Guest Author - Jeanetta Polenske
Good oral care can be challenging for the disabled particularly if someone has difficulty holding a toothbrush, has chewing and swallowing issues, pain in the face or head or cannot communicate oral pain or uncomfortable sensations.
Using adapted tools helps as well as following various methods that others have found through experience. Don’t hesitate to develop your own procedures. Every person is unique and what works for one may need to be revised for another.
Electric toothbrushes are high on the list of recommended tools for the disabled. They have larger grips, are easier to use than a regular toothbrush and do a relatively thorough job of cleaning the mouth and teeth. Vac-U-Brush is a toothbrush with suction control designed for both brushing teeth and suctioning excess fluid from the mouth to keep the user from choking on or swallowing toothpaste and rinses. Electronic flossers, also known as oral irrigators are readily available on the market. And there are a variety of adapted toothbrushes.
The weighted toothbrush has a large, heavier, contoured handle that is easier to hold for those who have difficulty with conventional handles because of tremors. The Collis Curve toothbrush is another design made with caregivers in mind and those with fine motor limits in the upper extremities. The bristles curve around and hug the teeth for total tooth brushing at one pass. Another toothbrush that may be of use is the triple-sided toothbrush. The toothbrush actually consists of three heads designed so that no rotation of the brush is necessary to clean all sides of each tooth.
You can also adapt a current toothbrush. Enlarge the handle by wrapping it with a soft grip or lengthen the handle with an attached piece. You can attach the handle to your arm if grasping and maintaining a hold is difficult.
If the mouth is tender, without teeth or just needs moisture, toothettes are soft sponges that are attached to a stick. They can be used to dip into water or a rinse to clean and/or give comfort to the mouth. Even a moist washcloth can be used to clean inside the mouth and across the teeth and tongue.
Location is not that important. Toothbrushing can be done in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen or at a table. Gather equipment and make sure everything is within easy reach.
If you are a caregiver, try standing in front and slightly to the side of someone in a wheelchair. Another approach is from the back with arms reached around to secure the upper body and brush while looking in a mirror. For the bedbound disabled, keep them either in an upright position or in a side-lying position to prevent aspiration and choking. Remember, even the best attempt to clean the mouth helps prevent dry mouth and dental decay.
Collis Curve Toothbrushes - Soft-Clear Cap
Toothette® Oral Care Plus Swabs Untreated - Each (1 bag of 20 swabs)