Basic Practices for Excellent Dental Health
Matthew Norman, DDS and Michelle Phillips, RDH
Caregivers are responsible for the oral and overall health of those they care for. As a caregiver, many questions may come to mind regarding your responsibilities for one’s oral health:
How should I go about caring for someone’s mouth and teeth? What type of dental hygiene routine is best for my loved-one, friend or patient? What is the proper way to brush and floss teeth? How often should my dependant see his/her Professional Dental Team? What types of oral health products should I use that will allow me to provide the best oral care I can? How do I clean false teeth?
Our goal is to help answer these questions and to provide information that you can use to improve your overall practices for excellent dental health, whether it be your own or someone else’s.
When the question of how to provide care for someone else’s oral health comes to mind, try to think of how you would care for your own mouth. Brushing your teeth twice a day (morning/night) and flossing once a day, should come to mind… When brushing, be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride helps strengthen the outer layer of the teeth to prevent cavities. You shouldn’t use a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush because the rigid bristles can damage the gums and cause them to recede. When the toothbrush bristles become ‘wilted or frayed’ in appearance, it’s time to change to a new one. A good rule of thumb is to replace your toothbrush every three months, or whenever you’ve been sick. Changing your toothbrush after you’ve been sick is extremely important—the bristles can harbor bacteria and prolong your illness. Always use a light, but firm pressure when brushing. For instance, imagine that you are brushing a ripe tomato and don’t want to bruise it. These use and maintenance tips also apply to those who use electric toothbrushes.
It can be more difficult flossing someone else’s then than flossing your own, but the principles are the same. To properly floss, take a piece of floss approximately 18-inches long and wrap it around your middle fingers. Use your index fingers and thumbs to guide the floss between the teeth. Once the floss is in between two adjacent teeth, be sure to adapt the floss to each tooth, forming the floss into a ‘C’ shape. Gently slide the floss below the gumline, adapt to the adjacent tooth and do the same. There are several flossers or floss picks on the market that can help assist with this motion. The concept remains the same…you must adapt the floss to each tooth!
Ideally, everyone should see their dentist every six months and in some cases, more frequently. Your dentist and dental hygienist work together at these visits to assess the health of your gums and teeth. The dental team will determine the proper visit interval to ensure that an excellent level of health is maintained in your mouth. Aside from assessing the health of your mouth and having a professional cleaning, the doctor will also perform an oral cancer screening at your regular visit. The members of your dental team are the only health care professionals that look into your mouth on a regular basis. It is imperative for them to establish a baseline of what your mouth looks like and record the presence of any abnormalities. Regular oral cancer screens ensure your mouth is examined for cancer on a consistent basis and the necessary precautions and/or treatments are performed in the event an abnormality is found.
The following are important points when caring for those with false teeth or dentures: Make sure the dentures are taken out every night before sleeping. Your gums need to breathe! Keeping the dentures in place all day and night can cause the gum tissue to become red and irritated. Irritated gum tissue can cause discomfort when wearing the dentures. Constant wearing of dentures can also cause oral infections. When cleaning dentures, be sure to brush them as you would your own teeth. Use a denture brush or a soft-bristled toothbrush and denture cleaner—you may also use an antibacterial soap or a mild dishwashing liquid. When the dentures are out of the mouth, they can be soaked in a denture cleanser or water, to help avoid drying and potentially losing their form. Before replacing the dentures in the mouth, gently brush the gums and tongue to stimulate circulation and remove any plaque debris that may be present.
Remember that your Professional Dental Team is here to help you. If you need any assistance or have any questions about caring for your loved ones, don’t hesitate to contact them. As a caregiver, be sure to remember what is necessary to care for one’s oral health: brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, daily flossing, eating well-balanced meals, and visiting your Dentist regularly.