It is important to establish and maintain a regular oral healthcare routine for residents in long-term care facilities.
For many people, oral health issues can lead to lower self-esteem, poor diet, and mouth pain. These issues may even lead to more serious health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung infections or pneumonia.
As a caregiver or family member, the role you play in daily mouth care is very important and can greatly improve your loved one’s overall health and quality of life.
When you help care for another person’s teeth, there are a few things you can do to make the experience easier for both of you. If the “patient” (your loved one or the resident you are serving) initially resists your assistance, be patient. Consistency, repetition, and encouraging words often help people adjust to new situations.
Before you begin: Make sure the place you intend to do the brushing is comfortable for both you and the resident. To help create a relaxed environment, offer some encouraging words, play music, or even sing.
Preparing to brush: Put on clean, disposable gloves to protect you and the patient from unwanted germs. Bring the person you are caring for to a sink, or have them sit upright in a chair with a bowl of water nearby. Have a cup of water available for rinsing, as well as a towel for potential spills.
Positioning yourself: If the person you provide care for is sitting, stand behind them and cradle their head as you go through the Caregiving Steps for Brushing Teeth (below).
If a resident uses dentures, be sure to clean them daily and ensure they’re removed at night.
After residents eat, help them remove any remaining food from their mouth. If necessary, use gauze or a soft cloth to wipe away excess food. If you’re unable to brush their teeth, you can also ask the person to rinse with a cup of water and spit back into the cup. Encourage sips of water throughout the day to help clear a mouth of bacteria. You may also want to consider using gum or mints that include xylitol, a natural sweetener that helps prevent tooth decay.
If you’re struggling to maintain a regular oral health routine, talk to the resident’s dentist about germ-fighting rinses that may help. The dentist may also recommend a stronger toothpaste with more fluoride that can help prevent cavities.
As with most people, those residing in care homes should continue to make regular dental appointments, including a professional cleaning and exam, at least twice a year. Given the difficulties that surround trips to dental offices, Sound Dental Care tries to assist facilities and families in bridging this gap.