Managing oral health
People with dementia should have a plan for caring for the health of their mouth that is specific to their needs. It does not matter if a person has all their own teeth, only some of their own teeth or upper and lower full dentures, good oral hygiene is important for good health.
The dignity of a person with dementia should be respected and where possible, their normal routine should be followed. If it possible, people with dementia should continue to see their regular dentist for dental care as they are familiar with the dental practice and dentist. Dental specialists known as specialists in special needs dentistry are located in some states and territories and can provide specialised dental care to people with increased medical needs.
People with dementia should continue to brush and floss their own teeth for as long as their ability to manually do so is not affected. If their ability to control a toothbrush to clean their teeth is affected, it is important for family members or carers to provide help to care for their teeth and gums. There are a range of techniques that a carer can use to brush a clients teeth. These techniques are based on a co-operative approach.
Chaining - The carer begins brushing the teeth and the person with dementia completes it.
Bridging - The person with dementia holds a toothbrush while the carer brushes the teeth with a separate brush. This aims to improve the sensory connection.
Hand over hand - The carer's hand is placed over the person with dementia's hand to guide the brush to clean the teeth together.
Yawning - Yawn facing the person with dementia and hopefully this will stimulate a yawn in return so the person will open their mouth for their teeth to be brushed.
Consider using a three-sided toothbrush when brushing, known as the Surround Three-Sided Toothbrush or the Collis Curve. An electric toothbrush should also be considered if it is able to be tolerated.
If the person with dementia wears dentures, ensure that the dentures are removed from the mouth when brushing. Brush the dentures separately using soft hand soap and a separate toothbrush or a denture cleaning brush. If the person lives in an aged care or residential facility, write the person's name on their denture/s to ensure easy identification and store it in a safe location when not worn.