If you are responsible for an individual with a disability that prevents them from caring for their own teeth, it is important that you don't forget to address this critical need. Knowing how to properly care for a disabled person's teeth is a skill that requires patience, training, and a willingness to help. In some instances, the biggest hurdle to overcome is breaking a pattern of fear of dentistry or the unknown, and this is why you will need to exercise tact and care. Below are a few suggestions to help you understand the psychological and emotional needs for someone who is unable to fully care for their own teeth:
Address psychological and emotional needs first
For some persons with disabilities that affect reasoning and other cognitive skills, dental care can be frightening. The introduction of foreign objects into the mouth can overwhelm those who are fearful, and the intrusive nature of tooth brushing and flossing can create resistance to these actions. That is why it is necessary for caregivers to provide reassurance to persons with disabilities and help them understand the dental care process as much as possible. Here are a few tips that can help:
Show videos of people brushing their teeth or demonstrate how you brush your own teeth - By providing a concrete, complete example of how dental care works before you ever introduce a brush, you can build trust with an individual who may be wary or resistant. If possible, allow the disabled individual to hold a toothbrush and feel its bristles; this can be a positive by granting them a hands-on introduction to the tools of good teeth cleaning.
Allow disabled persons to taste small samples of toothpaste and other oral care products - For some people, issues of taste may be a big limitation and derail the entire process. That is why it is appropriate to provide small sample tasting opportunities for disabled persons; simply place a tiny "dot" of toothpaste on a spoon and allow them to taste it. This can help overcome fear of tasting something unpleasant. As a note of caution, be sure to keep toothpaste and mouthwash away from disabled persons who may not have the ability to discern these substances from food.
Grant as much control to the individuals as possible - Another problem that can hamper the provision of good dental care is that some disabled persons may resist the lack of control they feel. To help remedy that problem, utilize innovative means to help share the dental care process with individuals, so they might be able to take control of their own teeth. This can be accomplished by modifying toothbrush handles, for example, to make them less difficult to grasp.
For more information, contact local professionals like Stones River Dental.