Dementia And Dental Care: Helping The Elderly

Dementia, which is a chronic disorder of the brain, changes a person over time. Most common in the elderly, it is marked by memory disorders, changes in a person's personality, and impaired reasoning functions. While many adults are capable of sitting through a dental procedure, those with dementia may be frightened or agitated by dental visits. This makes them prone to tooth decay and dental problems. 

Dental Care for Dementia Patients

According to the American Dental Association, there are around 1.3 million people in nursing homes around the United States. Many of these people suffer with dementia, and they are at a higher risk of having dental diseases develop. These people may be unable to travel to a dental office, which means a dentist must come to the nursing home to perform dental procedures. Some nursing facilities have a special room for this. 

What Puts Dementia Patients At Risk for Dental Issues?

When a person suffers from dementia, there are many medications they may have to take. Anxiety medications are common, as the person may struggle with remembering where they are or who they are. Antipsychotics and sedatives are commonly used as well to help reduce aggression in these individuals. 

Drugs can affect the teeth and bones in the body. Dry mouth is a common side effect, and when there is a lack of saliva, there is a likelihood that plaque will build up and that problems like decay or gum disease will take place. 

How Does Dementia-Based Dental Care Differ From Normal Visits?

Dentists working with dementia patients are skilled in understanding the fears and anxieties of these patients. They are well versed in how to handle the difficulties of this disease. 

Dental care for dementia patients may include things like adding varnishes to the teeth that other patients may not need. For instance, a fluoride varnish can be added to the teeth to prevent the decay of enamel due to dry mouth. 

The dentist is also able to care for dentures, which have a tendency to collect plaque. By maintaining the plaque, the dental team can lower the risk of the patient developing gum disease. 

These are a few ways dentists help dementia patients in nursing homes. Dental care is important, and with the right care, your elderly patients or family members can have strong, healthy teeth. Talk to a professional dentist like James J. Susack, DMD, PC for more information.