June 6, 2018

Dental Care for the Alzheimer’s Patient

Patients with dementia may have problems taking care of their teeth and mouth.  A caregiver may need to take charge of the patient’s dental care.  Good dental care may help the patient avoid dental problems later and help keep the patient comfortable.

Serve Healthy Foods

  • What the patient eats has an effect on his dental health.  If you want him to have healthy gums and teeth, have him eat healthy foods.
  • Limit the amount of sugary foods the patient eats, such as candy, cookies and soda.
  • You may need to hide sugary foods so the patient can’t find them.
  • Offer foods with artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes
  • When the patient is having a sugar craving, offer fruit with natural sugar.
  • Try to get the patient to snack on fresh fruit and raw vegetables.  Make sure healthy snacks are available.

Have the Patient Brush and Floss Teeth Regularly

  • Have the patient brush his teeth after each meal.  If you cannot get the patient to do this, try to have him rinse his mouth with water.
  • Make sure the patient is using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Make sure the patient brushes after the last meal of the day.
  • Brush teeth after any night time liquid medication.
  • Have the patient floss his teeth after brushing.  If this is a problem, you may want to try a “proxabrush” instead.
  • Help the patient if needed.

Take Special Care of Dentures

  • Have the dentist check dentures to make sure they fit properly.
  • Rinse the dentures with water after each meal to remove food particles.
  • Clean dentures overnight.  In the morning, help the patient put them back in.
  • Label the patient’s dentures in case the dentures or the patient get lost.  Talk with your dentist about having them labeled.

Choose a Dentist

  • Try to find a dentist who is trained to work with older persons.  You may also be able to find a dentist who is familiar with dementia.
  • Give the dentist a list of the doctors who have worked with the patient.  The dentist should know the patient’s medical history and list of medications.
  • Some dentists may recommend a general anesthetic if the patient is particularly restless.

For more information about caring for a dementia patient or for FREE 24 hour caregiver support, call the South Arkansas Center on aging at 870-881-8969.

*All information from The Caregiver Notebook by Jennifer Martindale-Adams, Ed.D, Robert Burns, M.D., and Linda O. Nichols, Ph.D.