Why are Dentists Concerned With Alzheimer's Disease?
A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, or any version of dementia, is initially discouraging and ultimately devastating to the patient, their family, and their caregivers. When treating an Alzheimer's patient, dental professionals must emphasize preventive measures to enhance all aspects of oral hygiene to protect the patients oral health. Family and caregivers need to be instructed in assisting the patient with their brushing, flossing and general oral hygiene to prevent widespread cavities and periodontal infections. Until you've tried to brush and floss someone else's teeth thoroughly it is hard to realize how difficult this task is, especially with an uncooperative patient. It is also often a problem for dentists to get informed consent from Alzheimer's patients. They must work in conjunction with the patient's physician and family to determine exactly when they are reasonably able to make personal decisions regarding their dental care, and when a healthcare directive must be put in place with a specific individual assigned to make decisions on behalf of the patient.
Can Dentists Help Prevent Alzheimer's Disease?
The answer is yes. Researchers have determined that declines in oral health, especially with the onset of periodontal disease, have been implicated in promoting the development of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and various systemic disorders. The main determinant in this process appears to be the inflammatory process instigated by oral bacteria which enter the blood stream directly from periodontal pockets in the oral cavity. Pathogenic periodontal bacteria promote inflammation be releasing toxins and waste products which either destroy or damage the tissues with which they come in contact. Higher percentages of systemic disease are exhibited in patients with periodontal disease and research reveals a direct correlation between improved periodontal health and lower incidence of systemic disease, including Alzheimer's.
By maintaining a routine periodontal cleaning schedule, starting at a young age, your chances of not suffering from systemic disease are greatly improved. For additional clinical information refer to our CE course on Alzheimer's Disease