Dementia and Oral Health
In the early stages people with dementia may struggle with, or forget about maintaining good oral hygiene. As the dementia becomes progressively worse, carers will need to assist. In the advanced stages, dental treatment may be difficult or virtually impossible, particularly in cases of profound confusion or aggression.
There are two main types of dental disease – gum (periodontal) disease and tooth decay (dental caries). Both can cause discomfort or pain and can lead to the development of infection. Both pain and infection can worsen the confusion associated with dementia.
To try and ensure good oral health:
- Brush using a small headed toothbrush with medium textured bristles at least twice a day (especially at night) using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Where possible try to spit out after brushing and do not rinse.
- As manual ability decreases, an electric toothbrush may help maintain independence. The person with dementia could also try using a toothbrush with an adapted handle to improve their grip
- Where possible try to keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes to reduce the risk of tooth decay. If supplements are required then seek professional support on this.
- Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly, as often as they recommend. They may prescribe products to help prevent tooth decay and a dry mouth.
The Alzheimer’s Society has produced an excellent leaflet on Dental Care and Dementia and this can be accessed through the alzheimer's society website.