Alzheimer’s Disease and Dental Issues
President Ronald Reagan made the month of November Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983. Sadly, he himself died of Alzheimer’s Disease and Pneumonia in 2004. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, back then, there were less than two million people with the disease. The number has grown to more than five million with an exponential growth projected going forward.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia which leads to memory, thinking, and behavior problems. It is sadly the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. As the most common form of dementia, it accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all cases.
Alzheimer’s Disease is progressive, getting worse over time. The symptoms include:
- Memory Loss
- Trouble Planning or Solving Problems
- Confusion with Time or Place
- Misplacing Things & Unable to Retrace
- Mood & Personality
As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. How can you help your loved one?
- Keeping a daily routine helps to avoid confusion.
- Keeping things simple, don’t overstimulate.
- Let them digest one thing at a time.
- Always try to make the person feel safe and comfortable.
- Be the calming voice they need.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s becomes more challenging as the disease progresses. Even the simplest of routine tasks can be forgotten, leading to complications that can easily be avoided.
Case in point…the person with dementia may forget how to brush their teeth. This is something a caregiver needs to consider. They may need to remind, assist, or do for them. Without proper oral care, the person may experience eating difficulties, digestive problems, and infections. Studies show that as many as half the cases of pneumonia among nursing home residents are caused by poor dental hygiene.
For anyone, poor oral health can lead to pain and tooth loss and can negatively affect self-esteem and the ability to eat, laugh and smile. In the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, prevention is the key with dental care. Routine check-ups, cleaning, and regular flossing teeth is a great preventative. Later in the progression, they may forget what to do with toothpaste or how to rinse or may be resistant to assistance. According to the American Dental Association, among a population of nearly 1.3 million nursing home residents struggling to receive dental care, patients with dementia are particularly at risk for untreated dental disease, and the severe health consequences that can result.
Finding the right dentist is key, you want a professional who has experience working with people with dementia or with elderly patients. Their experience with the disease and how best to work with the patient will make dental visits less stressful. You should give the dentist a list of all health care providers who are caring for the person with Alzheimer’s, as well as a list of all medications. Certain medications can contribute to dry mouth and other oral health issues.
Many dental offices do not accept Alzheimer and Dementia patients. Make sure the dentist they have been using are comfortable with this new complication in the patient’s life and they are adequately trained to deal with a difficult visit. Getting the patient to the dentist’s office is a challenge on its own. Many are not cooperative personalities due to the disease, there are physical issues as well. Once the patient is in the chair, there are difficulties communicating with the patient, who may be confused or intimidated by unfamiliar people and surroundings.
Dr. Lee Lichtenstein and his highly trained staff offer general dentistry services as well as dental treatments that can be performed using sedation dentistry and general anesthesia techniques to make patients’ experiences more pleasant and comfortable. They routinely work with patients of all ages who are apprehensive and nervous or come with special needs due to physical, emotional, or neurological problems.
Visit our practice to discuss your dental needs and concerns.
723 North Beers Street
Holmdel, NJ 07733.
email us at DrLichtenstein@SleepDentistryNJ.com