It is one of the first things we do in the morning, as well as one of the final things we do each night, usually on autopilot without giving it an additional thought. Yet it actually is a complicated process composed of numerous steps, making this seemingly simple task quite a challenge for a senior with dementia.
Proper dental care is critical for everybody, in spite of age, and not just to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Poor dental hygiene can result in serious health problems, including coronary disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and more. It can also affect the ability to eat and talk.
Dental Hygiene in Dementia
So how are you able to ensure a loved one with dementia maintains good oral hygiene? These tips from Inspired Home Care, providers of award-winning home care in Wilmette and nearby areas, can help:
- Modeling is an easy approach to help a loved one with dementia through a multistep process like brushing the teeth. Allow the person to perform each step of the process on their own whenever possible: placing a tiny amount of toothpaste on the brush (baking soda toothpaste is preferred over fluoride, in the event the person swallows it), lifting the brush to the mouth, and moving the brush side to side and up and down over all surfaces associated with teeth.
- For a person who needs help, provide a toothbrush with toothpaste already applied, stand behind the senior, and put your hand over theirs, starting the motion of brushing for them.
- If grasping the brush is difficult, there are longer-handled toothbrushes available, or, cut holes in a tennis ball and push the brush through, giving your loved one something more substantial to hold onto. A battery-powered toothbrush is also an excellent choice to try.
- Flossing is also an important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. For independent flossing, try floss holders or other implements designed to make it less difficult and more efficient. If you’re flossing the senior’s teeth, again, standing behind the individual may be easiest.
- If the senior has dentures, make sure to remove, brush, and rinse them every day. While the dentures are removed, a soft-bristled toothbrush should be used to gently clean the senior’s gums and roof of the mouth.
Don’t Forget the Dentist
When possible, locate a dentist who is skilled in dementia dental hygiene. Someone with dementia should continue to receive regular dental exams, which include checking of dentures to ensure a proper fit as well as to rule out any issues with the teeth or gums. A senior with dementia who is unable to communicate dental discomfort or pain may exhibit signs including:
- Touching the cheek or jaw, or rubbing the affected region
- Rolling or nodding the head
- Resisting any hygiene around the area, including shaving or washing the face
- Sleeping problems
- Aggression, yelling, or moaning
- Resistance to putting dentures in
If any of these symptoms are noted, schedule an appointment with the dentist as soon as possible.
For further tips, as well as for skilled, compassionate assistance with oral care for a loved one with dementia, contact Inspired Home Care at 847-787-7572. We’d love the opportunity to share more information with you about our award-winning home care in Wilmette and nearby communities.