A diagnosis of dementia is a truly traumatic time for everyone involved. Partners and family members find themselves in a position where they become carers to their loved one, feeling a huge amount of fear and uncertainty about what the future holds. The simplest of daily tasks can become overwhelming.
While we can't help you overcome every hurdle, we can provide advice and support on helping someone with dementia maintain their oral health, such as tooth brushing and dietary advice, denture care where necessary and recognising when someone may be in pain or discomfort caused by toothache.
Establishing a daily routine is of real benefit, particularly in the early stages of dementia. Encourage the person to care for their own teeth for as long as possible. As a carer you can help by reminding them when to brush, and show them how to apply toothpaste to the brush if necessary. It might be worth considering an electric toothbrush as they may be easier to handle and can brush their teeth more effectively.
As dementia progresses the person may forget why they need to brush their teeth or lose the ability to do it, so the carer may need to take over the task. The easiest way to do this is have the person sit in a chair, and stand behind them, similar to the way a dentist treats a patient.
Your dentist or hygienist can provide guidance and tips on the best methods for you.
Signs of a problem
Some people, especially those in the later stages of dementia may be unable to explain pain or discomfort they may be experiencing in their mouth. However, changes in their behaviour can give you an indication that something is not quite right. these include:-
- refusing food
- frequent pulling at their face or mouth
- increased restlessness, moaning or shouting
- disturbed sleep
- refusing to wear dentures (if normally worn)
If you suspect the person you care for has toothache, contact their dentist for an emergency appointment. They can help arrange home visits if necessary.
We can help
We can provide you with support and advice on lots of oral issues that can arise in people with dementia, such as difficulty wearing dentures, dry mouth due to medication and helping individuals manage dental treatment.
Good oral health is not simply about keeping your mouth in good shape, it can mean a world of difference to overall wellbeing, especially in those with dementia.
For further information on dental health, or any aspects of caring for someone with dementia, visit the Alzheimer's Society at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/