It is estimated that roughly 50 million Americans have some sort of developmental disability, whether it be autism, Down syndrome, stroke, Alzheimer’s – the list goes on. But while these conditions are wildly different, there is often one common denominator between them all: the struggle to care for their own teeth. Here’s what you should know about helping persons with developmental disabilities care for their oral health.
Explain What You Are Doing
If you need to brush or floss the teeth of a person with a developmental disability, be sure to explain what you are doing and why prior to beginning. You may also ask that person for consent if you believe they will agree to your help. Go slowly as you care for their teeth, and explain what you are doing at each step, too.
Remember, just because you can’t feel what you are doing doesn’t mean they can’t. Persons with limited speech may not be able to speak up if they are in pain. Worse yet, if you are too rough, you may have a harder time convincing them to allow you to clean their teeth next time.
Do Your Best
Of course it is harder to brush someone else’s teeth than your own, and nobody expects caregivers to provide a hygienist-level cleaning, but do your best to clean as much tooth surface as you can before the patient is unwilling to cooperate.
For those who are physically able to brush and floss their own teeth, encourage them to do so under your supervision, making gentle suggestions along the way. It may help to brush your own teeth alongside them, so they can see what you are asking them to do.
If you have any questions or concerns about caring for the teeth of a person with a developmental disability, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office at (858) 866-9692.