June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, a time when it is important for us to talk about this difficult disease and what we can do to help those affected by it. In addition to learning about the effects of Alzheimer’s and donating to groups that research it, we can also directly help the people we love who have it in a number of ways. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests doing the following:
- Encouraging the person to keep his or her normal routine
- Helping the person to remember appointments and activities
- Asking how you can be supportive
- Finding a support group for your loved one
Part of keeping your loved one healthy will be to understand how oral health plays a role. Below is some information regarding what you should know about Alzheimer’s, dementia and dental care.
Why It Matters
Oral health and overall health are linked together, as poor dental hygiene can result in illness. Therefore, helping your loved one keep his or her dental appointments and cleanings is essential to his or her wellbeing. Additionally, having a bright smile and clean mouth can boost someone’s self-esteem, which is especially helpful for someone struggling with memory issues.
Someone with dementia in the early stages will likely be able to keep up with flossing and brushing alone. However, it is possible that he or she will need to be reminded and possibly supervised. In the later stages, the Alzheimer’s Society states that it is possible that your loved one will no longer be able to clean his or her teeth alone. Caretakers may have to complete the task, and a dentist or hygienist can provide tips for doing so.
The Alzheimer’s Society points out that people who suffer from dementia-related illnesses are often prescribed medications. For example, antidepressants or, to a lesser degree, sedatives or antipsychotics may be prescribed. Unfortunately, one side effect to these drugs is dry mouth.
When someone experiences dry mouth, it means that there is a lack of saliva. This can result in increased plaque and put the person at risk of decay, infection and gum disease. It can also take a toll on someone with dentures.
A dentist should be made aware of any medications your loved one is taking so an effective treatment plan can be made. Additionally, at the first sign of dry mouth – such as frequent thirst, mouth sores or a dry, raw tongue – a dentist should be alerted.
To learn more about what you can do to help someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, please visit the Alzheimer’s Association.