It is among the first things we do each and every morning, as well as one of the last things we do each night, typically on autopilot without giving it an extra thought. Yet it happens to be a complicated process comprised of numerous steps, making this seemingly simple task quite a challenge for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Good oral hygiene is important for all of us, in spite of age, and not solely to help keep our teeth and gums healthy. Poor dental hygiene may result in serious health conditions, among them heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and many more. It can also impact the ability to eat and talk.
Dental Hygiene in Alzheimer’s
So how are you able to make sure a senior with Alzheimer’s maintains good oral hygiene? These guidelines from Absolute Companion Care, providers of top-rated home care in Lutherville and nearby areas, can help:
- Modeling is an effective way to help someone with dementia through a multistep process like brushing the teeth. Allow the person to accomplish each step of the process independently if possible: placing a small amount of toothpaste on the brush (baking soda toothpaste is preferred over fluoride, in the event the senior 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 assistance, provide a toothbrush with toothpaste already applied, stand behind the senior, and put your hand over the older adult’s, 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 your loved one something larger to hold onto. A battery-powered toothbrush is also an excellent option to try.
- Flossing is also an important part of dental care. For independent flossing, try floss holders or other implements designed to make it less difficult and much more efficient. If you’re flossing the senior’s teeth, again, standing behind the individual might be easiest.
- In the event that the senior has dentures, be sure to remove, brush, and rinse them daily. While the dentures are removed, a soft-bristled toothbrush should be used to gently clean the older adult’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 care. A senior with Alzheimer’s or dementia should continue to receive regular dental exams, which include checking dentures to make sure of an appropriate fit, and to rule out any issues with the teeth or gums. A senior 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 region
- Nodding or rolling the head
- Resisting any hygiene around the area, including shaving or washing the face
- Sleeping issues
- Aggression, yelling, or moaning
- Unwillingness to put dentures in
If any one of these symptoms are noted, schedule an appointment with the dentist right away.
For more tips, and for skilled, compassionate help with oral care for a loved one with dementia, connect with Absolute Companion Care, the experts in providing home care in Lutherville, at 410-357-9640. For a full list of communities where we provide our award-winning home care services, please visit our Service Area page.