Adventures in Alzheimer’s – inside my mouth edition

by Julie Frayn on July 5, 2015 in  Adventures in Alzheimer's,Mama Bird

Mom had jaw pain so Baby girl took her to the walk-in clinic. A dentist appointment was a few days away, and maybe she just had an infection and needed antibiotics. The doc gave her some stupid cream that baby girl was to put inside her grandmothers mouth. With her fingers. Not going to happen. We love her, we do a LOT for her. There are limits.

Three days later, the dentist told us to toss the useless cream. He did an exam and a ton of x-rays. Mom has deep cavities under her dental work, and a LOT of food along the gum line. She doesn’t know how it got there. She brushes her teeth all the time.


The dentist gave us some options. Due to the extensive decay he’d have to remove all (ALL) of her caps and bridges (which cover every single tooth except a few in the bottom front which are veneered). Fix the damage, do root canals, make NEW bridges and caps. That solution keeps her original teeth intact. And will cost about 20 thousand bucks. Other option was to remove most of her bottom teeth except the front 8 and have a partial denture. That would require that she remove it after every meal and clean it. All of her top teeth would come out and she’d get a full top denture. That was about 7 grand.

Mom's panoramic x-ray. Kind of pretty and icky and creepy.

Mom’s panoramic x-ray. Kind of pretty and icky and creepy.

This all led to some hilarious conversation.

Mom: How long do I have?

Me: Mom he’s a dentist. Not even your doctor knows that.

Mom: Just that I won’t be alive long so don’t bother with me.

Mom: It’s amazing to me that these people are here to save my life. Even if it is only inside my mouth.

Mom: Do you think, if we brought Carolyn, he could fix her, too? (Reminder, my systir has stage IV metastatic breast cancer).

Mom: Well, we have to do something, no ifs, ands, or buts. *glances at dentist* Well, not his butt.

We went home and discussed the matter. Every day for a week.  We agreed that it was best to just pull ALL the teeth and get dentures. “That’s normal, right? For old people to have dentures?” I can’t get her to brush anyway despite her claims that she does several times a day. There’s no way she will be able to properly care for a partial denture.

But Mom’s concerns were two-fold. First is the money. She thinks she’s dying and it’s a waste of our money to spend on her. I explained it’s her money and she can afford it and the money is secondary to her comfort. The second concern is all the time it takes for me to take her to the dentist and deal with this, she feels guilty. I told her I love her and she’s my mother and it is not a hardship. She didn’t buy either of those things.

So we postponed the second trip to the dentist where we would discuss options and make a choice because she wasn’t ready to make any choice. Her pain was minimal at that time but I warned her (as the dentist did) that it could flare up at any moment. When it got more painful, we will have to do something, she can’t live in pain like that.

During yet another discussion on another day about the whole tooth issue she said – I just don’t know why he needs to remove my face.

Say what?

That’s what she thought. He’d remove her teeth, her bones, and most of her skin.

Well, no wonder she didn’t want to go back.

In the end, I consulted with the dentist alone. I told him what she thought, and that she couldn’t take care of any partials. My suggestion was to only remove the teeth that are causing her pain right now, which I knew meant sectioning some bridgework.

He was a little put out at first and said, you have to brush her teeth for her. I brushed my father’s teeth every day.

I said, you’re a dentist. I’m an accountant. I am in charge of my mother’s finances. She won’t let me brush her teeth.

Like, come on…

He re-examined her x-rays and in the end said he could remove 4 teeth, and if we brought her in for cleanings every 3 months, she may be able to hold onto the rest of her teeth for 10 years.

Excellent. I doubt she’ll need them that long.

So I agreed to bring her quarterly for cleanings. He patted my hand (he’s old by the way) and said, this is a good strategy. I’m glad you came in and discussed it.


So that’s what happened. In the end, he pulled three and filled one. I removed her bloody gauze and replaced it every half hour. (There is a reason I’m an accountant….). I spent the night in case she got confused or had pain or couldn’t sleep. She slept for 10 hours. I did not.

It’s three days after the event she is doing great. Though she just doesn’t understand why someone didn’t tell her before she went that he was going to pull her teeth.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ey Wade July 5, 2015 at 10:41 am

Very interesting. Your mom, I’m beyond words. Always entertaining.
“Theres a reason I’m an accountant,” one of the reasons I hadn’t wanted to be a mom,lol


Julie Frayn July 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm

I have such respect for nurses and health care workers. I just can’t….

Mary Smith July 5, 2015 at 11:21 am

Oj, Julie, I feel for you. The Goldfish’s teeth got really bad but the dentist decided he wouldn’t cope with the trauma of having the bottom ones out and dentures fitted. Fortunately, he didn’t have toothache. The care staff who came in to give him a shower in the morning sometimes managed to get his dentures out and give them a clean.


Julie Frayn July 5, 2015 at 12:32 pm

It just felt like 0 to 60 in one move. Glad I told the man no. But mom did really well with it. If only she’d stop poking her fingers in the holes! I keep telling her they won’t heal, she keeps doing it.

Gina July 5, 2015 at 4:18 pm

I was a dental assistant for 21 years and all things considered I think you came up with a perfect plan for your Mom. Alzheimer’s pts can have trouble taking dentures and partials in and out as well and food will pack under and around them. If things progress to where she needs dentures you can check into implant retained dentures where the dentures are screwed into implants and they do not come in and out. Every day’s an adventure huh?


Julie Frayn July 5, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Hi Gina! Thanks for visiting my blog :). Happy to have a dental point of view, and to know I made the right choice for mom. She still doesn’t brush much, or well. But it’s already better – no pain in her teeth and a bit of improved breath. I have an implant (just one tooth). They’d have to knock her out for that, it was brutal. But an interesting option. Thanks for that!

Laurie Boris July 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm



Julie Frayn July 6, 2015 at 6:39 am


Kathi July 7, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Oy. I’m amazed she allowed herself to have any teeth pulled at all. And putting cream inside her mouth for her?? What planet are some of these folks on? Not the Alzheimer’s planet, for sure. xo


Julie Frayn July 10, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I have a friend who wrote a book called “A Year on Planet Alzheimer’s” – I totally get it. Like an alien mental landscape. I think she allowed it because one thing that never wavers is her trust in me. I’m grateful for that. It helps immensely.

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