Caregivers’ Guide to Dental Health
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe that your health problems keep increasing as you grow older and the same holds for oral health problems. From a dry mouth, tooth decay, and cavities to swelling, sensitivity, and risks of oral cancer. That’s why seniors need additional help in taking care of their oral health. Let’s check out a caregiver’s guide to dental health.
1. Choose toothbrushes carefully – Caregivers choose toothbrushes and dental floss that are comfortable for their clients and encourage them to maintain a healthy oral hygiene regimen. You should do the same and choose a soft toothbrush that doesn’t damage the enamel on your tooth and isn’t harsh on the gums either. The brush head should be moderately sized to fit comfortably in the mouth and should have soft bristles.
The handle of the brush should be long so that it can be manipulated easily even by people who have arthritis. A long-handled brush also makes reaching the back teeth easier. For seniors, electric toothbrushes are the best choice, especially if they have arthritis in their hands and have trouble using the brush. There’s no need to buy a fancy electric toothbrush either. A $20 to $30 electric toothbrush from brands like Sonicare and Oral-B should get the job done. Finally, make sure to replace the brush or brush heads every three or four months.
2. Choose floss carefully – Apart from brushes, you also need to choose floss carefully to encourage active use of the product. Try out different brands of dental floss and choose one that is strong and resistant to breakage. It’s best to stick with waxed floss since it’s stronger and more comfortable on your gums. There are fewer risks of bleeding gums while using waxed floss.
For the elderly, you may even try out dental picks. Dental picks have dental floss attached between two ends of a curved piece of plastic with an extended handle. Using them doesn’t require any complicated technique and seniors in your home would have an easier time flossing with these. The only disadvantage is the slightly higher price compared to regular dental floss.
3. Dental appointments – When a dental appointment is coming up for the seniors in your home, sit them down and ask about the mouth, gum or tooth problems that they may want to discuss with the dentist. Make a list to bring with you. If you’re going to visit a new dentist, you may be asked to fill in forms and list things like chronic illnesses, sores, tenderness, injuries in the mouth and other such problems. Discuss that with the seniors in your home and add it to the list so that you can fill up the form.
If the senior you are taking care of suffers from memory loss, let the dentist know in advance. Make sure that the dentist is comfortable treating your loved one. Without this prior knowledge, there may be awkward situations or hindrances to the care provided by the dentist. Make sure to schedule the appointment during the time when the senior is most alert and responsive. If they seem nervous during cleaning, dental exams and other procedures ask if you can sit with the patient. In the end, note down all instructions from the dentist for special care at home, medications and more.
4. Dental problems for seniors with memory loss – If the senior in your home is diagnosed with memory loss or other memory disorders, he or she may have a hard time letting you know about oral discomfort. That’s why you need to be on the lookout for a few common signs of oral pain from the seniors in your home.
Check if the senior is frequently rubbing their jaws or cheek, rolling or nodding their head and moaning or whimpering from time to time. If they have oral pain, they will also refuse to wear dentures even if they are unable to let you know about the pain. They would also refuse hot and cold food and beverages and suffer from sleep difficulties and restlessness.
5. Dental routine for people suffering from memory disorders – As memory loss progresses, people may even forget the most basic things like taking care of their teeth. That’s where you come in and help the seniors or other people in your home suffering from memory disorders to take care of their gums and teeth. You need to clean their dentures every night and brush their teeth at the same time each day.
Use step-by-step instructions to assist them in brushing their teeth and let them take their time. Wait until they complete each step before you move on to the next one. Don’t give them mouthwash if they have may swallow it and check their mouth everyday week for changes in tongue, gums or teeth. You can also ask the dentist for instructions to make dental care at home easier for your loved ones.
6. Dentures – If the senior in your home is wearing poorly fitting dentures, they’ll have sore gums and problems chewing their food. Make sure the dentures fit them properly and get them replaced if necessary. Dentures need to be adjusted or replaced after a certain period to account for the changes in the mouth’s structure.
If the senior has trouble chewing or complains about their dentures, check their mouth for red or inflamed gums. Dentures are like teeth and need to come off once every day and should be cleaned twice. At night, take the dentures out of the senior’s mouth and store them in a denture cleanser to avoid bacteria buildup.
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we suggest that you use the above-mentioned tips for taking care of the oral health of seniors and other family members in your home. Make sure that everyone follows a healthy oral hygiene regime of brushing twice every day, flossing, and rinsing between meals. A decent oral hygiene regime along with biannual visits to the dentist should prevent most of the complications in old age.