Researchers have found that preventive dental care provided during the early stages of dementia may limit major tooth problems later. Dementia has been associated with a number of changes in health habits such as teeth cleaning and diet.
According to Robert Emanuel of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, dementia patients have nearly untreatable dental problems in the late stages of the disease. The problem is compounded in those who go into residential care since they tend to consume a more sugary diet and are unable to clean their teeth.
For the study, Emanuel and colleagues surveyed 51 patients for a period of ten weeks following dementia diagnosis. The researchers sought to know if the patients were registered with a dentist and if they had received any preventive dental care.
Eighty percent of the patients were registered and were regularly seen by a dentist. 35 patients reported having been to the dentist in the past year. Further, half of the study subjects reported having attended regular sessions with their dental hygienists.
However, preventive dental care was found to be lacking among dementia patients. The majority of dementia patients did not get necessary oral hygiene and dietary advice. Many patients did not receive fluoride treatments that help to prevent tooth decay and tooth cavities.
The challenges lie in the fact dentists tend to be treatment-oriented with dementia patients rather than taking preventive care. Dentists should help dementia patients build positive habits early so that they do not forget the advice given.
Oral health is the basis of quality care and everyday life at old age. Efforts are being made to develop devices that may help people with cognitive decline to maintain good oral health. An electronic toothbrush has been developed and is being tested for use in reminding patients to brush teeth thoroughly and to record useful information.
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