Dementia and oral health linked

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dementia-oral-healthBritish Dental Health Foundation has released new findings that suggest that dementia and oral health are linked and dentists may be able to detect early stage of dementia in people through the state of their oral health given that many suffering from the disorder are often unable to maintain good oral health, a key indicator of their broader health decline.

“Dementia patients in early stages of the disease may have trouble communicating the problems they are having with their oral health,” said Dr Nigel Carter OBE, the chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation. “These patients need to rely on their dental professionals to recognise behaviour which is out of the ordinary and which may indicate mental health problems in order to get quick and effective support. 

“As dementia is progressive, recognising it early means that an effective care plan can be put into place before it leads to further health problems, including painful and extensive dental health issues.

Through proper maintenance of oral health in people with dementia there are many other benefits in terms of self-esteem, dignity and nutrition. What we must remember is that the impact of proper and improper oral health is no different for those who have and don’t have dementia, and should be treated accordingly.”

George McNamara of the Alzheimer’s Society explains that working more closely with dental practitioners can help people be diagnosed more quickly. “Dentists have an important role to play in the identification of people showing symptoms of dementia,” he said. “There needs to be greater integration between dentists and GPs to ensure information, advice and appropriate signposting takes places so that people with dementia can receive a timely diagnosis.”

The statements comes as the Australian Dental Association [ADA] and Alzheimer’s Australia announce a new venture in the promotion and provision of dental care for people living with dementia. With a committee led by Associate Professor Matthew Hopcraft, the new project aims to promote best practice dental care for people with dementia by developing, delivering and promoting high quality, competency based learning materials for dentists and dental students to better understand how dementia and oral health are linked.

“The Australian population is ageing, and Australians are retaining more of their teeth as they move into older age,” said Professor Hopcraft. “With one in ten people over the age of 65, and three in ten over the age of 85 having dementia, this poses a significant challenge for the dental profession in managing the oral health and dental needs of these patients. The ADA is excited to be partnering with Alzheimer’s Australia to address the oral health needs of people living with dementia in our community. The Steering Group brings together people with a range of expertise in dementia and dental care, including consumer representatives dealing with dementia on a daily basis.”

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