It is one of the first things we do each morning, as well as one of the final things we do every night, typically on autopilot without giving it an additional thought. Yet it actually is a complex process comprised of multiple steps, making this seemingly easy task quite a challenge for a person with dementia.
Proper oral care is vital for everybody, no matter what age, and not just to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Poor dental hygiene may bring about serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, stroke, respiratory disease, and many more. It may also affect being able to talk and eat.
Dental Hygiene in Dementia
So how are you able to ensure a senior with dementia maintains good oral care and hygiene habits? These tips from Home With You Senior Care, the experts in elder care in Howard County and nearby areas, can help:
- Modeling is an ideal method to help a family member with dementia through a multistep process like brushing the teeth. Allow the person to complete each step independently if possible: placing a tiny amount of toothpaste on the brush (baking soda toothpaste is preferred over fluoride, in the event the older adult swallows it), lifting the brush to the mouth, and moving the brush side to side and up and down over all surfaces of the teeth.
- For somebody who needs assistance, provide a toothbrush with toothpaste already applied, stand behind the older adult, and place your hand on theirs, starting the motion of brushing for them.
- If grasping the brush is hard, there are longer-handled toothbrushes available, or, cut holes in a tennis ball and push the brush through, giving the senior something larger to hold onto. A battery-powered toothbrush can be a good choice to try.
- Flossing is also an important part of dental hygiene. For independent flossing, try floss holders or other tools designed to make it less difficult and much more efficient. If you are flossing the older adult’s teeth, again, standing behind the person may be easiest.
- In the event that the older adult 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
If possible, locate a dentist who is skilled in dementia dental care. A senior 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 complications with the teeth or gums. Someone with dementia who is unable to communicate dental discomfort or pain may exhibit signs including:
- Touching the jaw or cheek, or rubbing the affected area
- Rolling or nodding the head
- Resisting any hygiene near the area, including shaving or washing the face
- Sleeping issues
- Aggression, moaning, or yelling
- Resistance to putting dentures in
If any one of these symptoms are noted, schedule an appointment with the dentist right away.
For additional tips, and for skilled, compassionate assistance with oral care for a senior with dementia, email or call the experts in providing elder care in Howard County at Home With You Senior Care at 410-756-0959. For a full list of all of the communities where our award-winning in-home care is available, please visit our Service Area page.