Alzheimer’s disease is a fairly prevalent condition with approximately 5.4 million Americans suffering from the disease. The progressive condition significantly diminishes a person’s quality of life in all aspects. However, there is one area that is often overlooked—dental health. There is a direct link between Alzheimer’s disease and poor oral health. In addition to periodontal disease potentially causing Alzheimer’s due to bacteria entering the brain, the condition itself leads to decreased oral health as a result of losing the ability to care of one’s self. As a Putnam dentist, we understand how difficult life becomes when living with Alzheimer’s. We want to make the diagnosis a bit easier with information you need to protect oral health so there is one less thing to worry about.
Developing a Dental Plan
Since Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, it is important to create an oral health plan early. For those with the disease, the biggest oral health threats involve gum disease and tooth decay. However, certain medications used for the disease can also cause negative complications with oral health.
During the early stages of the disease, it is likely oral health can be maintained, but a reminder may be needed. Regular home oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are key to preventing the development of complications. In some cases, it may be easier to use an electric toothbrush instead of a manual toothbrush. In addition, it may be recommended to use a toothpaste that has a high-concentration of fluoride and visit the dentist more often for fluoride treatments to help protect the teeth.
Once the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease have been reached, it is likely that some abilities to maintain proper thoughts will decrease. As a result, oral hygiene may begin to slip and another person may have to take over daily oral care. At this stage, the priority is to prevent further decay or gum disease, as well as restoring the health of remaining teeth. However, dental procedures may not be simple at this point, requiring the use of sedation or general anesthesia for comfort and safety.
During the later stages of the disease, it is likely that severe dental problems are now present. This is often due to the inability to maintain regular oral hygiene or from complex medical conditions. As this stage, dental care mainly focuses on preventing further dental disease while also ensuring oral comfort.
Protecting Oral Health when Living with Alzheimer’s
As Alzheimer’s progresses, the ability to maintain dental care significantly changes. If a comprehensive plan is not in place at the onset of the disease, it is likely severe oral health complications will develop, including gum disease and dental caries. However, with the right treatment plan from your dentist in Putnam, you will help protect oral health for as long as possible.
Dr. Carolyn McGinn and Dr. Walter McGinn are able to help patients through all stages of the devastating disease. If you need help developing a treatment plan or need care while living with Alzheimer’s, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment.