Dental Care Tips for Patients with Dementia

At The Dental Anesthesia Center, we can help you understand some of the dental problems that people with dementia face at different stages and provide methods for treatment and prevention.

If you are a caregiver to someone with dementia, we understand how caring for another person can sometimes be overwhelming. Millions of people in the U.S. care for a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s or another related dementia. Therefore, you’re not alone.

Going to the dentist can be scary and painful for patients with dementia. This is why we work hard to make our patients feel at ease by providing exceptional patient care in a relaxed, convenient atmosphere. 

Dental Care Tips for Patients with Dementia

Good oral health is essential for everyone’s health and wellbeing. As a person with dementia progresses, it’s vital to establish a dental care program to reduce the risk of developing poor oral health. Patients with poor oral health can develop pain and tooth loss which can negatively affect their ability to eat, laugh, and smile.

Here are some dental care tips to help patients with dementia maintain a healthy smile:

  • Help brushing teeth – For a patient with dementia, brushing their teeth is often a complicated process with many steps. While most of us do it automatically, someone with memory problems might forget some steps. Therefore, supervision or assistance is often necessary.
  • Do not let it go by the wayside – Poor dental hygiene can lead to other problems such as gingivitis, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease. When a person with dementia is left unchecked, dental care is generally the first thing to go by the wayside. The caregiver needs to ensure the person is often brushing.
  • Brush teeth at the same time – Brushing your teeth at the same time might help the other person be more successful. Give them the toothbrush with the toothpaste already on it and put it in their hands. Doing it with them can give them the confidence to do it and ensure it gets done.
  • Choose another time and place – The bathroom is not the only place for brushing teeth. A basin on a table or the kitchen sink might work better. It also doesn’t have to be the last thing they do before bed. Choosing a more relaxing time and place for the person may help.
  • Brush even if the person has denturesDentures need to be brushed and washed daily. But while they are out, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush their gums, roof of mouth, and tongue. Keeping the mouth clean is essential to preventing gum shrinkage, which can lead to many problems.
  • Be careful of products with fluorideFluoride is essential to our oral health by preventing gum disease. However, it can be dangerous if swallowed in large amounts. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the person isn’t swallowing fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste. If this becomes a problem, you might need to switch to products without fluoride.
  • Never force someone to open their mouth – As the caregiver, you know they need to brush their teeth. But as a person with dementia progresses, oral care can become more and more challenging for them and you. It’s easy to get frustrated and try to make them brush. There may be several reasons they don’t want to brush – the toothbrush is too invasive, the bristles are too rough, and other factors. Therefore, try to remedy these issues and try again when the person is less resistant.
  • Find a dentist that works with dementia patients – Not all dentists are equipped to work with special needs patients. Therefore, find a dentist who understands dementia and has the accommodations to make them comfortable.

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The only board-certified dental anesthesiologist in Missouri, including St. Louis.

Updated: August 9, 2022

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