Archive for August, 2014|Monthly archive page

Mom’s brain, Mom’s teeth

Mom was grinding her teeth again the last time I saw her. And talking. And smiling, even though I had nudged her to wake up from a nap. She seemed so sweet, and I found myself talking to her in such baby talk – more so than I ever had before. I kind of disgusted myself. But then again, she responds to kindness like that. She smiles. I imagine her hearing isn’t great and her comprehension is close to zero, so I base my behavior on what I observe in her reaction. It is one of those dignity things, I guess. I don’t want to minimize her status as a grown woman – as my MOTHER. She is not a child and certainly not a baby. But that is essentially what she has become in my mind, and, let’s face it, in reality. She is the closest thing to my own child as I will ever experience, and her development is going backwards. So I talk to her, quite often, as if she were a baby.

Shortly after the last care conference, I heard from a nurse and the facility’s visiting dentist about Mom’s oral health. The nurse called just to inform me that for 60 days, Mom would receive an oral rinse treatment. Mom can’t follow instructions to gargle, so the plan was to apply the rinse with a swab along her gum line. A day or so later, the dentist left me a message to call her back. I was mortified, assuming the pulling of Mom’s teeth was set to begin. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that is not the case at all.

The dentist thought Mom should receive Ativan before the visits so she can be mildly sedated to tolerate a cleaning. I thought I had given blanket approval for that before. I am completely open to that, and it is frankly good for Mom not to get distressed. And to get her teeth cleaned. The dentist had noticed one of Mom’s front lower teeth is broken at the gum line – I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I’ve seen darkness on that tooth before and thought it was a cavity. The dentist said there would be risk of bone problems and infection if that tooth were removed, so she wants to leave it. Such excellent news. It helps that Mom receives a drug to strengthen her bones. Other lower front teeth are loose, but as long as they stay put, there is no problem. Relief, again.

The dentist had not noticed Mom grinding her teeth, but she said that behavior is not a dental problem. It’s a neurological problem. I get that, completely. She says with dementia, it comes and goes. So far, it hasn’t seemed to cause visible damage to Mom’s teeth. We concluded by agreeing that Mom should have more frequent cleanings than Medicaid allows, at a $45 out-of-pocket cost twice a year. Mom has that to spare, and if it reduces the chances that she will lose her teeth, I would pay for it myself.

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