When you have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, basic routines can become stressful and challenging. Cognitive decline and memory loss make it hard to keep up with hygiene–including oral hygiene. Resistance and fear from dementia patients can make showing up for dental and medical appointments a considerable task. Meanwhile, overwhelmed caregivers may let dental care slide while dealing with complex medical and logistical concerns. However, because of the decline in at-home dental care that can accompany dementia, it’s more important than ever for patients to see the dentist. When providers and caregivers work together, it can mean successful visits and improved quality of life.
What Are Tips for Taking A Dementia Patient to the Dentist?
Dementia is a continuum. Some patients are pleasant in the dentist’s chair, while others may experience paranoia and resist treatment. With memory loss as a factor, scheduling and getting to appointments can also be a challenge. Here are some tips to help loved ones with dementia get the care they need.
- Help your loved one make and manage appointments. Make sure the office has a caregiver as a contact. Bring your loved one to their visit or find a friend or paid caregiver to join them for transportation and support.
- If your loved one is in a memory care facility, they usually require outside dental treatment. Coordinate dental appointments with the facility and establish the protocol for getting your loved one to the office.
- Talk with your loved one before the appointment to remind them of their dentist’s role and calm their fears.
- Work with a dentist who can establish a connection with your loved one. Your dentist and staff should help make them comfortable and explain what they’re doing.
- Sedation dentistry is an excellent solution if your loved one is combative or unwilling to cooperate. Nitrous oxide is considered safe for dementia patients and reduces the anxiety surrounding an office visit.
How Can I Help My Loved One Maintain Good Oral Hygiene?
Keeping those twice-yearly dental checkups is critical for dementia patients. Caregivers should also help loved ones maintain good oral hygiene at home:
- Remind them to brush their teeth in the early stages and provide assistance as needed.
- Turn over daily dental care to caregivers as dementia progresses.
- Continue a dialogue with your family dentist about meeting patients’ needs when they can no longer care for themselves, including changing the tools you use at home.
Dental Care for Dementia Patients: Your Family Dentist Can Help
At Greenhill Family Dental Care, we are honored to care for patients of all ages and abilities. Caring for patients with memory loss can be challenging but extremely rewarding as we meet this vital need. Our staff works closely with caregivers to manage appointments. Our providers are known for attentive, compassionate care and are experienced in sedation dentistry. We can help caregivers make decisions that best suit their loved ones’ circumstances and oral health needs.