Poor oral hygiene and dental disease may be more prevalent in patients with disabilities due to the effects of their condition and extra considerations regarding medication. To help patients with special needs maintain good oral health, a dental professional or intra-oral dental assistant must put together a daily preventive program thata��s effective, simple to use, and low in cost.
Some patients can have a difficult time reaching their mouth with a toothbrush, which can have serious health implications. Poor physical coordination, teeth with developmental defects or oral habits such as pouching of food are all factors that can contribute to a poor oral hygiene. By educating the patient as well as his or her caretaker, the dental professional can develop a system that allows the patient to maintain optimal oral health.
Before any prevention program can be developed, a dental professional with dental assisting training must determine the patienta��s needs based on their oral condition, history and ability. A dental exam is essential to determine if treatment is necessary. Once treatment is completed, disease prevention and control is the key.
An ideal prevention program, which may involve a parent or caregiver, should include education, plaque biofilm control, fluorides and diet counseling. Sealants should be considered for cavity control. Of course, regular dental visits should be part of the plan to evaluate effectiveness of the program and make adjustments when necessary.
Assessment and skill evaluation can help determine if a patient can do what is required of them. Can the patient brush and floss on their own or are they partially or totally dependent on a caregiver? Is it possible to establish a system that allows the patient to be fully independent?
Range of motion
By judging a patienta��s ability to extend his or her arms and reach their mouth, a dental professional can determine the needed length of the oral healthcare device. A regular toothbrush may suffice, or an extended handle made from a plastic ruler and electric tape might be needed. If the patient is unable to reach certain areas of the mouth by bending their wrists, a compact head toothbrush can provide a better intraoral fit. An angle can be bent into the toothbrush handle by holding the handle under very hot water until it becomes pliable.
Lastly, some electric devices can offer an advantage to patients with decreased dexterity. If the patient is able to properly access the oral cavity, then the brush head or flossing device can do the majority of the work for them.
For a patient with special needs, there are many factors that can contribute to poor oral health, which is why ita��s essential for a dental professional with dental hygienist training to be able to develop a total daily prevention program based on need and ability. Though some devices to aid in overcoming obstacles to oral hygiene are available commercially, using imaginative techniques can also provide an effective alternative to help a patient achieve optimum oral health.