Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Great Dental Tips for Alzheimer's Patients
The cracker experiment was related by Rose Hall, a registered dental hygienist in San Diego, who works with elderly patients at Dr. Jon Peterson’s office. In an interview and subsequent email exchange, she offered great insights and tips to caregivers to help keep their loved one’s teeth and gums from decay and disease, which can lead to tooth (and weight) loss and infections that compromise already fragile health.
“Geriatric patients often have dry mouths because of medications that cause less saliva. Saliva is cleansing and has minerals to help prevent cavities. Older patients have gum recession, which exposes the root of the tooth. Since the roots are not as strong as enamel, the patient is at risk for more cavities. “Most older patients leave plaque along the lower third of the tooth at the gumline. Caregivers should angle a soft bristle brush 45 degrees at the gumline and brush gently with
The type of toothbrush used can also help. Consider an electric toothbrush or one with a bigger handle for easier maneuvering. There can be resistance to brushing, especially in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, so brush the teeth where the loved one is comfortable, be it in bed or another room besides the bathroom. Also, consider brushing from behind to minimize getting sprayed, and use gloves to keep fingers from infection and from contaminating clean areas.
“For Alzheimer’s patients, it is good to Tell, Show and Do,” Rose Hall continued. “Tell them what you are going to do, show them the brush, and then do the steps in the same way that you explained them. Also, they may need to hold a favorite item for comfort. Interdental cleaning (spaces between the teeth) also is needed which includes flossing and other tools if possible.”
Some people dislike dental visits, and that includes elderly patients. However, Hall says, it’s important that caregivers continue to take their loved ones for regularly check-ups and cleanings to prevent cavities.