Orofacial Pain and Mastication in Dementia

Frank Lobbezoo, Suzanne Delwel, Roxane A F Weijenberg, Erik J A Scherder
Current Alzheimer Research 2017, 14 (5): 506-511
Orofacial pain is a common condition in the general population. It is likely that this is also the case in older persons with a dementia. However, the assessment of (orofacial) pain in non-verbal individuals is hampered by the subjective nature of pain, and their limited communicative abilities. To overcome this drawback, several tools have been developed for the assessment of pain based on observations of pain-specific facial activities, body movements, and vocalizations. Unfortunately, none of the so far developed observational tools have been designed specifically for the assessment of orofacial pain. While the recent psychometric testing of the Orofacial MOBID Pain Scale did not yield reliable outcomes, the subsequently developed Orofacial Pain Scale for Non-Verbal Individuals (OPS-NVI) is currently being evaluated and shows good promise to be reliable and valid. Besides the assessment of orofacial pain, an important application of this instrument will be the investigation of the probable causal association between impaired chewing and cognitive decline, in which orofacial pain plays a mediating role by its negative influence on chewing ability. The identification of this negative influence will urge opinion leaders and policy makers to improve the oral health status in older persons with a dementia. Ultimately, pain-free oral functioning may lead to a higher quality of life and might help stabilizing or improving cognition in this frail and vulnerable patient population.

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