Six top tips for carers
The following information is advice that I provide to care staff in residential services in Intellectual Disability Service Providers in Dublin. This is based on years of my own research. This advice is based on a major generalisation and should not replace a person centred Oral Health Care Planning. If you wish to see this advice in context click here.
- Brush teeth twice daily: Brushing teeth removes plaque that causes gum disease and de- cay. It only prevents these diseases if done effectively and routinely. It is important to clean all surfaces: top and bottom; inside outside and biting surface. The most important area is between the tooth and gum, which is where gum disease can take hold. If gums bleed during brushing, this is a common sign of gum disease, indicating that the teeth need to be brushed better in that particular area.
- Use the right toothbrush: Most dentists and hygienists recommend using a small soft toothbrush in a small forward-backward motion at the gum margin. Alternatively, if an electric toothbrush is used, this is simply glided across the gum margin. Regular dental flossing is important as it cleans between the teeth. Where people find it difficult to tolerate tooth brushing, there are specific toothbrushes like the “Superbrush” or, my favourite, the “Collis Curve” toothbrush that act like mini car wash for teeth. While these are often better tolerated by service users, it can take more attention to get good cleaning at the gum margin with these brushes.
- Choose a time and location that is comfortable for the service user. If they are finding it difficult, check that they or you are not brushing too hard or in a painful area. Reassure and try again. Check the teeth when they are brushed to see if all plaque is removed. Ask your dentist or speech and language therapist for advice if there are specific problems.
- Use the right toothpaste: For adults a pea-sized amount of a good all- round toothpaste from the supermarket is the perfect choice, as long as it contains Fluoride. This helps fight tooth decay and freshens breath. Extra strong toothpastes are available from the dentist on prescription if teeth are decayed. When gum disease is present, special toothpastes like “Kin” are available over the counter. Whatever you use, it is important not to rinse the paste from the mouth after use. Rather just spit out the excess.
- Watch what you eat: Decay occurs when plaque turns sugars into an acid that rots the teeth. It is crucial to limit the frequency of sugary intake to prevent decay. The best way to do this is to limit fizzy or sweetened drinks and avoid snacking between meals. Good eating habits should be established in childhood, avoiding the use of food as a reward system.
- Visit the dentist and hygienist: Everyone should visit the dentist at least once a year or more regularly if advised. Dentist and Hygienist visits should start early, so children can become comfortable with the dental surgery and good hygiene habits can be established for life.
This advice is based on the best available information at the time of publishing. The author does not accept responsibility of following this advice without the direction of a dental professional. Copyright (C) Caoimhin Mac Giolla Phadraig. All rights reserved.