Maintaining good oral health is important for your overall health and wellbeing. To help to reduce the risk of developing poor oral and dental health, it’s important to establish a dental care programme.
By encouraging good dental care, you reduce the chance that a more extensive dental procedures are needed later on, while also having the benefit of preventing eating difficulties, digestive problems, and infections. Here are some tips to help maintain good oral health even as dementia progresses.
Keep Instructions Short And Simple
While you want to avoid overcomplicating instructions, you also don’t want to be too vague. If saying “brush your teeth” to the person with dementia is too vague, try walking your loved one through the process, directing them to hold their toothbrush, put toothpaste on the brush, and then brush their teeth.
Show By Example
Try holding a toothbrush and showing the person how to brush his or her teeth if they are not sure how. You can also put your hand over theirs and guide the brush if they are comfortable with that. If they seem frustrated at the process, it’s okay to try again later in the day.
Drink Water After Meals
Taking the time to encourage the person with dementia to drink water or at least rinse their mouth after eating is a surprisingly useful part of dental care. This helps to flush residual food bits and bacteria in their mouth, which reduces the build-up of tartar and plaque.
Use The Right Toothbrush
A soft bristled children’s toothbrush will be gentler on the gums than a hard bristled adult’s brush, while a long handled or angled brush might be easier to use, especially if you are helping your loved one with brushing. The same applies for flossing; if they find using floss distressing, try using an interdental brush to clean between teeth instead.
Monitor For Signs Of Dental Discomfort Or Pain
As the person with dementia might find it challenging to express that they are experiencing pain or discomfort in their mouth or teeth, it’s important to try and look out for signs, like a refusal to eat, especially hard or cold foods, or frequent pulling at the face or mouth. If there’s a sudden reluctance to wear dentures, it could also be a sign of dental discomfort. Other signs of restlessness or increased frustration can also be an indication of dental pain, and a dental assessment should be part of the process of identifying the change in behaviour.