Mouth 'n Mind - Dementia and Oral Healthcare

Mouth 'n Mind - Dementia and Oral Healthcare
Jaqueline Dubin, 4/24/2017
Oral healthcare is of the utmost importance through all stages of life. Typically, your routine should include: brushing, flossing, mouth wash rinsing (3 minutes two times a day) and regular dentist visits. These combined exemplifies a normal oral care routine to maintain dental health. For those with dementia, this routine is greatly challenging. Difficulty with memory, language, communication, and the ability to cooperate during routine visits are all factors contributing to an increased decline in oral health for dementia patients.

Regular checkups by a dental professional are very important. The American Dental Association recommends having routine dental checkups every six months, however, with the advanced difficulty in daily care, some of those with dementia need to be seen as often as every two months to maintain good oral health. When caring for with those with dementia, the process of leaving home, traveling to the dental office, and being in that environment is often too much for the patient, especially at two or three month intervals. So what can we do at home to help those with dementia?

Make sure they brush twice a day! Use a soft toothbrush in a circular motion and brush at the gum line and on each tooth surface. Do this at least twice a day, preferably after meals and especially before bed. If a patient cannot remember to brush, try writing the steps down in short simple sentences and posting it in the bathroom. If a patient has difficulty brushing, try showing them first and then guiding them through the process. Explain to the patient what you are going to do before you do it and while you are doing it.

FLOSS! Flossing can be difficult for anyone but is necessary to keep bacteria away from the gumline and avoid periodontal disease. If the person with dementia struggles with flossing or the caregiver is finding it difficult to floss, try floss picks which do not require the same dexterity as traditional floss.

Rinse! However, make sure to rinse with non-alcoholic mouth wash such as Listerine Zero. Alcohol will dry out the mouth further contributing to bacteria growth.

If oral health is neglected, the whole body suffers. Much recent research has exposed the mouth-body connection and the detrimental effects lack of dental care has on the mouth, body, and brain. When the mouth is not properly cared for, plaque and bacteria build up and cause problems like periodontal disease. Many new studies have linked periodontal disease and Alzheimer's disease. This same bacteria travels all over the body contributing to and exacerbating problems like heart disease, diabetes, and more. In addition, emergency dental situations are more common when good regular home care is not performed. Keeping your mouth healthy keeps the body healthier. Good oral home care for dementia patients can be performed with the right methods and a lot of patience. With the suggestions above and help from a good oral healthcare provider, oral home care for dementia patients can become easier.
Jaqueline Dubin

Jaqueline Dubin

Jaqueline Dubin is the Director of Operations for District Mobile Dental. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Literature. She has worked in dental health for 10 years, and specifically with seniors since 2012.