The early stages of dementia could be detected by dentists through a patient’s oral health, according to the BDHF.
The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF) has highlighted how patients with dementia often fail to maintain their oral health, which could be a key signal of the early stages of the disease.
‘Dementia patients in the early stages of the disease may have trouble communicating the problems they are having with their oral health,’ Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the BDHF, said.
‘These patients need to rely on their dental professionals to recognise behaviour that 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 as accordingly.’
Patients with dementia
Offering plans for effective oral healthcare could help those patients suffering with dementia, the BDHF believes.
The Alzheimer’s Society quotes 850,000 people living with dementia around the UK, and believes this number could rise to over one million by 2025.
‘We know how important getting a timely diagnosis of dementia is, enabling access to treatments and support and acting as a catalyst for discussions about how to live with dementia,’ George McNamara, head of policy and public affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, said.
‘If dental practitioners can help to spot the early signs of dementia through monitoring any deterioration in oral health, and help people to be diagnosed more quickly, that can only be a good thing.
‘We look forward to working with the dental profession to help them spot the warning signs of dementia and then, where appropriate, refer patients to their GP for further investigation.’