September is World Alzheimer’s Month & October is Dental Hygiene Month!

The health of your mouth is important at every stage of your life.  You and your oral health care team should be focused on a plan that is customized to you, taking into consideration your age, general health conditions and oral conditions.

How well you perform your dental hygiene has a direct effect on the outcome of your oral health, how long you retain our teeth and how much you spend in both time and money on your mouth. As you age prevention becomes more and more important. If dementia or Alzheimer’s affects you or a loved one their oral health can significantly decline due to reduced ability to perform oral hygiene procedures. Even if you have no teeth there is a need for daily cleaning of the tissues and dentures. Here we’ve have gathered some important information regarding why all of us should be paying attention to our oral health.

Halitosis (AKA Bad Breath):

Bad breath can be caused by bacteria that grows in the mouth, foods we eat and some general health conditions.  Everyone, regardless of having teeth or not, have millions of bacteria that grow daily. Lack of brushing our teeth, gums, and tongue allows these bacteria to overgrow giving us bad breath.  Lightly brushing these areas to remove plaque buildup will help reduce these bad breath inducing bacteria.

Gum Disease:

Keeping bacteria that form in your mouth to a minimum directly reduces your risk of gum disease.  Without the regular removal of plaque, the bacteria will cause inflammation in the gum tissue that slowly causes bone deterioration and tooth loss. This process is what we call periodontal disease or periodontitis.  Those with dementia may have a harder time remembering to keep a regular oral hygiene routine or be unable to perform their own oral hygiene and are therefore more susceptible to developing or a worsening of their gum disease.

Caries Development:  

Bacteria in plaque give off acid which in turn demineralizes the enamel of teeth and over time will eventually cause cavities.  Cavity development can progress and if undetected result in loss of tooth structure and eventually cause pain and infection.

Heart Disease:

Studies show an increased risk of the development of heart disease when your oral health is affected by gum disease.   Our body’s inflammatory response to bacteria leads to a systemic response in our bodies and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Impeccable plaque removal can significantly reduce your body’s inflammatory response not only in your mouth but throughout your body. There is a mouth-body connection!

Alzheimer’s Specifically: We all face the above oral health risks when not taking sufficient care of our mouths, however this becomes especially critical for those affected by Alzheimer’s.  A routine that includes reminders to care for teeth and gums two times a day becomes crucial. For many with progressive dementia their caregiver will eventually be providing their oral care by doing their brushing for them. It’s often difficult for Alzheimer’s patients to receive dental care so the preventive care that a caregiver provides is essential.