How many Australians currently have Alzheimer’s Disease or some form of dementia? Do you know? 7 percent. That’s 342,000 people.
As time goes by and the population ages, that number is expected to rise.
The growing numbers affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia means that Australian medical professionals, and especially dentists, will be called upon to care for patients in various stages of this terrible disease.
An understanding of how dementia affects a patient is essential for dentists and other oral health professionals if they hope to provide services effectively.
The problems facing many of today’s victims, their families, and caregivers are how to provide appropriate dental care, maintain oral health, and quality of life for the remainder of the patient’s life, when that person’s ability to care for their teeth may become impossible.
It is well known that poor dental hygiene can harm the overall health of a person.
In the case of an Alzheimer’s patient, they may already be struggling with health issues in various systems, and may already be on multiple medications.
It is vitally important to prevent any additional health risks. Good dental hygiene is a fundamental method for minimising risks of infection.
Not maintaining good dental habits can result in higher risks of infections and a stressed immune system.
Educating the Professionals
Educating dentists and other dental health professionals about the nature of Alzheimer’s and other dementias is of primary importance.
For example, the fact that dementia is a progressive disease (meaning that the disease will come on slowly and take time to be noticed and diagnosed) may not be clearly understood by everyone.
Some of the patients that dentists are treating presently may already be suffering some effects of dementia, but not yet be aware of it.
Another implication is that some of a dentist’s healthy patients will probably become victims in the near future.
Dentists and staff need to be aware of this fact so that they can be alert to possible signs that a dementia problem may be imminent and then take steps to provide the best care strategy for the patient.
Dementia patients will require special accommodation that a dentist and staff might not normally offer a patient.
Some examples of these accommodations are:
- Extra time and patience both in person and on the phone
- Waiting room alterations to provide a comfortable, threat-free environment
- Notification if an appointment time may need to be delayed
- Allowing a trusted friend, family member, or carer to be with them
- Extra explanations and instructions for clarification and reassurance
- Delay donning of masks and sanitation gear to avoid dehumanising the dental theatre
- Educating and training the patient and family and/or carers as to the importance of daily home care and suggestions for overcoming dementia-specific problems, especially if psycho-active drugs are being prescribed (as these often have oral side-effects)
- And many more things that can be done to help train carers and patients
Immediately after a patient has been diagnosed with a dementia condition is the best time for the dentist and patient (and family and carers) to develop a long-term strategy for the best dental care.
Predictable problems in the oral future of the patient should be mitigated or remedied early on.
The sooner those problems are dealt with, the easier it will be for the patient and the family.
Treating serious dental situations on a disoriented, mentally disabled, and possibly erratic or even violent patient can have disastrous results.
Maintaining continuity of patient care and a close doctor/patient relationship can be very beneficial to everyone involved.
Help From Two Australian Agencies
The education of Australian dentists and dental professionals as to dementia-appropriate practices and strategies has come to the attention of two powerful organisations that have combined forces to try to take on this project.
Alzheimer’s Australia and the Australian Dental Association (ADA) have taken up the challenge of professional education regarding dementia patients and oral health professionals.
They have produced a series of online training tools specifically aimed at dentists and other dental professionals.
The aim is to give dentists the training they need to understand the phenomena of dementia when they encounter it and the tools to deal with it successfully.
Teaching dentists to pass on the skills and understanding that carers will need to take care of the patient long-term is also a goal of the project.
At Precision Dental in Fortitude Valley, we understand the special needs that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients need.
We are prepared to take the time trouble needed to make someone with a dementia problem as comfortable as possible and provide them with the best service available.
We understand that the patient may need special training to care for his or her teeth, dentures, or bridges and crowns.
In some cases, the family or primary carer will need to be trained specifically on how to help the patient care for their dental hygiene.
When you come to Precision Dental, you can rest assured that we are here for the long-term. We’re not moving or going anywhere.
You can depend on us for all of your dental care needs for many, many years to come.
We take special pride in the fact that most of our patients are satisfied, repeat customers that we will see for decades to come, and their children, and maybe even their children’s children.
We are a family and community oriented full-service dental practice.
Your overall health and happiness are our ultimate goals here at Precision Dental in Fortitude Valley. That is the guiding principle in everything we do.
We use the most modern technology available and employ the latest techniques when it comes to long-term oral health care. You will get the best care and the safest treatment possible from us.
Call us on (07) 3852 1160 or visit us at S13, HQ South Tower, 520 Wickham St in Fortitude Valley.