Whether you are a relative or caregiver to someone with dementia, you are now responsible for their hygiene. This means you bathe the person and change their clothes. It also means taking care of their teeth. Regular home cleaning and dental visits are vital. The following tips are designed to make dental care for someone with dementia as smooth as possible.

Tip 1: Stick to a Routine

Dementia sufferers easily become confused or frustrated when their daily tasks are performed for them. However, it is important that you continue to meet their oral needs. Sticking to a routine helps build familiarity, even if the person doesn't remember that you clean their teeth daily.

Create a routine that isn't too vigorous, because you don't want to stress your patient out. There needs to be some time leniency. For example, instead of scheduling breakfast at 9:00 and following it with brushing and flossing at 9:30 sharp, give a time frame for these activities to be finished by (such as 10:00). That way you aren't rushing the person through breakfast and forcing an immediate cleaning afterwards. They have time to eat at their own pace, and a few minutes to relax before brushing begins.

Tip 2: Don't Be Forceful

You want oral hygiene to be as comfortable an experience as possible. Never force a person with dementia to have their teeth cleaned. Remain calm and explain what you are going to do. Keep your sentences simple. It may be necessary to soothe the person throughout the teeth cleaning process. Continue to talk calmly, describing each step before you do it and pointing out each step as you go. This approach is the best way to incite cooperation. Being forceful could lead to the patient refusing cleanings and possibly becoming violent. Remember that positive cleaning experiences at home makes it easier for dental visits later on.

Tip 3: Check for Early Dental Problems

Dental problems aren't completely preventable. The combination of age, dementia, and medication makes it even more likely that the person you care for will develop tooth and gum diseases. Be on the lookout for infection, and take the person to a dentist as soon as you suspect a problem.

Some indicators to look for include swelling in the mouth, red gums, and dry mouth. If your patient loses their appetite, it could be a result of tooth sensitivity from a cavity or nerve damage. Dentists should be able to identify the main problem and begin treatment right away.

Tip 4: Learn About Dental Treatments

Whether you catch an oral problem early or late in a person with dementia, they will need to undergo dental treatment. Try to keep the patient calm, and explain why you are going to the dentist, and what it will look like inside. This will help keep confusion at bay. If the person you care for needs surgical treatment – often tooth extraction and restoration – expect multiple visits. Prepare them each time, even if you don't think they'll remember what you tell them. Again, it is important that the person you care for has familiarity with this routine in order to remain calm.

Consider each treatment option: dentures require less dental work and surgery, but they pose a choking hazard for someone with dementia. Implants, on the other hand, require more surgery and follow-up visits, but they are a permanent option. The pros and cons of each treatment should be discussed in detail with the dentist as well as family members and the patient.

As a caregiver for someone with dementia, it is imperative that you meet all their hygiene needs. Don't overlook any steps of oral hygiene. Maintaining their oral health at home and regularly scheduling dental visits reduces intensive treatment. When necessary, however, make sure you are well informed as to which treatment is best for your patient.