Caring for a loved one with dementia poses many challenges, and dental care is easy to overlook when you are concerned about things such as wandering. As your loved one ages, dental care becomes increasingly important for preventing painful oral health conditions that affect their ability to eat, and pain from oral health conditions can exacerbate negative behaviors such as agitation. Fortunately, you can keep your loved one's mouth and teeth in their best possible condition by using these strategies for improving their oral health.
Set a Schedule For Home Oral Care
Memory loss caused by dementia makes it harder for seniors to remember to do things such as brush their teeth, and some seniors even forget about why it is important to perform their oral hygiene routine. Therefore, you will want to work with your loved one's other caregivers to make sure they brush their teeth regularly. If necessary, set an alarm to remind you, and establish soothing rituals such as playing music to encourage your loved one to comply.
Establish a Relationship With Their Dentist
Unfamiliar faces and places can generate anxiety for people living with dementia. For this reason, it is best to obtain dental care from the same dentist as much as possible. If you are visiting a new dentist, call ahead of time so that the staff can make the experience more comfortable by scheduling the appointment during times when your loved one should not have to wait too long. They can also suggest ways to help your loved one during longer procedures. For example, you might be able to bring along some relaxing music for them to enjoy while they are getting dental crowns.
Choose Fixed Teeth Replacements
Removable dentures are harder for a person with dementia to care for, and many seniors refuse to keep them in their mouth if they cause discomfort. This can lead to costly replacements when your loved one loses them, and missing teeth make it harder to ensure that your loved one gets proper nutrition. Talk to their dentist about fixed replacement options that eliminate the need to keep up with dentures and their maintenance. For example, dental bridges stay in place, and they require normal brushing and flossing so that you can skip the soaking.
Helping your loved one take care of their teeth does far more than just make it easier to eat. Eliminating sources of pain, such as cavities and ill-fitting dentures, can make a big difference in their behavior. By caring for your loved one's entire body, you can soothe their spirit while giving them the best possible quality of life.