Caring for a loved one with Dementia: Oral Health

by Ken Takeya

With all the other concerns and responsibilities involved in taking care of a person with dementia, dental care can be easily overlooked. However, maintaining proper oral hygiene is a crucial factor that influences a senior’s overall health and their quality of life.

Someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may not be able to communicate that they have a toothache or gum problems, especially in the later stages of the disease. An abscess in the mouth can lead to many serious complications, cause undue pain and suffering, and interfere with a senior’s ability to get proper nutrition. Because dental problems can worsen quickly, every caregiver should make dentist appointments and daily dental care an important part of their loved one’s care plan.

Teeth Cleanings and Dementia

Most dental insurance plans cover a teeth cleaning (prophylaxis) every six months. Since it can be extremely difficult getting a dementia patient to comply with brushing and flossing twice a day, you may want to consider paying for two extra cleanings each year so your loved one goes to the dentist every three months. This can help combat plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. Additional cleanings also help to prevent serious gum conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis, which contribute to decay and tooth loss. Dental appointments are especially important if a dementia patient needs ongoing help controlling or treating an established oral disorder.

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