Early stages of dementia & oral care
In the early stage of dementia dental care is often as good as it ever was. In time the person may need reminding to brush their teeth. Dementia is associated with age so it can be a good idea to check how easily the person can grip the toothbrush. Adapted grips for toothbrushes are available if needed.
Later stages of dementia dental care
Self-care skills and interest in most aspects of self-care tends to diminish as dementia progresses. The person may lose the ability to brush their teeth. Seek advice from the dentist as to the best way to clean another person's teeth. Many caregivers find that it is easiest to sit the person on a chair and to brush their teeth from behind. In this way the head can be rested back on the chair, or the lap of the caregiver, and the head moved with relative ease.
Mouth Checks are Important in dementia care
It is important to keep in mind that the person's ability to describe dental symptoms or pain diminishes as dementia progresses. Apart from maintaining healthy teeth it is important to check the mouth for damage to teeth, gums or the tongue (biting for example). The chance of mouth cancer also increases with age but if caught early responds well to treatment.
Signs of Dental Problems in Dementia
The Role of the Caregiver in dental care
Dental care is something most people take for granted but many people suffering from dementia are being denied it due to the reluctance of caregivers to accompany them to the dentist.In one UK study for example, research has indicated that one in five patients do not receive dental treatment even after it had been identified as necessary by their caregivers. The two most common reasons why caregivers show reluctance are:
These concerns are largely unjustified according to Swedish researchers. Like most of us previous experience of the dentist may be influential in how easily the person accepts the situation. Even when experience of the dentist is low there is no evidence that this will necessarily result in a negative experience for the caregiver or the patient.
Your dentist will be able to advise you about a number of issues regarding, for example, the effects of certain medication on oral health. They will also advise you over issues of consent to treatment, denture replacement or preparation, preparing for a visit and whether medication is recommended, and of the course the costs and benefit schemes available.