Healthier gums, healthier brain?
While the causes of dementia are still debated, several recent studies have discovered compelling evidence linking gum disease to Alzheimer’s disease, specifically the dual presence of the P. gingivalis bacterium in the gums and brains of Alzheimer’s patients’ who had periodontitis.
The theory holds that P. gingivalis from severely infected gums invades the brain, depositing in the areas responsible for thinking, memory and behavior. Some studies suggest the bacteria even speeds up the production of toxic beta-amyloid proteins that collect between neurons and disrupt cell function, forming the hallmark plaques of Alzheimer’s.
In addition to Alzheimer’s disease, P. gingivalis may contribute to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and respiratory disease. Sore, inflamed gums can also affect one’s ability to eat, chew and speak.
Preventing and Controlling P. Gingivalis
According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans aged 30 or older – 64.7 million people – have gingivitis, the early stage of periodontitis. Properly treated, the effects of gingivitis can often be reversible.
Left untreated, however, “sub-gingival pockets” can form. When these pockets fill with P. gingivalis, the disease has advanced to periodontitis, which is nearly impossible to eliminate but can be controlled with proper attention.
“People with early memory loss may forget to brush their teeth, and those with more advanced dementia may even forget how to do so,” says Jillian Castellano, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek. “If your loved one has chronic bad breath, or is experiencing mouth pain or discomfort, it’s important to monitor or assist them with their dental hygiene and take them for regular checkups and cleanings.”
Use these oral care tips to help protect your loved one with memory loss from the various effects of P. gingivalis.
• Set alarms that will remind your loved one to brush.
• Place step-by-step instructions for brushing, flossing, rinsing, etc. on their bathroom mirror. If your loved one shares a bathroom, be sure to identify which color toothbrush and kind of toothpaste to use.
• Give them a hand. If squeezing the tube is difficult or painful for your loved one, give the person an easy-to-grip toothbrush with toothpaste already on it.
• Provide guidance. Watch dementia expert Teepa Snow’s fantastic two-minute video “How to Help a Person with Dementia Brush their Teeth.”
• Keep the teeth and mouth clean. Very gently brush the person’s teeth, gums, tongue and roof of the mouth at least twice a day. Gently place the toothbrush in the person’s mouth at a 45-degree angle so you massage gum tissue as you clean the teeth.
• Try different types of toothbrushes. A soft-bristled child’s brush may work better than a hard-bristled adult’s brush. Electric toothbrushes may be faster and more thorough, but they may also frighten a person with Alzheimer’s. Do not insist on using a brush that causes discomfort for your loved one.
• Floss regularly. Try using a floss holder, like Proxabrush®, to clean between teeth instead of traditional floss, which may be too difficult to use effectively.
• Use a safe-to-swallow toothpaste and mouthwash. People with memory loss may not spit when brushing their teeth.
• Clean dentures regularly. Rinse dentures with plain water after each meal and brush them daily. Soak in dental cleanser overnight. Use a soft toothbrush or moistened gauze pad to clean your loved one’s gums, tongue and other soft mouth tissues. Note: Gum shrinkage can cause dentures to no longer fit properly, leading to pain, trouble eating and possible infection. Have them checked regularly.
• Find a dentist experienced in working with dementia patients. If at-home dental care is proving to be too difficult or unpleasant, take your loved one for professional care every two months.
• Keep up with regular dental visits for as long as possible.
For more dementia care tips or information, we invite you to meet the dementia experts at YourLife™ of Coconut Creek. Call 954-228-6252 today!
Inspiring Memory Care Designed for You. Defined by You.
YourLife™ of Coconut Creek was created to provide the most exceptional Memory Care and uplifting lifestyle for our residents. We focus all our energy, attention and resources on creating a community that caters to each resident’s personal needs, respects their choices and honors individuality while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families.
Because Memory Care is our sole focus, we have the unique ability to design and personally tailor plans around our residents. We understand that each resident is an individual that has their own story, specific needs and retained abilities, so we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence.
Our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide assistance with everyday activities, gentle reminders and redirection.
With YourStory, our signature programming, we create an individual experience centered around each resident. From cultural, educational and holistic health and wellness programming, outings and an array of other special events to personal care, assistance and therapies, we create days with meaning. At YourLife™ of Coconut Creek, our residents and families know that this is a community designed for you, with a lifestyle defined by you. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 954-228-6252 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.