Late-stage Alzheimer’s was the unfortunate plight for eighty three year old Betty Kouns. Fortunately, she has a loving son who made sure she had the best care possible.
Because of Betty’s condition, she rarely opened her mouth and refused to have her teeth brushed at her skilled nursing facility. During a visit by her son, Thomas, she opened her mouth just long enough for him to realize that her gums were infected and her teeth had decayed significantly. Thomas knew inflamed gums have a profoundly negative impact on the rest of the body, especially the heart. Through his research, he also learned that if a tooth becomes painful in a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s they would not be able to articulate that and could end up in a state of constant pain and agitation. They may stop eating all together, leading to rapid deterioration.
The biggest obstacle was that Betty wouldn’t open her mouth wide enough for a traditional dental procedure to be performed. Thomas investigated resources and met with two dentists that claimed to do sleep dentistry. He quickly realized they didn’t have the experience to deal with the seriousness of his mother’s case nor did they exhibit the professionalism and follow-through that he expected. And then his trusted advisor referred him to the Blende Dental Group – one of only a handful of dental practices specializing in not only sleep dentistry, but “special needs dentistry” for patients with such diseases as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Autism. This included using general anesthesia in a hospital setting, for procedures that couldn’t be performed safely in an office setting. He learned they are not only pioneers in this specialty but they are also one of the very few experienced providers of mobile dentistry for patients such as Betty, for whom leaving her facility is a terrifying thought and a stressful endeavor.
Other than the procedure itself, the Blende Dental Group can do all the preliminary work in the comfort and privacy of your loved one’s home. Dr. Mathai and a dental assistant drove thirty-five miles from their office in San Francisco to Mrs. Kouhn’s facility in the South Bay. Equipped with a mobile X-Ray machine they were able to show Betty’s son the images on their laptop and explain exactly what the issues were. Thomas was more than impressed by Dr. Mathai’s approach and her excellent communication around the complexities of his mom’s case. He said “Blende Dental Group was by far the most professional and courteous team I spoke to. You could sense that special needs dentistry wasn’t just a job, but that they were truly passionate about the health and well-being of their patients.”
Betty Kouhn’s procedures were performed at Kaiser Hospital San Francisco, where Dr. Blende (practice founder) is Chief of the Dental Division. Over the course of less than five hours, Betty’s first procedure was performed by Dr. Blende and the second by Dr. Mathai. Thomas was further reassured that his mom was in excellent hands, when he witnessed the relationship between the Blende Dental Group doctors and their extended team. Thomas recounted how “both Dr. Blende and Dr. Mathai seemed to know and have worked with every anesthesiologist, MD and nurse in the entire hospital. Mom’s Kaiser anesthesiologist even told me my mother was in very good hands with Dr. Blende and his staff during the initial operation.”
Thomas was excited that everything went seamlessly, and relieved that his mother would no longer be in pain. Most surprising to him, and others familiar with Betty’s case, is how the procedure improved her overall health. According to her son, “she now has more energy, a stronger appetite and appears happier and healthier than before. It made me realize that there is a strong correlation between the health of our teeth and gums and our overall health and well-being”.
The Kouns family also experienced what many patients before them have – that the care of the Blende team does not stop with the start or completion of the medical procedures. During the entire process, Thomas had the support of Patient Care Coordinator, Elisabeth Wong, who made sure every detail was handled professionally and worked tirelessly to ensure that the family received reimbursement for the full extent of their insurance coverage.
Awake: Carmen and Gail were looking for a new dentist when they moved to San Francisco from Ohio.
Emergency: The emergency room at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) called The Blende Dental Group because Chris required emergency dental work in the hospital.
At home: Due to her dementia, leaving the memory care unit at Age Song was not an option for Sarah Marie.