It is among the first things we do each morning, as well as one of the last things we do each night, usually on autopilot without giving it a second thought. Yet it actually is a complex process made up of numerous steps, making this seemingly easy task quite a challenge for a senior with dementia.
Proper oral hygiene and care are important for everybody, no matter what age, and not solely to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Poor dental hygiene can result in serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and more. It can also impact being able to eat and talk.
Oral Hygiene in Dementia
So how are you able to make sure an older adult with dementia maintains good oral hygiene? These recommendations from Morning Glory Home Care, the experts in memory care in Godfrey, IL and nearby communities, can help:
- Modeling is an excellent strategy to help a family member with dementia through a multistep process like brushing the teeth. Permit the person to perform each step of the process on their own whenever possible: placing a tiny bit of toothpaste on the brush (baking soda toothpaste is preferred over fluoride, just in case 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 someone who needs help, provide a toothbrush with toothpaste already applied, stand behind the individual, and place your hand over theirs, beginning the motion of brushing for them.
- If holding the brush is hard, there are longer-handled toothbrushes available, or, cut holes in a tennis ball and push the brush through, giving the individual something larger to hold onto. A battery-powered toothbrush can also be an effective option to try.
- Flossing is also an essential part of dental care. For independent flossing, try floss holders or other tools designed to make it less difficult and more efficient. If you are flossing the senior’s teeth, again, standing behind the individual may be easiest.
- If the older adult has dentures, be sure to remove, brush, and rinse them each 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
If possible, locate a dentist who specializes in dementia dental treatments. Someone with dementia should continue to receive regular dental exams, which include checking dentures to make sure of a proper fit and to rule out any issues with the teeth or gums. A senior loved one with dementia who’s unable to communicate dental pain or discomfort may exhibit signs such as:
- Touching the cheek or jaw, or rubbing the affected area
- Nodding or rolling the head
- Resisting any hygiene near the area, including washing the face or shaving
- 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, email or call Morning Glory Home Care, the experts in memory care in Godfrey, IL, at 618-667-8400. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide our award-winning in-home care, please visit our Service Area page.