07 Aug Dementia patients and their dental care
There is a topic of increased interest but most people don’t like to discuss it because it touches on personal feelings or the feelings of beloved ones.
As we are aware there are more people keeping their teeth at advanced ages, at the same time people tend to have a number of diseases that can limit or interfere with some dental and/or medical treatments. These diseases are confined not only to physical but also to mental conditions.
If we add the fact that a large number of seniors remain confined at retirement institutions, you can see the bigger picture, compounded by the fact that a number of these people are not independent any longer and that rely on either community services or the assistance of partners that are in the same age bracket or relatives with a busy schedule.
The most common mental diseases are Dementia (its most common form being Alzheimer’s disease) and Depression. It is accepted that over 20 % of people over 55 suffer from some form of mental condition and the amount of people suffering will double every 20 years .You can see the magnitude of the problem.
In terms of Dentistry and medicine in general, any form of prevention is a lot better than treating a developing condition or an established one.
It is quite difficult to accept such Diagnosis (Dementia) and that it is not going to be any better. Likewise, it is quite different to treat a person at the early stages when the person can make some decisions about his own dental health that at later stages when the person becomes quite uncooperative and somebody else is making decisions for him or her.
How to take all of this on board??? We know it is not easy and most of us are associated or have been associated with a person going through the different stages of this mental disease. A person who looks physically sound but doesn’t recognize his or her partner or his own children is a picture printed in our memories.
As Dentists and thanks to the progress of technology and techniques, we are in a position to treat most of the dental problems. However , the difficult area is to ascertain how much treatment a person needs in order to have a comfortable function of his/her oral tissues or to keep a good level of oral health .
We know that most people confined to mental institutions do not have a good level of dental care, we might not like this statement but experience points otherwise. There are not many people who like to brush somebody else’s teeth and gums. Needless to say, even fewer would clean somebody else’s dentures.
Finally, we might need to think whether all of this should be discussed with the person affected at the time of Diagnosis or early stages of the disease. I guess by doing that we could offer some dignity and respect to this person. What happens after… you all have seen it.
Until the month of August…