Dental care: an important part of health and well being
Among the day-to-day tasks a person with dementia may forget to accomplish is regular care for the teeth, including brushing each day or cleaning dentures. Neglecting these basic steps in oral hygiene can lead to conditions such as cavities and gum disease.
Although people with dementia may simply need regular reminders to take care of their teeth, those in later stages will need assistance from caregivers to maintain proper dental health.
How should you respond?
A first step is to schedule regular dental appointments for the person with dementia. Your dental health professional can help advise you on useful care strategies moving forward.
Early stage care
Reminders about tooth brushing and dental care should be added to other regularly scheduled tasks for a person in the early stages of a dementia condition when it is likely they can still handle these duties on their own.
Later stage cage
As the condition progresses, a caregiver will probably have to help the person with their dental care. You might meet some resistance if the person is feeling stubborn about being “forced” to brush their teeth. As with most care giving situations, try to be patient and remind the person that you’re there to help. It might be useful to wait for them to calm down and try again at a later time.
If this proves too difficult to accomplish on a regular basis, you can investigate the services of dental hygienists who offer home visits.
Since Alzheimer’s is typically a disease of the elderly, there’s likelihood the person with dementia wears partial or full dentures. Regular cleaning is important for oral hygiene and prevention of gum disease. Also, properly fitted dentures can make eating easier, aid in understanding words during speech and add to a person’s self-esteem.
Dentures are easily misplaced and lost by people with dementia, so try to keep them in a safe and secure location.
During late stages, a person may no longer be able to effectively wear dentures; you might want to discontinue their use to avoid potential problems with their care.