Caregiver Corner: Dental Care

Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care 

4 Reasons Dental is Linked to Health 

One of the most challenging aspects of caring for older adults is oral care. Recently, one of our caregivers asked, “Does she still need to brush her teeth now that she’s in the end stage?” I asked our geriatric-dentistry expert, Dr. Ruth Goldblatt, for her ideas. She confirmed that oral health remains a top priority throughout life, for a number of reasons:

No. 1: Oral pain can decrease food intake;

No. 2: Poor oral hygiene affects the self-esteem of the patient;

No. 3: Poor oral care/hygiene is uncomfortable for friends/family/caregivers and may result in social isolation; and most importantly,

No. 4: Poor oral health can lead to serious infection, including pneumonia.

Top 3 Tips to Maintain Oral Health 

No. 1: Get baseline dental data and X-Rays for the patient.

No. 2: Get the best dental health as soon as you get a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia – that doesn’t have to be the most expensive or most elaborate.

No. 3: Establish a routine of completing dental care at the same time every day – preferably 2 times/day after meals if possible.

Dr. Goldblatt also shared the newest resource for oral care – a training video designed for professionals but helpful for families too. It’s available for a modest fee at www.mouthcarewithoutabattle.org; and there is a free video preview on the website.  I will warn you – don’t watch it while eating. The pictures are real and relatively graphic to those of us with weaker stomachs. But the information is superb. Tips on brushing, alternative products and techniques for working with resistive persons are available.

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