Elderly Patient-Improving Dental Hygiene
Accumulation of food debris, plaque (a white residue adhering to the teeth) or calculus (solidified plaque) increases the rate of tooth decay and gum disease. Good oral hygiene is perhaps the simplest and most efficient means to promote comfort and help reduce the dental problems associated with aging in the mature adult and senior population. Regular visits to your dentist are also of paramount importance.
A medium soft brush and dental paste is recommended. For those incapable of gripping the handle, a rubber strap can be fastened to fit snugly around the hand. The brush may be easier to hold and control if a larger handle is made. A bicycle handle bar grip can be filled with plaster or silicone sealant and pushed over the handle. If limited arm movement is a problem, a longer handle can be made by attaching plastic plumbing pipe to the handle. For senior patients, teeth, gums and tongue should be brushed at least once a day.
Flossing removes materials from areas difficult to reach with a toothbrush — between the teeth and at the gum line. Flossing takes practice and is difficult for senior patients with limitations in arm and finger movements.
With a decrease in saliva, food particles adhere more readily to the teeth and gums. Rinsing with warm water will dislodge the particles. This is especially important if you have difficulty brushing. Rinsing, however, should not be considered a substitute for brushing.
Use of mouth washes may prove irritating to dry tissue because of their high alcohol content. If used, dilute the mouth wash with water.
Wiping with gauze
In some severe cases, it may be impossible for older adults to brush or rinse even with assistance. Wiping teeth and gums with a wet piece of gauze will remove some of the debris from around the teeth and gums. For the mature adult and senior population, some sort of oral hygiene is always better than nothing.
Many mechanical aids have been developed to improve oral hygiene. Some have practical application for the elderly patients and senior population.
Electrical tooth brushes have been shown to be effective in cleaning teeth. The larger handle can be held more easily and the mechanical movement of the brush compensates for those seniors with limited movement.
Water irrigators can be useful in removing particles from between teeth. If you have pockets between your teeth and gums, use a water irrigator with care. Rather than being washed away, food particles can be forced into those pockets and can cause severe irritation.
Interdental cleaners are handles with small changeable brushes. They allow for cleaning between teeth. This is especially helpful when the gums have receded, creating large spaces between the teeth.
Oral lubricants can ease some of the problems created by a dry mouth. Glycerine, flavored with a few drops of lemon, can provide a lubricating effect. This will ease the irritation caused by dentures rubbing on the underlying tissue or dry cheeks rubbing on the denture teeth. Several prescription medications are available that can stimulate the production of saliva or act as a saliva substitute which proven effective to control caries in adult patient population.
Denture care is necessary because wearing dentures does not mean that good oral hygiene can be neglected. If you wear dentures, they should be removed after eating and rinsed with warm water. The mouth should also be thoroughly rinsed.
Dentures accumulate calculus like the teeth they replaced. Dentures should be scrubbed with a stiff brush and cream to remove these deposits. Commercial denture cleaning solutions by themselves will not adequately clean dentures.
Do-it-yourself denture liners should be avoided. They become rough and irritating and harbor bacteria and food debris. Such liners are difficult to keep clean.
It is important to visit a dentist who is experienced in senior dental care, every couple of years to evaluate your dentures for the need of either relining your existing dentures or making new ones.
For more detailed information on any of the dental aids or cleaning procedures, consult your dentist. Dentists can help establish a routine to provide you with the most efficient means of cleaning your teeth and gums.