Regular dental visits are an essential part of overall health care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease. But a visit to the dentist can cause high anxiety in an elderly family member with this illness.
Therefore, it's important for your loved one to see a dentist who has experience working with patients with cognitive dysfunctions. You'll feel better too since the dentist can answer your specific questions about providing dental care for individuals with Alzheimer's.
Why is dental care especially critical for an individual suffering from Alzheimer's disease?
Poor dental health poses additional health risks—including digestive problems and infections—to individuals with Alzheimer's disease who may not be able to chew properly or who can choke easily. Poor oral health that leads to poor nutrition can also hasten mental decline. The inability to communicate can cause other problems since your loved one may be unable to let you know that he or she is in pain due to a cavity or other dental problem.
If you have questions about helping your loved one maintain better oral health, talk with a dentist from a clinic like All About Smiles pllc.
How can you make the person's dental visit less stressful?
Since it helps to keep the environment as calm and quiet as possible, schedule a dental appointment for a time of day when the dental office or clinic may not be as busy. Ask the dentist if you can sit or stand next to your loved one during the examination or dental procedure. Simply being nearby or holding your loved one's hand can help the person remain calm while the dentist works.
Let the dentist know about any activity, such as playing soft music, that helps soothe or distract the person so that he or she doesn't become agitated. Familiarity can also help calm the individual. For instance, if the person uses a wheelchair, allowing him or her to remain seated there rather than in the dental chair may help your loved one feel more at ease.
How will the dentist communicate with your loved one?
The way in which a dentist communicates with an individual with Alzheimer's disease can help make the dental visit a more positive experience. Besides speaking softly to the person, the use of visual cues along with words can help the person understand what's happening. Simply giving the person a smile or thumbs up may help him or her feel less anxious as well.
Ask the dentist to explain to your loved one step by step what he or she will do during the examination or dental procedure. However, stress the importance of keeping explanations short and simple, avoiding the use of large words or medical terms that may sound frightening.
What else can help make dental visits less apprehensive for an individual with Alzheimer's disease?
It may help to develop a consistent routine for when you take a person with Alzheimer's disease for a dental visit. If your loved one knows what to expect, he or she may be less apprehensive and uneasy about going to the dentist.