Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that attacks the brain. It causes problems with memory, diminishes mental and cognitive abilities and behavior with enough significance to effect the daily functioning. The symptoms increase progressively with aging over several years, with people generally living eight years after the onset and longer if they are in good health.
Here are some must-know facts about the Alzheimer’s disease:
- It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States
- 1 in 3 senior dies with Alzheimers or other form of dementia.
- It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
- Every 65 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease in the United States.
- 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s but the number will rise to nearly 14 million by 2050
How Inadequate Oral Health Declines the Cognitive Section of Brain
Even the best dentist in Arizona would agree that inadequate oral health can be a factor for declining cognitive ability of the brain. Let’s see how.
- Poor Oral Hygiene
Those with poor oral health are at a risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The bacteria from teeth can travel to the brain and every time they reach the brain, the bacteria may trigger immune system responses by already primed brains cells This causes them to release more chemicals that kill neurons, resulting in confusion and deteriorating memory.
- Gum Disease
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is caused due to the presence of swollen pockets in the gums. Periodontal disease is preceded by gingivitis and is characterized by red, swollen gums which bleed easily when touched. These pockets are filled with bacteria and create a low-grade inflammation, which connects periodontitis with Alzheimers disease and dental health.
- HSV-1 and Oral candidiasis
Common oral infection in adults over 65 years and above include oral herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and oral candidiasis. Generally latent in the peripheral nervous system, the HSV-1 virus can be activated by high stress, fatigue or illness. Once it is activated, the virus decreases the bodys ability to fight infection — increasing the chances of periodontal infections. It also produces pro-inflammatory factors which add additional challenges to an already compromised immune system.
If someone wears dentures, they harbor high amounts of oral candida which causes denture stomatitis — an inflammatory condition of the mucosa. Research shows that because of denture stomatitis, a systemic fungal infection occurs, which has been recently reported in Alzheimer’s patients.
Oral Care in Alzheimer Patients
During the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the dental care mainly focuses on prevention. One of the basic prevention steps is getting routine oral hygiene check ups and dental cleaning. Regular flossing also helps in preventing the need for extensive procedures later on, which can be difficult for a person suffering from dementia to tolerate.
Gently remind the person suffering from Alzheimer’s how to brush if they have forgotten, in a step-by-step manner. You can even demonstrate if they cannot follow verbal instructions.
Ensure they keep their mouth healthy. If they cannot do it on their own, brush the person’s teeth and gums gently. If they wear dentures, rinse them with plain water after meals and brush them daily to remove food particles.
Be aware of any mouth pain or discomfort they might feel while eating or doing any other activity.
Role of the Dentist
The primary role of the doctors is to help the patients and caregivers manage and understand the disease and help them remain independent for as long as possible. It is important that the doctors exercise increased patience and understanding. They must use simple language while explaining and use a gentle approach when talking to the patients.
Write down clear instructions and treatment requirements for the caregivers. Educate both the patients and care-givers about good dental health practices. Inform them of the tools they can use. Emphasize the importance of regular checkups and identifying small signs that may indicate a progression in either oral health or Alzheimers. Lastly, it is important to remind the families and caretakers that patients will have good days and bad, and they need to be extremely patient during the bad days.
Get your loved ones checked for good dental hygiene at Goodyear dentist, AZ as a part of their regular health check up.