Dental health care for people living with dementia

    Toothache can cause everything from mild discomfort to excruciating pain. If you are caring for someone living with dementia, they may require a little extra help understanding how to prevent pain in or around their teeth.

    Those living with dementia are at greater risk of dental problems for a variety of reasons including:

    • Dry mouth - saliva is essential to oral health, but age and certain medications can reduce its production
    • Sugar-based medications can also lead to tooth decay and problems using dentures
    • As people age, their ability to brush their teeth and maintain denture care can fall by the way-side

    If you are caring for someone living with dementia, regular oral exams are necessary, but they can be somewhat overwhelming. Here are some tips to make the process a little easier:

    • Greet the person you are caring for with a smile using their name
    • Take a few moments to connect with them before you commence oral care
    • Choose an environment that is the most comfortable, for example in a quiet bedroom or bathroom, eliminate background noise if possible
    • Use a bright coloured toothbrush to assist the person to see the toothbrush
    • Use a calm, friendly and non-demanding manner
    • Go at the person’s pace and speak clearly
    • Explain what you are about to do by using one step instruction or one piece of information at a time. It may be easier for the person to copy another person cleaning their teeth
    • Use words that the person can understand and relate to
    • Be aware of their personal space and approach at eye level from the diagonal front. If standing directly in front of the person you may look big and the person may grab or hit out at you
    • Maintain a positive expression and a caring attitude

    Providing regular assistance with oral health can greatly reduce the underlying factors that cause toothache.

    To learn more about dental care for people living with dementia, visit Alzheimer’s Australia.

    Posted February 9, 2017 in Seniors blog