Dental Care for Those Living With Alzheimer’s
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month. Since a person with Alzheimer’s may forget how to brush their teeth or why it’s important, now is a great reminder to ensure a good oral health care routine.
The level of care will depend on the stage of Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dental care should focus on prevention during the early stages of the disease. In the middle to late stages of the disease, dental care may become more challenging.
In cases where caregivers may have to take a hands-on approach, the following are some helpful tips from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Simple Instructions: Walk through the dental care process by breaking directions into short and easy steps.
- “Watch Me” Technique: Have the person watch you hold a toothbrush. If needed, help the person brush their teeth by gently guiding their toothbrush.
- Daily Care: Brush teeth, gums, tongue and rough of mouth twice a day. Be sure to do the last brushing after dinner and after any nighttime liquid medication. Floss daily as well. If there are challenges using dental floss, try a proxabrush to clean in between the teeth.
- Dentures: Dentures should be rinsed with plain water after each meal, brushed daily to remove any food, and soaked nightly in a cleanser or mouthwash.
- Toothbrushes: Try different types of toothbrushes to determine what is most comfortable. Be mindful that electric dental appliances may confuse a person with Alzheimer’s.
Pay attention to any mouth discomfort, which could be mouth pain or dentures that don’t fit properly. Maintain regular dental checkups and provide your dentist with a list of all medications and all health care providers who are caring for the person with dementia.