Dental Care Techniques for the Health of Those in Your Care

July 21, 2021

Q&A with Dr. Rosa Mathai, DMD, host of dental health webinar on July 27, 2021 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time

As caregivers, we may not realize the link between the oral and overall health of those in our care. In fact, unless there’s an obvious problem, we may never consider their oral health or think to look inside their mouth.

Geriatric and special needs dentistry expert Dr. Rosa Mathai, DMD, will discuss this critical yet often overlooked aspect of caregiving, in her Oral Health Techniques for Caregivers webinar on July 27, 2021 at 11 a.m. (Pacific Time).

Here, we sit down with the doctor to learn why this topic is so important and what she’ll cover in her upcoming webinar.

Why is it important to learn oral health care techniques?

In my practice, I hear ‘I didn’t feel anything wrong’ all the time. Teeth don’t always provide accurate feedback. Sometimes they do, but if you are taking care of someone who is not verbal, you might not know there is something broken, swollen, or infected.

Infections in the mouth can turn into a medical emergency before you realize it’s a problem, and some people are genetically predisposed to have more cavities. Even a few years of inattention can lead to a life-threatening dental emergency.

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Can you share an overview of what you’ll cover in the webinar?

I talk about core concepts of good dental health. I offer tips and techniques to safely examine and clean a mouth (especially if the person you care for isn’t cooperative), how to recognize signs of infection, and how to take care of appliances and dentures common in in the senior population.

My goal is to put myself in the shoes of a caregiver with no knowledge of caring for another person’s teeth. I share how to recognize when you’re doing a good job, when you might need intervention, and how to get professional help, no matter where you are.

You describe learning to care for someone else’s mouth as if it’s your own. What do you mean?

Most people have a sense of how to take care of their own teeth, but looking into another person’s mouth is unfamiliar. You don’t even look at your own teeth that closely.

I help people recognize what to look out for, what’s normal or abnormal, techniques for brushing, flossing, dental care aids that help when people aren’t cooperative, and reasonable goals depending on stage of life.

Can you talk more about the dangers of neglecting oral health?

The mouth is a portal of entry to the whole body, so oral and overall health are closely connected. If you’re fragile, sick, or elderly and frail, you’re more vulnerable to that bacteria seeding and taking hold in other areas of the body.

I’ve seen patients admitted for lung abscess that originate from infectious bacteria typically associated with gum disease, cavities, and dental abscesses. Or, we see the same bacteria in plaques in the mouth found in hardened arteries.

We need to do our best to maintain overall oral health and control infection to avoid serious health problems or even hospitalization. It can seem overwhelming at first, but what matters is addressing problems when they are small, and daily preventative dental care.

We’ve been sheltering in place for over a year, should we worry about the state of oral health for the people we care for (and ourselves)?

Assuming you’ve been to the dentist prior to shelter-in-place and you didn’t just give up at home, you’ll be okay!

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Sign up for Oral Health Techniques for Caregivers on July 27, 2021 at 11 a.m. (Pacific Time)

See all of FCA’s events and classes on our site.

For more information about oral health and caregiving, review our factsheet “Dental Care (for dementia)” and see our video about dental health.