Have you ever considered that today’s generation of elders has all, or most, of their teeth, as opposed to past generations who wore dentures? Due to good preventive and restorative care, and good home care protocols, we are saving our teeth for a lifetime. But what happens when someone can no longer take care of their teeth due to ill-health, disability, or cognitive decline? Caregivers to the elderly should be aware that there are some simple techniques and information that can vastly improve the oral health status of those they care for.
Here are some oral care tips that will help keep our seniors in tip-top oral health:
1) Get in the habit of looking in their mouth (you can use a flashlight). Notice if there is a lot of food debris or plaque. Look for oral lesions and/or bleeding.
2) Hand them a toothbrush. Sometimes all it takes is a reminder or cue to get them going with self-care.
3) If they are unable to brush on their own, put some gloves on and assist them. Soften the brush with water first, and use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
4) Know that the majority of plaque grows at the gumline. Brush the gums!
5) If you notice bleeding, don’t stop brushing! Brushing gently at the gumline will improve gum health and remove more plaque.
6) Offer water for swishing after meals to loosen food particles. It will also neutralize the oral Ph thus lowering their decay rate.
6) Call a dental professional if you see any swelling, see bleeding that won’t subside, if they repeatedly put their hand to their face or fingers in their mouth, or if they refuse to chew food.
These tips will help to prevent dental emergencies, and will ensure that those you care for will be healthier and happier, and can keep smiling for a lifetime!
Jolene Vandolah, RDH, CPDH
Dental Hygiene House Calls, LLC