Dementia and Dental Care

While you might not typically associate mental health with dentistry, it’s vitally important for older patients with Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease to receive proper oral care.

Let’s start with some statistics about Dementia patients in Canada:

  1. One in five Canadians aged 45 and older provides care to a senior in their life with long-term health problems.

  2. 747,000 Canadians were living with Dementia in 2011

  3. Over 72% of Alzheimer’s patients are women.

And here are some statistics regarding oral care in elderly patients (or those with existing health conditions that can affect their oral health):

  1. Nearly ⅓ of older adults have tooth decay that is left untreated.

  2. Half of the people 75 years and older have tooth decay.

  3. People with diabetes are 15 times more likely to lose their teeth.

  4. People 65 and older are the least likely group to go to the dentist or use other dental services.

Now imagine what happens when those two groups of statistics overlap? The negative consequences on a patient's oral health have the potential to be devastating.

You might think that Dementia won’t affect your family (or yourself), but with figures like the ones above, it’s time to start educating yourself just in case. The sooner you’re able to provide proper treatment and care for older patients with Dementia, the better for them and for your family.

Here are some techniques to help you recognize the signs of Dementia:

Identify

Examine your loved one’s behavior objectively - are their problem behaviours actually harmful or just unusual? Do your best not to intervene or correct situations that aren’t actually damaging.

Look for Patterns

Pay attention to the timing - when does the problem occur? What happened just before? What time of day and year? You should also look for patterns in location - what did the environment look, sound, and smell like? Was your loved one in a new place or were there any changes to their environment?

Ask ‘Why?’ rather than ‘What?’”

Understand the why of what your loved one is doing. Look for any outside stress that might be causing the action and keep an eye out for potential behavioural triggers.

If you believe that your loved one is suffering from Dementia and is unable to care for themselves properly, seek help for them as soon as you can.