Oral health is essential to an individual’s overall health, and that’s true at any age. But in the older years, poor oral health can lead to various issues (such as causing problems with eating, drinking, digestion, and even talking). In addition, dental disease can cause tremendous pain. And for those impacted by dementia and Alzheimer’s, it can present additional challenges. Here’s how to provide quality oral healthcare for those with cognitive decline.
Oral Health for Seniors in the Early Stages of Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Focusing on prevention in the early stages of cognitive decline is important.
Getting regular dental check-ups and giving daily reminders about flossing and brushing are all important parts of preventative oral healthcare.
If more extensive dental procedures are needed, getting them taken care of in the early stages of cognitive decline is best. As the disease progresses, individuals may not be able to tolerate longer or more extensive dental procedures.
Oral Care During Late-Stage Cognitive Decline
In the later stages of cognitive decline, individuals may forget to floss and brush their teeth or use toothpaste. As a result, caregivers may need to take a more hands-on approach. Here are some simple tips for providing oral health support to an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Instead of only explaining what to do, have your loved one watch you act. For example, have them watch you when you floss your teeth or put toothpaste on your toothbrush.
- Use short phrases and break down the process for your loved one. For example, you can instruct your loved one to hold the toothbrush and squeeze the toothpaste tube onto the toothbrush. However, just telling someone to brush their teeth might cause confusion.
- Try different toothbrushes until you find one that works best for your loved one. For example, sometimes, a toothbrush with a long handle is easier to hold than one with a short handle.
- Keep an eye out for mouth pain or dentures that aren't fitting properly. If your loved one is grimacing while eating, that could signify mouth pain and issues with the teeth or gums. Your loved one might not express the pain verbally, so paying attention to these signs is important.
- Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make you and your loved one comfortable if you brush their teeth. Have them seated comfortably, and gently brush their teeth and gums at a 45° angle.
- Keep up with regular dental visits as much as possible. At many memory care and senior living communities, dentists and dental hygienists can visit patients onsite. If your loved one lives in a memory care community, ask if this service is available.
For Compassionate Memory Care in San Diego
At Mesa View Senior Assisted Living, our caring and highly competent staff work hard to provide holistic care to every individual inside our community. If someone you love needs memory care or you’d like to schedule a tour, please call us. We’re happy to help.
MesaView Senior Assisted Living is a family-owned and operated independent and assisted living community in La Mesa, California. We’re located near downtown La Mesa, close to many major public services and hospitals. In our home-like setting, your loved ones can age in place gracefully and with dignity. It’s a place they’ll be happy to call home.
Our owners have firsthand experience with Alzheimer's and dementia and know all that goes into making decisions around memory care for a loved one. We walk alongside families as they traverse the difficult road of Alzheimer's and have supported the greater San Diego community for a decade.
We also operate three other memory care homes throughout the area and invite you to see what our other locations have to offer:
HarborView (in San Diego’s historic Bankers Hill)
BayView (in Point Loma)
RanchView (in Olivenhain, nestled between Encinitas and Rancho Sante Fe)