Not to be forgotten

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  Posted by: The Probe      14th August 2020

With everything that’s been going on over the past few months, there has been little space in the media and in our lives for activities and campaigns that relate to anything but COVID-19. While completely understandable, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the normal initiatives and topics that we are usually so passionate about. As dentistry moves forwards and at least some form of normal service resumes, it’s important that we turn our attention to other matters affecting our patients.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month. This is a time that we reflect on this terrible disease and how it impacts on so many lives across the globe. This also gives us an opportunity to remember how we as dental professionals can support those in our local communicates who might be affected.

Facts

An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia. This is expected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040 with a new diagnosis every three minutes. As the most common cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 50-75% of those diagnosed with dementia.[i]

Some of the main risk factors for all types of dementia are non-modifiable, including age (increasing) and gender (female). There is also a genetic component widely believed to be at play, although more research is needed to better understand the science and the exact relationship. Modifiable risk factors for dementia include physical activity and fitness, diet, smoking, alcohol consumption and brain activity.[ii] There is also some evidence to suggest a link between periodontal infection and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, advocating good oral health to further minimise the risks.[iii]

Increased need

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have always had greater need in terms of their healthcare, though their situations may have been exacerbated by recent events. Oral health is negatively impacted by cognitive decline.[iv] For example, Alzheimer’s is associated with an increased risk of tooth loss.[v] This means that people with the disease require close monitoring and regular dental care in order to optimise their condition and maintain as high a quality of life as possible.

The suspension of routine dental services for several months this year will have left many patients in limbo. Whether they were undergoing a course of non-urgent treatment or they were due for a check-up and/or hygiene appointment, most will have been forced to temporarily cope on their own. It is also very likely that care home staff will have had been somewhat overwhelmed of late, meaning they too would have had less time to spend monitoring the oral health routines of residents with Alzheimer’s disease too. As such, these patients’ already fragile dental health may require a little extra care when they are finally able to return to the practice or when you resume care home visits.

Our role

As dental professionals, it is up to us to advocate for all our patients to ensure they get the dental care and support they need. This is especially important for those patients who may not be able to speak up for themselves, such as those affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The past few months will have been worrying and stressful for everyone, but it is crucial that we get back to caring for vulnerable patient groups as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

 

For more information about the BSDHT, please visit www.bsdht.org.uk,

call 01788 575050 or email enquiries@bsdht.org.uk

 

 

[i] Alzheimer’s Society. News and media. Facts for the media. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/news-and-media/facts-media [Accessed May 2020]

[ii] Alzheimer’s Society. About dementia. Risk factors and prevention. How to reduce your risk of dementia. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/how-reduce-your-risk-dementia[Accessed May 2020]

[iii] Dominy SS, Lynch C, Ermini F, et al. Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances. Jan 2019; 5(1) eaau3333.DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3333

[iv] Naorungroj S, Slade GD, Beck JD, et al. Cognitive decline and oral health in middle-aged adults in the ARIC study. J Dent Res. 2013;92(9):795‐801. doi:10.1177/0022034513497960

[v] Dioguardi M, Gioia GD, Caloro GA, et al. The Association between Tooth Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease: a Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of Case Control Studies. Dent J (Basel). 2019;7(2):49. Published 2019 May 1. doi:10.3390/dj7020049

 


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