Dental Care For Alzheimer's Patients: Key Considerations

by Brent Woods

If you have an elderly loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, then making sure that your family member gets the best care available is obviously a crucial concern. One issue that you don't want to overlook is dental care. Alzheimer's patients have special needs regarding dental care due to a decreasing ability to care for themselves as the disease progresses.


Two of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's are confusion and forgetfulness. These problems might lead your loved one to avoid brushing her teeth. Perhaps she does not realize that she is supposed to do this or has forgotten how to perform the task. Remind your family member to brush if she does not do so on her own. To help her out, brush your own teeth at the same time. Let her watch you as put toothpaste on the toothbrush and move the brush up and down in your mouth.


If the Alzheimer's patient wears dentures, then you are going to run into a similar problem as with brushing. In the early stages of the disease, she may need regular reminders to clean and maintain her dentures. As the disease progresses, she may not be able to perform this task even with assistance. It will be up to you, or any other caregiver, to keep her dentures clean, fitting properly and well-maintained.

Oral Checks

Alzheimer's patients tend to have problems communicating verbally, a condition that gets worse over time. Because of this, your loved one may not be able to effectively express that she is having dental problems or oral pain. To deal with this issue, inspect your family member's mouth on a regular basis. Look for any signs of gum disease, such as swollen or reddened gums. Also, watch for ulcers in the mouth, which may indicate oral cancer.


Another key consideration is the issue of consent. If your loved one does not consent to the care she needs, her oral care could be compromised. If she is resistant to care, try to persuade her by having the dentist talk to her about the benefits of treatment. One good idea is to have your loved one give you're her power of attorney when the disease is in the early stages and her mind is relatively unimpaired. This can avoid consent problems down the road.

Caring for a relative with Alzheimer's is a difficult and time-consuming task. Follow these tips on dental care to make the job a little easier.