Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert is brought to you each week by Elayne Forgie and the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center.
Question: My dad’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse and I need help getting him to brush his teeth?
Answer: As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, oral care becomes more challenging. Alzheimer’s patients forget what to do with the toothpaste and may have forgotten how to rinse out their mouth. Sometimes the person with Alzheimer’s may be resistant to help.
Making sure that your dad gets regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings can help prevent problems later on. But daily care is very important too. Here are some tips that might help:
- Use cues – hold the tooth brush and show your dad how to brush his teeth. Give simple and short direction. For example, say “Put paste on the toothbrush”. “Rinse your mouth”. “Watch me”
- If you must brush his teeth for him, try to brush them at least twice a day. Always keep the routine the same including the time of day, location, and the steps that you follow.
- If your dad wears dentures, be sure to rinse them with water after a meal and brush them at least once a day. At night, remove them and soak them in mouthwash or a good denture cleanser. Be sure to wipe your dads mouth and gums with a soft piece of gauze or soft tissue.
You should also consider whether or not your dad’s mouth hurts. If he is in pain, has a cavity or if his dentures no longer fit correctly, he may not want you to touch his mouth. If you suspect he is experiencing any type mouth pain, call and schedule an appointment with his dentist.
Lastly, try to allow some extra time when encouraging your dad to do as much as he can on his own. Be patient and encouraging.