be Unable To Communicate Their Oral Pain
Dementia also affects a person’s speech and language abilities over time.
If they’re at that stage, persons living with dementia might have problems communicating properly to their caregivers if they’re experiencing dental or oral pain.
If you’re taking care of someone with dementia, you will need to be able to spot signs that they’re in oral pain or suffering from a serious dental problem. Some of those signs may include:
● Refusing to eat foods that are too hot or cold
● Moaning or yelling
● Grimacing when chewing their food
● Pulling at the face or mouth or biting their lip and inner cheeks incessantly
● Resisting your attempts to check or clean their mouth
● Displaying aggressive behavior
● Bad breath despite regular brushing
● Swollen cheek due to tooth abscess
If you finally get to check the mouth of the person with dementia and confirm that there is, indeed, a dental problem that is causing discomfort or pain, make an appointment with his or her regular dentist right away.
If he or she doesn’t have a regular dentist, try to find one with experience working with people living with dementia.
Establish A Consistent Dental Care Routine
Routines can have a calming and reassuring effect on people living with dementia. As long as they’re following a consistent routine when doing something, their anxiety will be reduced, and they may even be more compliant with its requirements.
With that said, it is absolutely important for caregivers taking care of persons with dementia to establish a clear dental care routine that they can follow every single day.
Getting them to brush their teeth (with or without your assistance) after breakfast and before turning in for the night is an excellent place to start.
If you can incorporate flossing into the routine, then that would be great, although you may have to do the flossing yourself if the person in your care lacks the dexterity to floss his or her own teeth.
A dental care routine for a person with a dementia diagnosis must also include a once-a-month visual inspection of his or her teeth and gums. That way, you should be able to spot any sign of dental trouble and have a dentist address it without delay.
Taking care of the oral and dental health of a person living with dementia can be quite challenging. It requires a lot of patience and dedication on the caregiver’s part.
With the help of the dentist who works with the person with dementia in your care, you should be able to come up with and implement a dental care plan that will help your ward avoid the usual dental problems and live a better quality of life.
About the Author
Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle is the lead cosmetic dentist with Dental Studio 101 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is focused on providing anxiety-free cosmetic dentistry services including Invisalign, dental implants, dental crowns, and cosmetic fillings. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family.