Caring Currents

Dental Treatment for Alzheimer's Patients

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A friend e-mailed recently with a mini update on her mom, who has dementia. Her latest challenge, she said, was her mom being absolutely unable to sit still for a dentist. She’d fight the dentist off screaming. Fear of being touched is common with those who have dementia, including Alzheimer’s. What’s merely annoying for us -- teeth being poked and prodded -- can be hellish for them.

But my friend's e-mail wasn’t a total downer. Turns out there are special Alzheimer's dentists trained in treating people with dementia. My friend’s mom already had an appointment.

It’s not hard finding these dentists online, especially if you live in a larger town. Do an internet search with the terms dental care, Alzheimer’s, and your parents’ town. Also ask your parents’ current dentist for a referral. (This is how my friend got a name.) The American Dental Association has a good tool for finding dentists in general, but you’ll need to ask about Alzheimer’s experience. Same with the National Institutes of Health care-finding tools.

So, what magic do these dentists work? They're very gentle, with soothing, desensitizing techniques. If this alone doesn’t work, they use sedatives or anesthesia.

It’s worth the effort. Oral health is important for seniors, and people with dementia may not be able to communicate pain or discomfort. Take a look at these dental care tips from the National Alzheimer’s Association.

I’ll let you know what other words of wisdom friends pass my way.

Image by Flickr user get directly down under a Creative Commons licensing agreement.