A Caregiver’s Guide to Oral Health

There are many aspects of being a caregiver, and some are certainly more challenging than others. This post is to help you with an often forgotten aspect of care: oral health. Taking care of a person's teeth is important. It will greatly increase their quality of life. For example, being able to eat has been linked to heart health.  Remember that maintaining healthy teeth through preventative measures is always easier and more cost effective than waiting for a problem to arise and then addressing it. By staying regular with dental check-ups and cleanings, many big problems can be avoided through early intervention. These check-ups and cleanings should be scheduled twice per year, unless the hygienist has specifically said to come in three or four times per year. Make sure to bring a list of all current medications to update in your chart each time.

Home dental hygiene care is also important. Brushing twice per day (for two minutes) and flossing once per day will help to minimize the risk of cavities and gum disease. If manual toothbrushes are hard for you to use, try an electric toothbrush. Dentures or partial dentures should be cleaned daily and should not be worn at night. 

Sometimes caring for an individual can be challenging and knowing whether or not there is a problem that needs addressing is not always obvious. Here are some things to look for that indicate there may be a problem that needs immediate attention:

  • They tell you or act like they are experiencing pain 
  • There is swelling of the mouth or cheek
  • They cannot chew because of pain
  • Sensitive to hot or cold
  • Teeth are badly discolored (apparent decay)
  • Broken teeth
  • Loose teeth
Some other things to look for that are less urgent, but still important are:
  • If no teeth or some teeth are missing: 
    • Does their denture or partial denture stay in their mouth? If it falls out easily it may need to be relined.
    • Does their denture or partial cause sores in their mouth? It usually just needs an adjustment.

Taking care of someone can be difficult, but also very rewarding. Remember to address oral health before it becomes an issue. When in doubt, it never hurts to call their dentist and ask. Keep smiling!

~Cyrus M. Larson, DMD


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