It is one of the first things we do each morning, and one of the final things we do every night, typically on autopilot without giving it a second thought. Yet it happens to be a complex process composed of a number of steps, making this seemingly simple task quite a challenge for a person with Alzheimer’s.
Proper dental care is a must for people, no matter what age, and not simply to help keep our gums and teeth healthy. Poor dental hygiene can bring about serious health issues, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and more. It can also impact the ability to talk and eat.
Dental Hygiene in Alzheimer’s
So how are you able to ensure a family member with dementia maintains good oral hygiene? These strategies, from Compassionate Nursing Services, the experts in home care in Oakville and nearby areas, will help:
- Modeling is a fantastic method to help a senior with dementia through a multistep process like brushing one’s 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 recommended over fluoride, in the event that the person 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 an individual who needs help, provide a toothbrush with toothpaste already applied, stand behind the person, put your hand on theirs, and begin 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 senior loved one something more substantial to hold onto. A battery-powered toothbrush can be an excellent choice to try.
- Flossing is also an important part of dental care. For independent flossing, try floss holders or other tools designed to make it easier and more efficient. If you are flossing the older adult’s teeth, again, standing behind the individual might be easiest.
- If the senior has dentures, make sure to remove, brush, and rinse them daily. 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 at all possible, locate a dentist who is skilled in dementia dental hygiene. A senior loved one with dementia should continue to receive routine dental exams, which include checking dentures to make sure of a correct fit and to rule out any complications with the teeth or gums. A family member with dementia who’s not able to communicate dental discomfort or pain may exhibit signs such as:
- Touching the jaw or cheek, or rubbing the affected region
- Rolling or nodding the head
- Resisting any hygiene in the vicinity of the area, including shaving or washing the face
- Sleeping problems
- Aggression, moaning, or yelling
- Unwillingness to putting dentures in
If any of these symptoms are noted, schedule an appointment with the dentist right away.
For additional tips, and for compassionate, skilled help with oral care for an older adult with dementia, contact Compassionate Nursing Services, a provider of award-winning in home care in Oakville and nearby areas, at 314-432-4312.