Dental Care for Elderly and Disabled Persons

Are you caring for an elderly or disabled person? You might be feeling overwhelmed by the tasks to perform every day. Unfortunately, many caregivers minimize the importance of elderly-woman-dentist-e1306503787961-300x225dental care for elderly and disabled loved ones. This can be dangerous in several ways.

I understand completely that you might need to find some shortcuts in your day, and that dental care might seem like the least important part of caring for your loved one. Yet, dental care might be more important than you realize.

The minimum in daily dental care for elderly and disabled persons is to help them keep their mouth clean and to help with this task if they cannot do it themselves. Also, take them to the dentist regularly. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing the mouth can be difficult for some people. It is not uncommon to find that a dementia patient forgot how to brush.

Why is this so important? The first and most important reason is that bacteria from the mouth can easily be ingested or inhaled. When the bacteria are inhaled, there is great risk of it developing into pneumonia.

The second reason dental care is so important for elderly and disabled persons is that their nutrition is tied to their ability to eat. Failure to clean and protect the teeth can lead to broken, loose, or lost teeth. You will want to pay careful attention to any changes in what they do or do not eat and to how much they eat. This will help you to notice any emergent problems with their teeth.

The third reason dental care is so important is that many elderly and disabled persons take medicine, which can cause or promote dry mouth. This condition can be very damaging to the teeth and gums. Some loved ones are not able to drink water as often as they should to keep the mouth clean. This allows food, drinks, and medication to harm the mouth.

Elderly and disabled persons in your care need to see a dentist regularly to provide a thorough cleaning and evaluation. Often, your dentist will be able to identify problems that are starting long before you will notice it. While you are visiting your loved one’s dentist, you might want to talk with both the dentist and the hygienist about how you can help to protect your loved one on a daily basis.

Finally, if the loved one you are caring for has dentures or a partial denture, clean them daily and remove them for at least 4 hours each day. If they become loose or painful, contact your dentist. There are things we can do to make them more comfortable.

There are products that help to care for the oral health of your loved one. These range from special mouth rinses to swabs that moisturize the mouth, to a number of other specialized products. But before you start buying everything your pharmacy or home health supply company has to offer, discuss your loved one’s specific needs with your dentist. Not only can we help you choose the right products for his or her needs, we can help you sort through the available array of products and choose the best product for your needs and your budget. A hygienist can also show you some techniques to help you brush your loved one’s teeth and otherwise care for their oral health needs. A dentist is here to help you.

We are located in Salem, Virginia. When you come to us with a dental problem, we do not judge, we do not chastise. We can help you. We just do everything we can to help. We understand the challenges and the schedule of caring for an elderly or disabled loved one.

Medicare Does Not Pay for Dental Care

Are you aware that Medicare does not pay for dental care? Yet your need for dental care will not end when you retire. This means that you need to plan for your post-retirement dental care.

Retirees actually have several options for paying fsm graphicstock cbi-0216-038 013 220614or dental care. You will likely want to explore the options available to you prior to retiring.

1.      The first option is to set aside money to pay for dental care. Some people are able to plan ahead realistically and save money accordingly. If this is how you plan to pay for your post-retirement dental care, it is wise to have an honest conversation with your dentist. Deciding how much money to save should be based on problems that are emerging, existing problems, and the unexpected costs that could arise. Your budget plan should also include an assessment of any issues that could be caused by medication or a long-term illness.

2.      You can purchase an add-on dental policy as part of your Medicare Supplement insurance. Many insurance companies offer this option. You can identify those plans with some research, a hpone call to your preferred Medicare supplement provider, or by visiting the website of The National Association of Dental Plans. You can also research some options through AARP.

3.      You always have the option of researching dental care insurance providers and buying a policy through one of these providers.

4.      Discount dental plans are another option. Most of these plans have a lower monthly premium cost that conventional dental insurance. These plans require you to choose a dentist in their network. Network dentists typically have agreed to provide some services for 10 -60 percent below their usual fees. When you visit this dentist, you will simply pay the discounted co-pay.

5.      You also have the option of obtaining a medical care charge card that will allow you to pay your dental bill over time at either no interest or an interest rate that is well below the rate on most credit cards.

You can plan for the cost of dental care needs after retirement with any of these options. In fact, you can combine them based on your income and your needs. Maintaining your dental health with insurance or savings can be managed despite the fact that Medicare does not pay for dental care.

The Calcium Conundrum

Calcium should be an important element in everyone’s diet. It is particularly important as we grow older. We need calcium to prevent bone loss or osteoporosis. Many people do not know that osteoporosis can affect the jaw bone. If this happens it could cause your teeth to become loose or even to fall out.

A recent study found that people who get all, or most, of thcouple-relaxing-indoors-smiling HFbxDpiCBo smeir calcium from supplements (instead of food) are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack. Health care providers recommend that adults need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. So, if you should not use supplements, how do you get your daily allowance of calcium? Low-fat dairy is a good source of calcium and of other nutrients needed for bone strength. Typically, 1,000 mg of calcium can be found in about three cups of dairy per day. Some calcium can also come from vegetables like leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, kale and Swiss chard.

Consuming the recommended amount of calcium each day is not the end of the story. You also need other nutrients like phosphorous. Vitamin D is essential, as well. It helps your body to absorb the calcium and carry it to the bone that supports your teeth. Ultimately, strong teeth need the nutrients supplied by a healthy and balanced diet. 

By Caroline A. Wallace, DDS, Complete Dental Care of Salem, VA

Why Did My Dentist Use a Toothpick during my exam?

Don't Dentists have an array of tools to use in an exam?

triangular toothpicks

Why would my dentist use a simple toothpick?

The short and simple answer is this: Using a toothpick is a proven method for assessing gum disease.


It is actually more trustworthy than pushing a probe into the gums – and it hurts less. Dentists have been using this method for five years of more. It is an effective test to assess inflammation and bleeding of the gums. This exam method uses a triangular toothpick, placed between teeth and rubbed back and forth four times. There is also an extra benefit: it helps to remove plaque.


In some cases, your Dentist might teach you how to perform the test and ask you to do so at home.

Acupuncture Can Reduce Dental Anxiety.

New research concludes that acupuncture helps to reduce dental related anxiety. In a patient-blinded randomized controlled investigation, researchers compared 182 patients. One group received true acupuncture at auricular points. The second group received sham acupuncture (non-related acupoints) and a third group did not receive acupuncture or any medical procedures for the treatment of anxiety. The researchers measured anxiety levels prior to getting acupuncture and 20 minutes after receiving acupuncture which was immediately prior to the dental work. Anxiety levels in the true acupuncture group reduced significantly and slightly in the sham acupuncture group. In the non-intervention group, anxiety increased.

The researchers concluded that auricular acupuncture is both minimally invasive and “effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment.” The researchers suggest that acupuncture may provide an option to patients suffering from anxiety prior to dental care


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