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Performing basic oral hygiene tasks can be challenging if you have a disability, injury or condition that makes it difficult to use a toothbrush and dental floss. Your oral health doesn't have to suffer when you use a few tricks and devices that will help you keep your smile clean and fresh.
Toothbrush Adaptations and Options
It's difficult to hold a toothbrush correctly if you lack fine motor control in your fingers or hands. Unfortunately, if you don't brush thoroughly or regularly, plaque will begin to build up on your teeth. Plaque buildup increases your risk of tooth decay and can also be a factor in gum disease. The sticky biofilm eventually turns into tartar, a hard deposit that irritates your gums. The transformation from plaque to tartar can occur in as little as 10 days.
Adding a larger or longer handle to your toothbrush may make it easier to hold and control the brush. Adaptive brush options include:
The addition of an adaptive device offers demonstrated plaque-reduction benefits. According to a research study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, elderly denture wearers who used adaptive toothbrush handles experienced a 13 percent reduction in plaque.
Battery-operated power toothbrushes are a good choice if brushing with a manual brush is too difficult. If you plan to buy a power toothbrush, compare the weights of various models and the location of the on/off button. If the brush is too heavy or difficult to turn on, you may soon stop using the device.
Maneuvering string or tape floss between the teeth isn't easy when an intellectual disability or physical condition affects your ability to use your hands. Although it may be tempting to skip flossing sessions, regular flossing removes plaque from between teeth and can reduce your cavity and gum disease risk. Floss holders, interdental brushes or power flossers may simplify the task.
Helping Another Person with Oral Hygiene
These tips may be helpful if you help a child or other family member with oral hygiene:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dental Care Every Day
Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research: Toothbrush Handles Individually Adapted for Use by Elderly Patients to Reduce Biofilm on Complete Dentures: A Pilot Study, 5/15
Special Olympics: A Caregivers Guide to Good Oral Health for Persons with Special Needs, 2008
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