A Caregiver’s Guide to the Oral Health of Those with Physical Disabilities

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Caring for someone with a physical disability requires persistence and proficiency. Sometimes this means helping them with their oral hygiene. If you have never taken care of someone else’s oral health before, George R. Hussey, DDS, FAGD is happy to offer you some tips to get you on the right track.

Some people need help brushing their teeth. To avoid infection, wash your hands before you start and consider putting on disposable gloves. Help them into a reclining position and stand behind them so you can look over their heads and into their mouth while you brush. If your client has swallowing problems, you may not want to use toothpaste; if so, use warm water instead. Brush each tooth in tooth in wide strokes. Remember to brush their tongue and help them rinse with plain water afterward, or if they can’t do so, consider sweeping the mouth with a finger wrapped in gauze.

Flossing another’s teeth will likely take time to master, but it’s an important skill to learn. You’ll want to use a string of floss that is 18 inches long. Standing in the same position as you did while brushing, grip it between the thumb and index finger of each hand and gently wedge it between each tooth. Start with the lower front teeth and then the upper front teeth and slowly work your way to the back. Use a new section of floss for each crevice to avoid cross-contamination.

Finally, remember to bring your client to the dentist twice a year. The first time around, this may be an uncomfortable experience for your client. That’s why we would be happy to schedule a “get-to-know-you” appointment where there is no actual dental treatment to help your client adjust. Dr. George R. Hussey or a member of our dental team may even give you and them in-person pointers on how to brush and floss. Just call us in Arlington, Washington, at 360.653.5197 today!