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Brushing up on Dementia Knowledge to Support Patients

Published: 07 June 2021

Scotland’s largest dental group is committed to ensuring its teams are fully equipped with the skills, empathy and understanding required to provide the best possible dental care experience for people living with dementia. To achieve this, Clyde Munro Dental Group will endeavour to enrol all of its dental practices through a Dementia Friends awareness session as part of an ongoing partnership with Alzheimer Scotland.

The Glasgow-based group has been partnering with the Dementia Friends initiative since late 2019 and has already facilitated awareness sessions for staff and dentists from the majority of its practices.

Clyde Munro joined the initiative as part of Alzheimer Scotland’s wider movement to engage with more than 90,000 people in Scotland to become Dementia Friends, matching the number of those living with the illness.

Dementia Friendly Scotland Lead, Anne McWhinnie, has been providing teams with the training.

Anne said: “Clyde Munro is very engaged. They are committed to ensuring all their staff are Dementia Friends. They’ve been flying through the sessions at an impressive rate. They are also very committed to making all their Dental practices Dementia Friendly and will be working closely with Anne to achieve this going forward.

“Many people living with dementia can feel misunderstood and isolated by the condition. Dementia Friends training is designed to combat societal misconceptions of dementia and help increase awareness of the disease, so that people living with the illness feel recognised, valued and understood in their community.

“All areas of society have a part to play in making this become a reality. However, having prolific groups like Clyde Munro Dental Group partnering with us is a great leader by example for others. Having so many staff now confident Dementia Friends is a massive step towards increasing awareness and addressing the stigma often experienced by those living with the illness.

“Our ongoing Dementia Friends and Dementia Friendly Communities efforts are a crucial step towards building a dementia-friendly Scotland, where nobody should face dementia alone.”

Emma Miller qualified as a dental therapist in June 2020. She currently works in Orkney, which has three practices under the Clyde Munro banner. Emma went through the Dementia Friends training in February, alongside all 30 of her colleagues.

Emma said: “A large number of people are living with dementia so the Dementia Friends programme will be hugely beneficial in informing us on how we can support them in the dental setting and we look forward to putting the training into action.

“The improved awareness of the illness has allowed practice staff to recognise the signs of dementia and treat patients in consideration of this. We appreciate that for many, dentists can be an intimidating place at the best of times, so we’re looking forward to using our new-found knowledge to help patients with dementia feel as at ease as possible.

“What really stood out to me from the training is the progression of the disease and how it can impact everyone differently. I covered dementia very briefly at University, but don’t otherwise have any experience with the disease. The Dementia Friends training has been invaluable in this aspect.”

Emma Miller
Emma Miller

Emma also shared her dental hygiene advice for carers of people with Dementia.

She added: “It sounds very generic, but something is better than nothing. Even if you can get in and brush the front teeth and not the back, that’s still better than doing nothing at all. You can try and get the back teeth next time.

“If you’re struggling with someone who maybe isn’t as cooperative, an alternative option is a Dr Barman 3-sided brush as opposed to a regular toothbrush. This enables you to brush most tooth surfaces in one movement, which is helpful if cooperation time is limited.

“In terms of people with dentures, it’s very important to check that the denture is not rubbing and that the gum area underneath or around the denture is pink and healthy, not red or ulcerated. If you have any concerns, please contact your dentist.”

Lauren Waterhouse, practice manager at Clydeview practice in Helensburgh and Clyde practice in Clydebank, took part in the dementia training last Thursday.

Lauren said: “Anne that facilitated the training was amazing. We all learned so much.

“My gran had dementia when I was younger so I have first-hand experience of the disease. However, I now have an in-depth understanding of the condition and how it can present. It’s so easy to look at it one-dimensionally, but it’s so much more complex than I first thought.

“Following the training, I signed up to receive a badge which identifies me as a designated Dementia Friend. This will allow patients with dementia to identify me as a ‘safe’ person to talk to if they require support.

“I’m currently making up an information sheet on things learned at the Dementia Friends training, which will be available to all current and future staff to ensure our practice is a welcoming and friendly space for people with dementia for years to come.”

The Dementia Friends initiative aims to give people more insight into the condition and the real challenges people living with dementia face. It demonstrates the small changes that can often make a big difference to people living with dementia such as adapting how you speak, giving clear information, and removing some of the challenges that can cause confusion and changing behaviour – such as simply being tolerant in a queue.

If you have any questions about dementia, or about the support available in your area, call Alzheimer Scotland’s 24 Hour Freephone Helpline on 0808 808 3000. If you and your workplace would like to become a Scottish Dementia Friend, visit”