Poor oral health may be more than just a sign of improper brushing techniques: it may be an indication of early stages of dementia.
As reported by the Alzheimer’s Society, more than 850,000 people are diagnosed with dementia in the United Kingdom, and this number is likely to increase to one million by 2025. In America, there are at least 5.3 million Alzheimer’s patients and an estimated number of 7.1 million by 2025. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is a serious issue around the world, and now there is a way that dentists can help decrease it.
According to the British Dental Health Foundation, if dentists notice unhealthy dental health habits, they may be seeing signs of the development of dementia, because many people who are diagnosed with dementia have trouble maintaining a clean mouth. Furthermore, dementia patients should depend on dentists to identify hints of mental health issues because these patients often struggle to communicate their problems in keeping up with their oral health.
People who battle dementia generally have worse oral hygiene because their cognitive skills are impaired. Therefore, they need to depend on caretakers. The British Dental Health Foundation recommends that patients try to take care of themselves with reminders from care providers for as long as possible. However, as the disease becomes worse and patients are no longer capable of properly caring for themselves, caretakers may need to assume more active roles.
Detecting signs early on can lead to many other health benefits in self esteem, dignity, and nutrition. Because dementia is progressive disease, resolving issues immediately by coming up with treatment plans can also prevent other wide-range and painful dental health problems. The Alzheimer’s Society anticipates working with the dental field to observe signs more quickly so that patients can be referred to their GP, or general practitioner, to be examined further.
The link between poor oral health and dementia demonstrates that there is a clear connection between the fields of dentistry and medicine and that collaboration between practitioners of these fields is crucial.