New recommendations and guidance have now become available, giving dental professionals insight into a number of areas on how to deal with patients that have dementia. Over 50 recommendations have been developed, ranging from issues regarding consent and capacity, and epidemiological information on dementia, which will have an impact on practice management. The guidelines can be accessed here as a free online resource.
With almost 5% of the general population living with the condition, there is an increased need to ensure healthcare professionals make the necessary adaptations to enable those living with the progressive condition to have an appropriate dental care programme. Consequently, self-esteem, dignity, social integration and nutrition regarding oral health can be maintained.
The guidance helpfully includes a section on potential indicators of dental problems in people living with dementia, for dental professionals to take note of if the patient is unable to communicate their oral hygiene problems.
Further information is contained in a summary of recommendations, outlining checklists on consent and appropriateness of treatment planning, as well as discussion of side effects of medication.
In addition to the emphasis the guidance places on care management, there is further insight as to how dental practices themselves can assist those with dementia through surgery design. Due to the increased sensitivity of those with dementia as their cognitive function deteriorates, the surrounding environment needs to be treated with care. The Dementia Friendly Physical Environments Checklist offers ways to ensure this, such as utilising natural light and clear signage at all levels.
This guidance not only reinforces the key principles on patient management, applicable to all patients, but clearly illustrates the need to pay particular attention to adjustments which should be made to ensure those with dementia are properly cared for.