As a caregiver, it is important you understand that proper dental hygiene is important for everyone, including people who are living with disabilities or chronic medical problems. In fact, many medical conditions and physical disabilities exasperate the same dental issues that vigilant dental hygiene habits will help prevent.
If you are uncomfortable with brushing and flossing other people's teeth, then you are not alone. While you may fear an injury to their mouth or a bite to your own hand if something goes wrong, the reality is that most of your fears can be alleviated by learning the correct techniques to care for your patient's teeth.
To provide proper dental hygiene for people in your care, follow each of these tips:
Tip: Consider Brushing and Flossing Outside of the Bathroom
If the person in your care is bed-bound, then you will obviously need to take care of their dental needs at the bedside, but if they are mobile, then you should consider an alternative location to a bathroom. Bathrooms are typically designed so they are comfortable for one person but feel cramped when two people both try to use them at the same time. For this reason, take care of dental hygiene tasks at a dining room table or where your charge sits and watches television.
Tip: Brush and Floss at the Same Times Each Day
For people who are chronically ill and those with developmental disabilities, having a set routine each day can be a lifesaver. Routines allow everyone to know what to expect during each day, and they lessen stress. Lowering stress is always a positive thing because it can lead to negative behaviors.
Tip: Consider Adaptive Toothbrushes or Flossers if Appropriate
If the person you are caring for has some mobility in their hands and arms, then you can often use an adaptive toothbrush and flosser that will allow them to more easily brush and floss their own teeth. These tools can be purchased at any local medical supply store.
Tip: Don't Allow Dental Hygiene Tasks to Become a Battleground
Finally, it is vital that you do not allow dental hygiene tasks to become a battleground. People with disabilities and illness need to brush and floss their teeth, but it is also important to remember that the world will not end and their teeth will not rot from a skipping the process for a single day. Approach dental tasks with caring and importance, but don't be aggressive about the process if your patient is fighting it.
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