If your loved one has dementia you will know that symptoms, such as impairment of working memory and confusion, can vary from person to person and from day to day. Dementia can impact their physical safety and hinder their ability to maintain the level of independence they'd like, and it can also impact their dental health. Staying on top of dental health with dementia can be a real challenge, but poor dental health can impact their quality of life and leave your loved one with dental pain that they may struggle to get treatment for if they're unable to communicate that they are in pain. Here's an overview of some of the ways dementia can impact dental health and what can be done to reduce the risk of your loved one's dental health declining.
Daily Oral Hygiene
It's not uncommon for those with dementia to forget to brush their teeth. Some patients also experience a change in diet and consume more sugary foods. This can increase the risk of dental decay and gum disease in those with dementia. It may help to set a reminder for your loved one to encourage them to brush their teeth, and they may benefit from using a strong antibacterial mouthwash to deplete the bad bacteria in their mouth that contributes to the formation of plaque. Their dentist may recommend more frequent dental check-ups and dental cleanings to ensure plaque isn't allowed to build up and to allow them to spot the signs of decay early.
Those with dementia who wear dentures can misplace them often. This can cause distress, so speak to your loved one's dentist about getting a spare set of dentures to keep on hand. Additionally, they may often forget to wear their dentures. This can impact their ability to eat certain foods and speak clearly, and it can cause their facial muscles to droop and impact the structure of their jaw. You may need to remind your loved one to wear their dentures and help them to keep their dentures clean.
Some medications used to treat the symptoms of dementia can cause a dry mouth. This can change the pH level of your mouth and create an environment that supports the growth of bacteria, which can lead to the formation of plaque. Encourage your loved one to sip on water throughout the day to keep their mouth wet, and consult with their dentist about the suitability of sugar-free sweets. Sucking on sugar-free sweets can encourage saliva production and help prevent an overgrowth of oral bacteria.
When caring for someone with dementia, don't overlook their oral health. Contact a dentist for more information.