Dementia is unfortunately more common in our society than we would like it to be. And for a patient with dementia, dental care can be far more complex. Here are some surprising facts about dementia and dental care, as well as how to help a family member with dementia meet their dental hygiene needs.
Surprisingly, some research suggests that there is a link between dementia and oral health. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to the early stages of dementia, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, because people who brushed their teeth less than once a day were up to 65% more likely to develop dementia than those who brushed daily. Shocking? Researchers think the link is with gum disease bacteria traveling to the brain and creating inflammation. Some studies have pinpointed even more specific links, stating that tooth loss or decay before the age of 35 indicates a heightened risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Skipping daily dental habits may also be a sign of early onset dementia, particularly if your loved one was fastidious in seeing a dentist throughout her lifetime. As dementia is progressive, re-establishing a good hygiene plan is critical right from the start. Helping your loved one with a better diet can reduce the amount of sugars in the mouth to start with, thus reducing decay.
Food supplements and certain drugs, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics can create other oral hygiene issues for patients with dementia, creating problems where none may have existed before. Some drugs create the side effect of a dry mouth, and a lack of saliva can incrase the risk of decay, gum disease and infection. Dry mouth can also create problems for those with dentures, so ask your dentist for solutions and help your loved one consume more water during the day. Medications that are syrup based obviously create an increased danger of tooth decay, so fluoride varnishes may help.
For patients with dementia, dentures can pose a particularly difficult problem. Some drugs cause involuntary tongue and jaw movements, making it difficult to wear dentures. Some patients who go without their dentures for a certain period of time forget how to wear them altogether.
As a patient with dementia enters into the early stages, sometimes using an electric toothbrush can make it easier to brush. Regular fluoride treatments can help slow decay. In the later stages, it can be more difficult to maintain proper brushing and flossing. Work with your dentist to create a long term dental care plan for your loved one. Dementia doesn’t have to wreak havoc on a person’s mouth.
Call us today to schedule your dental appointment at Cedar Park Premier Dentistry! (512) 434-0560