About 5.4 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior, and 16 million are expected to have it by 2050, according to the 2016 report by the Alzheimer’s Association.
Oral neglect is very common in patients with Alzheimer’s, according to Dr. Sedillo, a member of the Special Care Dentistry Association. Because of this, there has been an increase in various oral problems for these patients, including tooth loss, gingival bleeding, decline in salivary function and more.
Difficulty communicating often results in irregular dental checkups for people with Alzheimer’s. Dr. Sedillo recommends that caregivers always consider oral problems as the reason for changes in behavior at home.
Patients with Alzheimer’s often feel intimidated and confused by the unfamiliar surroundings and people at dentist offices. In order to make the dentist visit go smoothly, Dr. Sedillo suggests that caregivers are present during the whole appointment. Also, dentists should make sure that the appointment lasts no longer than 45 minutes and to develop a rapport with patients to make them feel more comfortable.
Abstract written by: Katherine Heighway | Medically Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D.