Oral Care And Dentistry For Those With Alzheimer's

If you are the caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease, you will need to be especially attuned to their oral care needs. Many Alzheimer's patients need assistance with brushing their teeth, flossing, and trips to the dentist's office.

Home Care

If your loved one with Alzheimer's lives at home, you will probably go through stages of how much help they need in all areas. It's imperative that you pay attention to their oral hygiene. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If your loved one is still able to brush their own teeth, you can help remind and guide them through the process.
  • Make sure that they have a toothbrush that is easy for them to hold and is comfortable for them. A large handle and soft bristles are usually desirable. Don't use an electric toothbrush as it may become dangerous.
  • You may have to experiment with toothpaste to find one your loved one likes. Should they become picky, you may want to try a children's toothpaste.
  • If necessary, learn how to care for dentures.
  • As your loved one progresses in their disease, you will want to visually inspect their mouth at least once a month. Look for any changes in their mouth, teeth, and gums.
  • If your loved one complains about their mouth or teeth, or their breath becomes foul or different, make an appointment to see the dentist.

Dental Appointments

People suffering from Alzheimer's disease deserve and require routine dental care. As a caregiver, you may be concerned about how visits to the dentist will work. It's not uncommon for those with dementia to fear being touched, especially by those with whom they aren't familiar. Many dentists are competent with these patients and have developed methods that work well.

You will, of course, want to have a discussion with the dentist's office prior to your appointment about your loved one's Alzheimer's. Expect questions such as:

  • What medications are they taking?
  • What does their daily oral hygiene routine involve?
  • Do you suspect any oral problems?
  • What stage of Alzheimer's is the patient in?

You will probably be asked to remain at the office, and possibly in the exam room. If you want to be in the room, be sure to let them know your preference.

Sedation dentistry may be the best option for your loved one. The dentist will need to be sure that sedation techniques will not conflict with medications the patient is already taking. They will probably want to use the mildest sedation possible. Sedation can be oral medication, gas, IV sedatives, or general anesthesia.

If the patient will tolerate nitrous oxide/oxygen, commonly known as laughing gas, this may be the preferred method of sedation. This gas is easy to administer and leaves the body quickly. However, it may not be the best option for an Alzheimer patient. Your dentist will inform you of the best possible sedation option for your loved one. For more information, contact a professional like those at Mill Creek Family Dental.