Charlie's Brain and His Teeth


A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the connection between dental health and brain health. This one is about the connection between the brain and the teeth.

There really is a difference.

I want to tell you about Charlie's brain/teeth connection. You see, now his damaged brain is telling him that there is something wrong with his teeth. This has turned into another of his "how to drive Marlis nuts" fixations.

Charlie has pretty good teeth for an old duffer. But now he says his teeth are too close together and he wants me to get an appointment for the dentist to "fix" the problem, which of course he has had since he got his second teeth 70 plus years ago.

He thinks the dentist can grind between each tooth so food won't get caught between them! Day in and day out we have this discussion with the resulting question, "Did you get me a dentist appointment yet?"

Then there is the second "problem" with his teeth. They are becoming very stained and he wants the dentist to do something about that. I finally figured out that the reason they are getting stained, in spite of cleanings every three months, is that he constantly "swishes" his coffee or wine while drinking it instead of immediately swallowing.

He thinks he's "cleaning his teeth" by swishing! I correct him every time I see him swishing, but he insists it's the thing to do.

I bought him a teeth-whitening kit but he refuses to use it; he wants the dentist to do something. I told him the only thing the dentist could do would be an expensive whitening treatment or even more expensive capping of the teeth. And of course, neither procedure would last long as he insists on swishing.

It's strange, the things the brain of a dementia patient comes up with.

The question becomes, how do we as caregivers cope with these obsessions?

The answer is—ignore them as much as possible. Try ANYTHING to distract them from the thing they are obsessing over, and GRIT YOUR TEETH – not too hard, or you too will have a tooth problem.

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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My mother-in-law, who is 83 and blind was fixated on her toenails. She was convinced that they were curling under and growing down into her toes. We had to "cut" the toenails every day or two to make her happy. But, of course, she would forget that we had cut them by the next day, and insist that they were growing down into her toes once again. This continued for about a month and then she simply forgot about it all. Sometimes these fixations fix themselves.
Swishing with wine and/or coffee? Besides staining the teeth, those liquids are acidic. It may make his teeth more sensitive as he is probably wearing away the enamel. See if you can get him to swish with Act Rinse. It has fluoride in it and makes teeth stronger against cavities. Let your dentist know what he is doing. Cavities between the teeth are only seen with Xrays. I know it is difficult to change their habits. Maybe if you say the dentist wants you to use this( Act) for swishing. I too am a caregiver and really I am learning as I go, so I know it is difficult.
What is this obsession with teeth. My mom did the same thing, nag, nag, nag, dentist appointment after dentist appointment. She had a bridge and then got an infection and it turned out she got the whole top row taken out. I was aghast! This was years ago and she has since passed, but the dentist agreed to it as it would cut down on infections. I don't remember the nitty gritty other than I think something else could have been arranged other than pull out all of her front teeth and get a dental plate which opened up a whole other Pandora's box. But THIS is what she wanted and absolutely could not be persuaded otherwise - so there you go. I love my mom and even at the relatively young age of 60 COULD NOT weather 6 years of this again. I'm so hoping husband stays out of dementia territory.