Home Health & Hospice

Insider's scoop | Oral care considerations

Homecare Insider, February 1, 2016

Editor's note: This week’s Insider’s scoop is from Home Health Aide On-the-Go In-service Series, Volume 15. This vital resource packs 12 informative, one-hour in-service training lessons into one volume, addressing timely topics that are crucial to homecare. The book also provides comprehensive and easy-to-understand training lessons for group classroom settings or self-study. Click here for more information.

A healthy mouth is important for speaking, chewing, and overall health and well-being. As people age, they face special concerns regarding their oral health. They’re more susceptible to cavities and oral diseases due to inadequate oral hygiene, infrequent dental examinations and cleanings, dry mouth, and problems with dentures. In addition, many elderly people grew up without the benefits of water fluoridation and other fluoride products. Being disabled, homebound, or institutionalized increases the risk of poor oral health, as do conditions such as diabetes.

The aide is responsible for performing oral hygiene if the person cannot, and for reinforcing proper oral hygiene for people who are receiving home health care. It is essential to understand what good oral hygiene is and why it is important. Good oral hygiene promotes comfort and helps reduce dental problems associated with aging. Additionally, it reduces the risk of pneumonia and heart disease.

Often, elderly persons are sensitive to having their mouth touched and their teeth cleaned. They may have pain or a history of negative experiences with dentistry. Some things to remember when providing dental hygiene to people include the following:
•    Move slowly and explain exactly what you are going to do before touching a person’s teeth.
•    When brushing or flossing teeth, talk in a soft, soothing manner.
•    If there is pain, stop what you are doing or perform the task in another manner.
•    Use a toothpaste of the person’s choice. Some toothpastes are available for sensitive teeth.
•    If assigned by the care plan, use fluoride rinses to reduce the amount of brushing required.