DENTISTS may have an important role to play in helping to detect the early signs of dementia in patients, according to the British Dental Health Foundation.
People with dementia are often unable to adequately maintain their oral health and this could be a key signal for early intervention. The BDHF believes that offering people with dementia proper care plans could ensure both their oral and overall health is not put at further risk.
Currently there are more than 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, according to estimates by the The Alzheimer's Society, and this number is expected to rise to over one million by 2025. Studies have shown that people with dementia have poorer oral health than those without the disease due to impairment of cognitive skills and a reliance on care providers.
George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer's Society said: "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.
"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."
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: "Dementia patients in early stages of the disease may have trouble communicating the problems they are having with their oral health.
"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."