For People with Developmental Disabilities
People with certain disabilities, including the developmentally disabled, sometimes struggle with oral health issues. Knowing how to better care for a loved one’s oral hygiene is an important aspect of providing great care. The following are some typical dental and oral health problems that persons with developmental disabilities struggle with and some strategies to care for these issues.
- Dental Caries: Known more commonly as cavities, dental caries are common in people with developmental disabilities. To help prevent cavities, the person should drink water frequently, and the caregiver can instruct in proper brushing techniques (if able to brush independently), and monitor brushing habits. If necessary, adapt a toothbrush to make it easier to hold by placing a tennis ball or bicycle grip on the handle, wrapping the handle in tape, or bending the handle by softening it under hot water. Additionally, many medicines contain sugar which can cause cavities. Consult the person’s physician about sugar-free medications that may be available.
- Malocclusion: A malocclusion is a misalignment of the teeth that is common in people with developmental disabilities. Malocclusion can make chewing and speaking difficult and increase the risk of periodontal disease, cavities, and oral trauma. If the malocclusion is too limiting, orthodontic treatment may be necessary.
- Damaging Oral Habits: Some of the most common damaging oral habits for people with developmental disabilities include bruxism (teeth grinding), food pouching, mouth breathing, and tongue thrusting. For people who pouch food, or hold food in the mouth, it is important to inspect the mouth after each meal or dose of medicine. Remove food or medicine from the mouth by rinsing with water, sweeping the mouth with a finger wrapped in gauze, or using a disposable foam applicator swab. A mouth guard can be helpful for people who have problems with self-injurious behavior or bruxism.
Maintaining proper oral care is vital to a person’s overall health. The caregivers at Genacta In-Home Care can help loved ones with disabilities better care for their oral health. We can provide care for persons with disabilities in the home, group homes, supported living facilities, or wherever care is needed. Contact our team to learn more about our home care services throughout Alaska.