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Dementia Awareness Week- 15th May 2016

Good oral health is important for everyone’s health and well-being and quality of life as it offers significant benefits to self-esteem, dignity, social integration, and general nutrition.

Dementia describes different brain disorders that trigger a loss of brain function. These conditions are all usually progressive and eventually severe. It becomes more difficult for someone with dementia to look after their own dental health, this responsibility then falls to the care giver. It is important to establish a dental care programme at, or soon after, a diagnosis.

Dementia sufferers may be taking medication for a number of conditions. They may also be prescribed antidepressants or – less often – anti psychotics and sedatives. A common side effect of these medications id a dry mouth. Saliva acts as a lubricant and also cleans the mouth and teeth. Lack of saliva can lead to a build-up of plaque and increase the risk of dental decay, gum disease and infection.

It’s important to maintain regular dental appointments where the dentist can apply chlorhexidine and fluoride varnishes to help prevent decay at the necks of the teeth.

Assisting dementia patients with brushing can be a difficult task, but remember the bathroom is not the only place for brushing teeth. A basin on a table or the kitchen sink might work better. It also doesn’t have to be the last thing at night before bed or the first thing in the morning. Find a time when both you and the person for whom you are caring for are calm and have time to devote to the task.

Using an Electric toothbrush from an early stage will help the user as they are proven to clean more effectively and the larger handle helps patients with poor grip or manual dexterity. If the process is proving stressful, try implementing some of the techniques you use while helping with personal care, for example distracting them, or using non-verbal communication like touching them on the face and the mouth first before actually commencing care, so they anticipate your actions.

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