Dementia and Dental Health

Toothbrush-Scene-265x155.jpgMaintaining dental health is important for all people of all ages, but it can present some challenges for caregivers of people with dementia.  Something as simple as brushing the teeth, which most people take for granted, can cause significant issues for a person with dementia.

Caregivers wishing to better maintain the dental health of their loved ones with dementia may want to follow these tips:

Be selective in choosing a dentist. In many cases, the dentist who has provided dental care for the patient for many years is a fine choice. However, in some cases, that "long time" dentist may not have the patience and skills necessary for working with a person with dementia. If that is the case, look around and find a dentist who is willing to take the extra steps necessary to effectively care for the patient.

Discuss proper toothpaste options with the dentist. Fluoride toothpastes are the general standard of care, but some dementia patients tend to swallow the toothpaste rather than spitting it out. In such cases, the dentist may recommend an alternative, such as a baking soda-based toothpaste.

Demonstrate the brushing process if needed. Although most people go through the steps of daily tooth care as if it were second nature, it may prove confusing to those with dementia. It may be necessary to show the patient how to wet the toothbrush, how to put toothpaste on the brush, the best way of holding the brush, how to brush the teeth, and how to spit when finished.

Make brushing as easy as possible.  Every patient is different, and some will be annoyed if a caregiver helps them to do something that they feel they are capable of doing themselves. Others, however, will appreciate a proper amount of assistance. In the latter case, it may be better for the caregiver to make the brushing process easier by getting out the toothbrush, applying the toothpaste, and then handing the brush to the patient, thereby cutting out several of the initial steps. If the patient is capable of brushing independently, make sure that the toothbrush is easy to hold; it may be necessary to purchase a larger toothbrush for this purpose.

Find the best room for brushing. Depending on the physical set-up and on the patient's reactions to the space, caregivers may want to consider brushing the teeth in a room other than the bathroom. The kitchen comes with a sink, of course, but a small plastic basin and container of water can be carried into any room to make the brushing experience more pleasant.

Go behind the patient. Sometimes the caregiver must do the actual brushing for a person with dementia. This may be easier if the patient sits in a chair and the caregiver brushes from behind.

Practicing proper dental care can be challenging for a person with dementia and for the person's caregiver. If special challenges arise, be sure to consult with the doctor and/or dentist for possible solutions.​

Realted Article
Regular Dental Visits Protect Senior Teeth​ - 


There are no comments on this post.
Looking for advice?

Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.

Sign up for advice

Home Instead offers free monthly newsletters with tips and advice for caregivers of elderly loved ones.

Please select at least one newsletter.
Valid email address is required
View sample
View sample
View sample