8. Finding an NHS dentist
If the person with dementia already has a regular dentist, they should continue to see the same dentist for routine treatment and preventive advice. If the person goes into residential care, it is important that they continue to have access to a dental service; ideally this would be the person’s regular dentist.
If they do not have a dentist, they will need to find one that is accepting new patients. It is no longer necessary to be registered with a dentist to receive treatment, but dentists will usually keep lists of their regular patients. If someone asks for an appointment, the dental practice will try to offer one as soon as possible at a convenient time within the hours the practice has set aside for NHS patients.
Although some dental practices will contact their patients to arrange check-ups, many dental practices do not send out reminders, so it is important that a person with dementia has someone to remind them to make an appointment. It is recommended that a person diagnosed with dementia who has their own natural teeth is seen by a dentist every six months.
Some dentists will see people at home. This can be less stressful and confusing for the person, and may increase co-operation.
If the person’s dementia reaches a point where their dentist can no longer manage their treatment needs, they might be referred to the local salaried community dental service or local specialist dental service. These services act as a safety net for people who are unable to receivecare from a general dental practitioner (high-street dentist). The dentists are usually experienced in providing dental care for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.
Details of the local community dental service can be obtained from the local primary care organisation (England), the local health board (Wales) or the local trust (Northern Ireland). If you have a problem identifying the relevant organisation where you live, please contact your local Alzheimer’s Society for advice. (For more information on NHS dental services, see ‘Other useful organisations’.)