Oral Health Tips for Caregivers

National Family Caregivers Month is celebrated every November in an effort to recognize and honor those who care for family members across the county, as well as raise awareness of the issues that accompany this great responsibility. There are approximately 44 million family caregivers in the U.S. alone, responsible for the health and wellbeing of not only themselves, but for a loved one as well. While keeping a loved one’s mouth healthy might not come to mind immediately, but dental health plays a vital part overall well being, making it a very important component.

“It’s also about comfort, safety and self-esteem,” said ADA dentist Dr. Judith Jones, in a recent MouthHealthy.org article. “Keeping your mouth and teeth clean can prevent sensitivity or pain in your teeth. In terms of safety, there might be broken teeth, broken partials or unsafe partials they can swallow. And for their self-esteem, it’s important for individuals to have a sense of pride in their appearance and to have good hygiene.”

The amount of help required will of course depend on the unique needs of the individual. If your loved one can do the basics to maintain a good dental hygiene routine, you should let them. Still others might have physical issues that make them unable to hold a toothbrush. And some may have memory issues, leading them to forget to brush and floss regularly. In addition to helping individuals clean their teeth each day, they also might need assistance making and getting to dental appointments.

Regardless of the situation, the best recipe for good oral health is daily care plus professional care. Here are some important mouth care steps to keep in mind:

  • Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between the teeth daily with floss or other between-the-teeth cleaners.
  • Rinse dentures after each meal, brush them daily with denture cleaner and take them out before bedtime, storing them in water.
  • If the person is experiencing dry mouth, an alcohol-free mouthrinse may help. Sipping water, sucking on ice chips and using a humidifier while sleeping can help also.
  • Limit snacking and sugary drinks. Healthy foods and drinks such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and water are good for the mouth and the body.
  • Make and keep dental appointments, twice annually if possible.
  • Keep an eye out for symptoms that could signal a larger issue, and follow up with your dentist as soon as possible.

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