With the advent of population aging, more and more elderly people need to be cared and taken care of. For professional elderly nursing staff, I believe they have mastered a lot of nursing knowledge. But is the oral health of the elderly given enough attention? How can family members help the elderly maintain their oral health? Know that oral health is very important to the teeth, the whole body and many other aspects.
The importance of oral health in the elderly
“Maintaining oral health is not only about teeth and physical health, but also about comfort, safety, and self-esteem,” said one of profession of surgical dentist. “Keeping the mouth and teeth clean can prevent tooth sensitivity or pain. In terms of safety, elderly people also make mistakes. The risk of swallowing broken teeth, dentures or other parts. In terms of self-esteem, it is also important to have pride in your appearance and good personal hygiene.”
The extent to which the elderly care for the oral cavity varies from person to person. If the elderly can do the most basic oral care, let them do it themselves. Some elderly people may not be able to hold the toothbrush due to physical reasons; others may have memory problems and forget to brush and floss their teeth; and people with dementia may need someone to help them clean their teeth every day and take them to the dentist .
Regardless of the specific situation, daily oral care plus professional maintenance is the best way to maintain oral health. Here are some important steps in oral care for the elderly:
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, each lasting two minutes.
Use dental floss or other interdental cleaning tools to clean your teeth every day.
Wash dentures after each meal, scrub with denture cleaner every day, take them out and store them in clean water before going to bed.
If the patient’s mouth is dry, an alcohol-free mouthwash can be used. Help stay hydrated by drinking water, sucking (rather than chewing) ice cubes, and using a humidifier while sleeping.
Limit snacks and sugary drinks. Healthy foods and drinks, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and water are good for the mouth and the whole body.
Make a dental appointment and follow up on time. Even people who wear dentures need to see a dentist.
Observe the symptoms that may indicate a bigger problem, and make an appointment with your dentist.
There are some specific situations that require specific analysis. The following are some reference perspectives for different types of nursing cases. It is recommended to communicate with the dentist or seek more advice at any time.
How to care for the mouth of the elderly
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If the elderly can use dental floss and toothbrush by themselves
Many elderly people can maintain basic oral hygiene every day, but still benefit from the help of their family members. You can help them improve their oral care routine in several ways:
Ask them to inform the daily oral care process.
Talk to them about the importance of a healthy mouth. Let them know that unhealthy oral cavity can make other health problems worse.
Help them establish and maintain a schedule for brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. Check whether their toothbrush is easy to hold, whether the bristles are worn, and whether the floss is easy to use.
Electric toothbrushes may be easier for some people to use because they are easier to hold and help reduce the burden on caregivers.
Make sure they use fluoride toothpaste.
Use fluoride or anti-plaque mouthwash daily to provide extra antibacterial protection for teeth and gums.
Give them a two-minute timer to help them determine the right time to brush their teeth.
Make dental appointments for the elderly and take them to the dentist. If the elderly go to the dentist themselves, they can ask the dentist for advice and help the elderly perform.
If the elderly need help
Elderly people who are unable or unwilling to maintain oral health may need help from family members. Be patient, be compassionate, and don’t do to others what you don’t want.
Efficient is the most important thing.When brushing teeth, it is best to recommend using a soft toothbrush.If someone has three teeth, it only takes 30 seconds to brush. However, it takes extra time to brush the dentures.
Toothpicks or dental floss sticks can help clean the gap between teeth. If you think these interdental cleaning tools are too difficult to use, you can also use a dental flusher, because it does not need to reach into the mouth of the elderly.
If the elderly have dentures teeth
Dentures, whether partial or full, need to be taken off every day and cleaned sooner or later. Dentures need to be carefully scrubbed at night and placed in a glass of water or ADA-certified denture cleaner.Rinse the dentures every morning before putting them on.”
Make sure to take out the dentures before the elderly fall asleep, even during a nap. Dentures may fall off and may cause suffocation. To be safe, please take them out before going to bed or before nap.
If the elderly is in the hospital or sick in bed
For an elderly person who is sick in bed, they may have many health problems, so it is easy to overlook oral health. However, because oral bacteria can be inhaled into the lungs and cause pneumonia, oral health is still very important.
If the elderly have memory impairment
A June 2015 study found that one-quarter of caregivers in the United States who are 50 years of age or older experience this problem, that is, patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other memory disorders. This makes dental care more challenging, but don’t give up. Dr. Jones said: “Like everyone else, people with dementia need to brush their teeth twice a day.” For people with dementia, good oral hygiene is even more important, because when problems arise, they often cannot communicate. Paying attention to daily care can avoid troubles and find potential problems as early as possible when they are easy to treat.
If possible, be aware of any potential dental needs when the patient can cooperate with dental care in the early stages. If necessary, you can discuss the needs of the dentist with your loved ones, or take X-rays. This is also a good time for you to discuss treatment needs or take X-rays with the dentist of the elderly. The dentist can know the dental history of the elderly and use it as a future resource.
If the elderly need long-term care
According to data from the US Agency for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 8 million people live in nursing facilities for a long time. According to the law, these facilities must provide daily and emergency dental care. However, don’t forget to learn about the dental care they provide. See if there is a dentist on site, or if the elderly have to go far away to see a dentist for regular check-ups, find out who provides daily oral hygiene care, and if the nursing staff have been properly trained, make sure they clean twice a day.
If the elderly have any special dental needs, let the staff know and do not hide the facts. If the elderly have dentures, tell them in advance to ensure that the dentures can also be cleaned and taken care of.
If the notification says that the elderly have difficulties in dental care, please work with the nursing staff to find a solution. For elderly people with advanced Alzheimer’s who have difficulty resisting or brushing their teeth, try using different flavors of toothpaste to encourage the elderly to cooperate, or use warm water to brush their teeth to see if it will work.