Dental care benefits

The Health Insurance Fund pays benefits for dental care and dentures.

  • Dental care is free of charge for persons under the age of 19. Free dental care is provided only by dentists who have concluded the contract for financing medical treatment with the Health Insurance Fund. Read more about dental care and orthodontics  from the website of the Health Insurance Fund.
  • As of July 1, 2017,  the Health Insurance Fund will reimburse dental care to adults with health insurance up to 30 euro per year.  The benefit can be used only at the dentists who have concluded the contract for financing medical treatment with the Health Insurance. The benefit applies to essential dental care services. The benefit will be taken into account at the time of payment to the dentist.
  • As of July 1, 2017, the dental care benefit increases up to 85 euros per year:

–          For pregnant women and mothers of children under one year of age

–          For old age pensioners

–          For persons receiving pension for incapacity for work

–          For persons with partial or no work ability

–          For persons over 63 years of age

–          For persons with increased need for dental care

The benefit will be taken into account at the time of payment to the dentist.

  • Once every three years, the Health Insurance Fund compensates old-age and disability pensioners, health insured persons over the age of 63 and persons with partial or no ability to work for dentures in the amount of 260 euros. NB! The procedure for payment of Denture benefit will not change before 2018. Denture benefit is paid up to 260 euros over a three-year period. From January 1, 2018, the form of the benefit will change. Then you will no longer have to file an application for a Denture benefit, but the benefit will be taken into account at the time of payment to the dentist.

Both health insured and uninsured adults have no right to receive free dental care, only emergency care that is provided for them in situations where the postponement of care or failure to provide care may cause the death or permanent damage to the health of the person requiring care. Whether the services provided can be regarded as emergency care is decided by the dentist.

Top 10 reasons why people need good dental care

Not everyone goes to the dentist like they should, and many children and families haven’t seen a dentist in years, which can lead to significant health issues.

According to the National Academies, millions of Americans are not receiving needed dental care services because of “persistent and systemic” barriers that limit their access to oral health care.

The report says that economic, structural, geographic and cultural factors contribute to this problem. For example, approximately 33.3 million people live in areas with shortages of dental health professionals. In 2008, 4.6 million children did not obtain needed dental care because their families could not afford it. And in 2006, only 38 percent of retirees had dental coverage, a benefit not covered by Medicare.

Lack of regular oral health care has serious consequences, the report says, including increased risk of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as inappropriate use of hospital emergency departments for preventable dental diseases. The report offers a vision of oral health care in which prevention of oral diseases and promotion of oral health are a priority and a facet of overall health.

If you are selling dental plans as part of your product portfolio, or are considering offering it to your employees, it helps to know why people need good dental care.

Here are the Top Ten Reasons for Getting Your Smile in Good Shape:

1. To Prevent Oral Cancer–According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, someone dies from oral cancer, every hour of every day in the United States alone. When you have your dental cleaning, your dentist is also screening you for oral cancer, which is highly curable if diagnosed early.

2. To Prevent Gum Disease—Gum disease is an infection in the gum tissues and bone that keep your teeth in place and is one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss. If diagnosed early, it can be treated and reversed. If treatment is not received, a more serious and advanced stage of gum disease may follow. Regular dental cleanings and check ups, flossing daily and brushing twice a day are key factors in preventing gum disease.

3. To Maintain Overall Good Physical Health—Recent studies have linked heart attacks and strokes to gum disease, resulting from poor oral hygiene. A dental cleaning every six months helps to keep your teeth and gums healthy and could possibly reduce your risk of heart disease and strokes.

4. To Keep your Teeth—Since gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults, regular dental check-ups and cleanings, brushing and flossing are vital to keeping as many teeth as you can. Keeping your teeth means better chewing function and ultimately, better health.

5. To Detect Dental Problems Early—Your dentist and hygienist will be able to detect any early signs of problems with your teeth or gums. Early detection of cavities, broken fillings and gum disease are easily treatable. If these problems go untreated, root canals, gum surgery and removal of teeth could become the only treatment options available.

6. To Maintain Good Oral Health—Your dental hygienist will help to ensure that you are maintaining your good oral health by visual examination and comparing your previous dental check-ups. If you are falling off track with your oral hygiene, your hygienist will help put you back on the right path.

7. To Use Your Dental Plan—Dental insurance plans usually pay for all or most of the cost of dental cleanings and check-ups every six months. Take advantage of this and save a lot of money in the long run by avoiding costly dental procedures that can result from poor oral hygiene. If you can’t afford insurance, get a discount dental plan for a few dollars a month, and you will pay a vastly reduced cost for the procedures. Even if the cleaning isn’t free, it’s cheap with a discount plan. It is more expensive later on if you don’t take care of these preventive items up front.

8. To Create a Plan for Treatment—If your dentist diagnoses any problems in your mouth, he will most likely give you a treatment plan. This treatment plan should have the cost of each procedure that you will need, so that you can discuss financial arrangements with the front office.

9. To Have a White, Bright Smile—Your dental hygienist can remove most tobacco, coffee and tea stains. During your cleaning, your hygienist will also polish your teeth to a beautiful shine. The result? A whiter and brighter smile!

10. To Prevent Bad Breath—Dental studies show that about 85 percent of people with persistent bad breath, also known as halitosis, have a dental problem that is to blame. Good oral hygiene is essential in preventing bad breath. Regular check-ups and cleanings are the best way to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene.

Having a great smile may open more doors for you, but it also helps keep you healthy once you get inside. Preventive dental work is essential for your health, and your teeth and gums will thank you for it over and over. Make the most of your smile. It’s the only one you have.

Taking Care Of Your Teeth And Mouth

No matter what your age, you need to take care of your teeth and mouth. When your mouth is healthy, you can easily eat the foods you need for good nutrition. Smiling, talking and laughing with others also are easier when your mouth is healthy.

Tooth Decay (Cavities)

Teeth are meant to last a lifetime. By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can protect them for years to come. Tooth decay is not just a problem for children. It can happen as long as you have natural teeth in your mouth.

Tooth decay ruins the enamel that covers and protects your teeth. When you don’t take good care of your mouth, bacteria can cling to your teeth and form a sticky, colorless film called dental plaque. This plaque can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Gum disease can also cause your teeth to decay.

Fluoride is just as helpful for adults as it is for children. Using a fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse can help protect your teeth. If you have a problem with cavities, your dentist or dental hygienist may give you a fluoride treatment during the office visit. The dentist also may prescribe a fluoride gel or mouth rinse for you to use at home.

Gum Diseases

Gum diseases (sometimes called periodontal or gingival diseases) are infections that harm the gum and bone that hold teeth in place. When plaque stays on your teeth too long, it forms a hard, harmful covering, called tartar, that brushing doesn’t clean. The longer the plaque and tartar stay on your teeth, the more damage they cause. Your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. This is called gingivitis.

If gingivitis is not treated, over time it can make your gums pull away from your teeth and form pockets that can get infected. This is called periodontitis. If not treated, this infection can ruin the bones, gums and tissue that support your teeth. In time, it can cause loose teeth that your dentist may have to remove.

Here’s how you can prevent gum disease:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste)
  • Floss once a day
  • Make regular visits to your dentist for a checkup and cleaning
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Don’t use tobacco products
  • Cleaning Your Teeth and Gums

Knowing how to brush and floss the right way is a big part of good oral health. Here’s how: every day gently brush your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. Small round motions and short back-and-forth strokes work best. Take the time to brush carefully and gently along the gum line. Lightly brushing your tongue also helps.

Along with brushing, clean around your teeth with dental floss to keep your gums healthy.
Careful flossing will remove plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can’t reach. Rinse after you floss.

How to Floss
teetha1 teetha2 teetha3
Hold floss as shown. Use floss between upper teeth. Use floss between lower teeth.

If brushing or flossing causes your gums to bleed or hurt your mouth, see your dentist. Your dentist also may prescribe a bacteria-fighting mouth rinse to help control plaque and swollen gums. Use the mouth rinse in addition to careful daily brushing and flossing. Some people with arthritis or other conditions that limit motion may find it hard to hold a toothbrush. It may help to attach the toothbrush handle to your hand with a wide elastic band. Some people make the handle bigger by taping it to a sponge or Styrofoam ball. People with limited shoulder movement may find brushing easier if they attach a long piece of wood or plastic to the handle. Electric toothbrushes can be helpful.

Dentures 
Dentures (sometimes called false teeth) may feel strange at first. When you are learning to eat with them, it may be easier if you:

  • Start with soft non-sticky food
  • Cut your food into small pieces
  • Chew slowly using both sides of your mouth

Dentures may make your mouth less sensitive to hot foods and liquids. They also may make it harder for you to notice harmful objects such as bones, so be careful. During the first few weeks you have dentures, your dentist may want to see you often to make sure they fit. Over time, your mouth changes and your dentures may need to be replaced or adjusted. Be sure to let your dentist handle these adjustments.

Keep your dentures clean and free from food that can cause stains, bad breath, or swollen gums. Once a day, brush all surfaces with a denture care product. When you go to sleep, take your dentures out of your mouth and put them in water or a denture cleansing liquid.

Take care of partial dentures the same way. Because bacteria can collect under the clasps (clips) that hold partial dentures, be sure to carefully clean that area.

Dental care – adult

Tooth decay and gum disease are caused by plaque, a sticky combination of bacteria and food. Plaque begins to build up on teeth within 20 minutes after eating. If teeth are not cleaned well each day, plaque will lead to tooth decay. If you do not remove plaque, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become:

  • Infected
  • Swollen
  • Tender

By taking good care of your teeth and gums, you can help prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease (periodontitis). You should also teach your children how to brush and floss from an early age to help them protect their teeth.

Plaque and tartar lead to a number of problems:

  • Cavities, which are holes that damage the structure of teeth
  • Gingivitis, which are swollen, inflamed, and bleeding gums
  • Periodontitis, is the destruction of the ligaments and bone that support the teeth, often leading to tooth loss
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Abscesses, pain, inability to use teeth
  • Other health problems outside the mouth, from preterm labor to heart disease

Information

HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH

Healthy teeth are clean and have no cavities. Healthy gums are pink and firm. To maintain healthy teeth and gums, follow these steps:

  • Floss at least once per day. It is best to floss before brushing. Flossing removes plaque from between the teeth and on the gums.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brush 2 minutes each time.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. The fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or sooner if needed. A worn-out toothbrush will not clean your teeth as well.
  • Eat a healthy diet. You are less likely to get gum disease if you eat healthy foods.
  • Avoid sweets and sweetened drinks. Eating and drinking a lot of sweets increases your risk of cavities. If you do eat or drink sweets, brush your teeth soon after.
  • DO NOT smoke. Smokers have more teeth and gum problems than non-smokers.
  • Keep dentures, retainers, and other appliances clean. This includes brushing them regularly. You may also need to soak them in a cleansing solution.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your dentist. Many dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months.

Regular teeth cleaning by a dentist removes plaque that may develop, even with careful brushing and flossing. This is very important for getting at areas that are hard to reach on your own. Professional cleaning includes scaling and polishing. This procedure uses instruments to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth. Routine exams may include dental x-rays. Your dentist can catch problems early, so they do not become more serious and expensive to fix.

Ask your dentist:

  • What kind of toothbrush you should use, and how to brush your teeth well. Ask if an electric tooth brush is right for you. Electric tooth brushes have been shown to clean teeth better than manual toothbrushes.
  • How to properly floss your teeth. Overly vigorous or improper flossing may injure the gums.
  • Whether you should use any special appliances or tools, such as water irrigation. This may sometimes help supplement (but not replace) brushing and flossing.
  • Whether you could benefit from particular toothpastes or mouth rinses. In some cases, over-the-counter pastes and rinses may be doing you more harm than good, depending on your condition.

WHEN TO CALL THE DENTIST

Call your dentist if you have symptoms of a cavity that include:

  • Pain in the tooth that occurs for no reason or is caused by food, beverages, brushing or flossing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks

Get early treatment for gum disease. Call your dentist if you have symptoms of gum disease that include:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding in the gums when you brush your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth

Dental Care For Preteens

Congratulations, you’re almost a teenager! That means you’re on the road to taking care of your own smile. Cavities aren’t just for little kids—you can get them at any age. When you consume sugary foods, soda, juice and energy drinks, you put yourself at risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Be smart. Always brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss once a day.

The bottom line for smiles that are healthy on the inside and out:

  • Always brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes.
  • Floss between your teeth daily.
  • Avoid sugary and starchy snacks such as soda, potato chips, and candy.
  • Wear a mouthguard when you’re playing sports or other recreational activities.
  • Stay away from tobacco. Cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco all increase your risk for tobacco-related health problems. They also give you bad breath!
  • Don’t pierce your lips or any part of your mouth since you could crack a tooth or worse if part of the jewelry breaks off in your mouth.
  • See your dentist. Regular dental visits will help set you up to be Mouth Healthy for Life.

5 Dental Care Tips to Improve Your Teeth

Taking care of your teeth is important to your health, and not just your oral health but your overall general health as well. Keep your teeth strong, your smile bright, and stay healthy with these dental care tips!

1) Brush and Floss Twice a Day

While you should brush at least once a day, twice a day is best! The best time to brush is after you eat a meal, and you should also floss at the same time. You need to brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, making sure to cover all of your teeth.

2) Drink Lots of Water

Water is not only important for your overall health, but it encourages saliva production which is important for healthy teeth. Water is also much healthier and better for your teeth than sugary drinks and sodas. Over time, bacteria on your teeth use sugar to create plaque, which if not dealt with will cause teeth decay!

3) Avoid Sugary Foods

You should not only pay attention to sugar in drinks, but also in the foods you eat. Try to avoid eating a lot of sugary foods and candy. If you do eat a lot of sugar, make sure you brush your teeth well after eating. Sugar greatly increases the amount of plaque on your teeth, and if you have a sweet tooth it’s important to be even more conscious about how well you brush your teeth.

4) Get Regular Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is important to having strong teeth and dense bones. You can get a regular source of calcium from dairy products and nuts. To absorb calcium your body needs Vitamin D, so make sure you are going outside and getting a good amount of sunlight every day.

5) See A Dentist Every 6 Months!

Most importantly, make sure you are visiting a Cary dentist regularly! Dentists can thoroughly clean your teeth, and check for cavities, plaque and any other dental issues that need to be addressed.

Get Healthy Teeth For Life

Our guide to a beautiful—problem-free—smile

For decades, Conni Sota left every dental checkup with a clean bill of health. But then came a string of troubles: first the “twinges” with cold drinks, then thinning gums. Inconsistent flossing got some of the blame, admits Sota, 51, who works in a Philadelphia-area law office. But the bigger culprit was age: “Teeth and gums are vulnerable to wear, and it’s during your 50s and 60s that problems often start to show up,” says Robert Palmer, MD, head of geriatrics at the Cleveland Clinic.

The good news: A few changes to your dental routine can help. Here, a few dental care tips for healthy teeth and the warning signs to watch for—and fixes that will keep your smile healthy.

[sidebar]Warning Sign: Twinges

Fluoridated water was less widespread when Sota was growing up, and there were no fluoride rinses. Without that protection, “most of us in this age group have fillings, and that’s where we often see cracks in patients over 50,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS, a consumer advisor for the American Dental Association. “When a tooth is repaired, it’s never as strong as the original.” But with age, even unfilled teeth become vulnerable to cracks. And those are prime breeding grounds for bacteria.

Another dental care tip, beware a common entry point: the gum line, where tissue recedes with age. “Decay here can become serious quickly because it’s close to the tooth’s nerve,” says Harms. “If you don’t prevent or catch it early, you could need a root canal.”

Fix it: Call your dentist if you feel even a slight twinge. It may take an x-ray to pinpoint the crack, which can be smoothed or filled. Larger breaks often require a full crown or cap.

Prevent it: Your best defenses: brushing, flossing, and using a fluoride rinse. (In one study, twice-daily rinsers had nearly one-third the risk of root cavities as did people who used fluoride toothpaste and a placebo rinse.) But avoid rinses with alcohol, says Margaret Lappan Green, RDH, past president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association; they can irritate older gums.

More from Prevention: Are You Obsessed With Whiter Teeth?[pagebreak]

Warning Sign: Sensitive Teeth and Painful Gums

For people with sensitive teeth, often the reason is that periodontal disease has eroded their gums. This bacterial disease starts without symptoms, and many people don’t know they have it until extensive damage has occurred. More than half of adults over age 55 have at least a mild case.

As bacteria build up at the base of your teeth, you may just notice a little bleeding when you brush. But as the microbes multiply, they loosen gum tissue, eating into underlying ligaments and bone that hold teeth in place. Bacteria may also get into your bloodstream, increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.

Fix it: Halt early gum disease and get healthy teeth with professional deep cleaning, daily antibacterial rinses (like Crest Pro-Health or stronger prescription varieties), and more-frequent dental care visits (typically once every 3 months). If you have sensitive teeth, ask your dentist about topical fluoride or other prescription desensitizing agents. Over-the-counter fluoride rinses or toothpastes such as Sensodyne can also help. And go easy on bleaching, which can temporarily increase sensitivity. (Always check with your dentist before beginning to bleach.)

Prevent it: “Get religious about flossing,” says Harms. Choose a toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles. Or try a rotation oscillation electric brush (check the label); research shows that these reduce plaque and gum inflammation better than manual types.[pagebreak]

Warning Sign: Dryness

Saliva is a magical healthy teeth elixir: It’s antibacterial, acid neutralizing, and full of minerals that strengthen enamel. But 25% of women in their 50s don’t produce enough, so they suffer bad breath and other problems as a result.

Fix it: If your tongue or lips are often dry, tell your doctor. More than 400 medicines are linked to dry mouth, including antidepressants and blood pressure and bladder medicines. A Tufts University study showed that patients taking at least one dryness-causing medication developed three times as many cavities as those not on a drug. Your doctor may be able to switch your prescription—and check for other causes of dry mouth, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or sleep apnea. (Think you could have sleep apneaHere’s how to tell.)

Prevent it: For minor dryness or bad breath, Palmer suggests sugarless hard candy or gum sweetened with xylitol. Daily tongue cleaning also helps. Brush on top, underneath, and as far back as you can reach. A tongue-scraping device, like the BreathRx Gentle Tongue Scraper or the one built into the Colgate 360 toothbrush, can make the job easier.

The Top 15 Dental Care Tips

Oral hygiene is very important. Poor oral hygiene can lead to a number of problems — painful, expensive and embarrassing problems. An individual must try to keep their teeth and gums healthy to avoid painful and costly dental work. Below are the top 15 dental care tips.

Brushing

Brushing may seem like the most obvious way to have good oral hygiene because it is the most important thing one can do to keep one’s teeth and gums healthy. Brushing gets rid of plaque, which if left in the mouth can lead to dental problems. Brushing should be done at least twice a day, and it is even better if it’s done after each meal. Brushing should be done for a full two minutes, paying attention to each tooth. One needs to be careful to not use too much pressure.

Pick the Right Toothbrush

There are many different kinds of toothbrushes, and it is essential that each person chooses one to suit his or her needs. People with braces should get a toothbrush designed for orthodontic care that can clean teeth with braces more effectively. Those with limited dexterity or arthritis may find an electric toothbrush easier to use or one with large handle. For children there are toothbrushes with a timed light to help them brush for the full two minutes that dental professionals recommend. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months for best results.

Floss Every Day

Flossing should be done every day to remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth. Unfortunately many people forget or skip flossing because they don’t realize its importance.

Avoid Sugary Foods and Beverages

Foods and beverages with a high sugar or starch content make the most acids in the mouth, so anyone wishing to eat a diet that is optimal for healthy teeth should keep sugary and starchy foods to a minimum. Hard candies, lollipops and sugary gum should be avoided since they linger in the mouth, bathing the teeth in sugar. The length of time that teeth are exposed to sugars is important because continuous exposure is worse. Sucking on candy and sipping sugary drinks throughout the day is harmful. Fruits and fruit juices, although natural and healthy, are high in sugar and should be watched.

Have Regular Dental Cleanings and Check-ups

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Tooth decay may not start with any obvious pain or symptoms. A dentist can discover problems early, before painful symptoms appear and before more expensive, involved dental work is required. Dental problems, when they occur, can get worse if they are left alone.

Start Thinking About Oral Hygiene Early

Parents should start thinking about the oral health of their children in infanthood. A baby shouldn’t be put to bed with a bottle that contains milk, formula, juice or any sugary liquids. An infant’s gums can be cleaned, even before teeth are showing, by wiping them with a moist cloth.

Sealants

Dental sealants can be useful for giving teeth some protection against decay. Sealants are a thin, protective coating painted onto the top chewing surfaces of teeth, and they are usually applied to the back teeth. Children and teenagers are usually candidates for sealants; however some adults without any decay or fillings in their molars may get sealants.

Selecting a Dentist

Selecting a dentist can be a big decision. When selecting which dentist to visit, one should ask friends and family for recommendations, along with some other considerations. The dental practice should be in a convenient location with suitable hours of operation. Other important factors are whether or not a provider is covered on the patient’s insurance plan the helpfulness of the staff.

Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking water has several benefits. It is thirst quencher that doesn’t have any sugar to harm teeth. It also helps to rinse away particles from the mouth, decreasing the bacteria that could lead to plaque and decay. It is also a good habit to rinse the mouth out with water after eating.

Need for Calcium

Calcium is essential to strong teeth. A diet of foods that are rich in calcium is important. Cheese, yogurt and soybeans all contain plenty of calcium. Vitamin D is also necessary; since it helps the body absorb calcium.

Help Sensitive Teeth

People with sensitive teeth should use a very soft bristle brush and use toothpaste made especially for sensitive teeth. Heat, cold, acidic foods or sweet foods may trigger sensitivity. If something causes a reaction, then it should be avoided.

Treat Dry Mouth

Saliva is important to keeping the mouth healthy. Without enough saliva the mouth becomes dry and oral health problems can develop. Many common medications can cause dry mouth. Dryness can also occur from breathing through the mouth during sleep, which can occur with asthma, sinus problems or other health conditions. If someone is experiencing dry mouth, he or she should consult a doctor to find the best solution.

Quit Smoking

Most experts advise smokers to give up this habit because it can lead to many health problems, including oral health issues. For some people, smoking is not an easy habit to stop. Smokers may consider using toothpaste designed for smokers. They are specially formulated to combat bacteria and stains, which increase in the mouth from smoking.

Consult a Doctor about Acid Reflux Symptoms

Acid reflux or GERD can lead to tooth enamel getting eroded by acid. People experiencing symptoms of acid reflux should consult with their doctor to control the symptoms to prevent further problems.

Protect Teeth

Teeth can be delicate and should be protected from damage. They shouldn’t be used for cracking nuts, ripping things or holding things. People involved in sports or athletic activities that could potentially lead to injury should use a mouth guard to protect teeth. Mouth piercings also put teeth in danger of being chipped or cracked

Most people want to put their best food forward, and one of the most noticeable traits is a person’s smile and their teeth. It’s good to start with good oral hygiene to prevent dental issues and to help teeth last a lifetime.

Three Steps to a Healthy Mouth

Like everyone else, people with developmental disabilities can have a healthy mouth if these three steps are followed:

  1. Brush every day.
  2. Floss every day.
  3. Visit a dentist regularly.

Step 1. Brush Every Day

Illustration of brushing teeth at an angle.
Angle the brush at the gumline and brush gently.

If the person you care for is unable to brush, these suggestions might be helpful.

  • First, wash your hands and put on disposable gloves. Sit or stand where you can see all of the surfaces of the teeth.
  • Be sure to use a regular or power toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Use a pea-size amount of toothpaste with fluoride, or none at all. Toothpaste bothers people who have swallowing problems. If this is the case for the person you care for, brush with water instead.
  • Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth. Gently brush back and forth in short strokes.
  • Gently brush the tongue after you brush the teeth.
  • Help the person rinse with plain water. Give people who can’t rinse a drink of water or consider sweeping the mouth with a finger wrapped in gauze.

Get a new toothbrush with soft bristles every 3 months, after a contagious illness, or when the bristles are worn.

If the person you care for can brush but needs some help, the following ideas might work for you. You may think of other creative ways to solve brushing problems based on your client’s special needs.

Make the toothbrush easier to hold.

Illustration of a Velcro® strap holding a toothbrush.
The same kind of Velcro® strap used to hold food utensils is helpful for some people.
Illustration of a toothbrush attached to hand by elastic or rubber band.
Others attach the brush to the hand with a wide elastic or rubber band. Make sure the band isn’t too tight.

Make the toothbrush handle bigger.

Illustration of a tennis ball on the handle of a toothbrush.
You can also cut a small slit in the side of a tennis ball and slide it onto the handle of the toothbrush.
Illustration pf a toothbrush with a bicycle grip as the handle.
You can buy a toothbrush with a large handle, or you can slide a bicycle grip onto the handle. Attaching foam tubing, available from home health care catalogs, is also helpful.

 

Try other toothbrush options.
Illustration of a power toothbrush
A power toothbrush might make brushing easier. Take the time to help your client get used to one.

Guide the Toothbrush.

Help brush by placing your hand very gently over your client’s hand and guiding the toothbrush. If that doesn’t work, you may need to brush the teeth yourself.

 

Step 2. Floss Every Day

Flossing cleans between the teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Many people with disabilities need a caregiver to help them floss. Flossing is a tough job that takes a lot of practice. Waxed, unwaxed, flavored, or plain floss all do the same thing. The person you care for might like one more than another, or a certain type might be easier to use.

Illustration: Floss wrapped around middle finger of each hand

  • Use a string of floss 18 inches long. Wrap that piece around the middle finger of each hand.

Illustration of floss between the thumb and index finger of both hands.

  • Grip the floss between the thumb and index finger of each hand.
  • Start with the lower front teeth, then floss the upper front teeth. Next, work your way around to all the other teeth.

Illustration of a person flossing their teeth gently.

  • Work the floss gently between the teeth until it reaches the gumline. Curve the floss around each tooth and slip it under the gum. Slide the floss up and down. Do this for both sides of every tooth, one side at a time.
  • Adjust the floss a little as you move from tooth to tooth so the floss is clean for each one.

Try a floss holder.
Illustration of a floss holder.
If you have trouble flossing, try using a floss holder instead of holding the floss with your fingers.

 

The dentist may prescribe a special rinse for your client. Fluoride rinses can help prevent cavities. Chlorhexidine rinses fight germs that cause gum disease. Follow the dentist’s instructions and tell your client not to swallow any of the rinse. Ask the dentist for creative ways to use rinses for a client with swallowing problems.

 

Positioning Your Body: Where To Sit or Stand

Keeping people safe when you clean their mouth is important. Experts in providing dental care for people with developmental disabilities recommend the following positions for caregivers. If you work in a group home or related facility, get permission from your supervisor before trying any of these positions.

Illustration of a caregiver sitting behind a person in a wheelchair brushing the person's teeth.
If the person you’re helping is in a wheelchair, sit behind it. Lock the wheels, then tilt the chair into your lap.
Illustration of a caregiver standing behind a person in a wheelchair brushing the person's teeth.
Stand behind the person or lean against a wall for additional support. Use your arm to hold the person’s head gently against your body.

 

Step 3. Visit a Dentist Regularly

Your client should have regular dental appointments. Professional cleanings are just as important as brushing and flossing every day. Regular examinations can identify problems before they cause unnecessary pain.

As is the case with dental care at home, it may take time for the person you care for to become comfortable at the dental office. A “get acquainted” visit with no treatment provided might help: The person can meet the dental team, sit in the dental chair if he or she wishes, and receive instructions on how to brush and floss. Such a visit can go a long way toward making dental appointments easier.

Prepare for Every Dental Visit: Your Role

Be prepared for every appointment. You’re an important source of information for the dentist. If you have questions about what the dentist will need to know, call the office before the appointment.

  • Know the person’s dental history. Keep a record of what happens at each visit. Talk to the dentist about what occurred at the last appointment. Remind the dental team of what worked and what didn’t.
  • Bring a complete medical history. The dentist needs each patient’s medical history before treatment can begin. Bring a list of all the medications the person you care for is taking and all known allergies.
  • Bring all insurance, billing, and legal information. Know who is responsible for payment. The dentist may need permission, or legal consent, before treatment can begin. Know who can legally give consent.
  • Be on time.

Remember…

Brushing and flossing every day and seeing the dentist regularly can make a big difference in the quality of life of the person you care for. If you have questions or need more information, talk to a dentist.

Healthy Teeth for Life: 10 Tips for Families

You have so many good reasons to keep your family’s teeth and gums healthy. Their sparkling smiles. Being able to chew for good nutrition. Avoiding toothaches and discomfort. And new research suggests that gum disease can lead to other problems in the body, including increased risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to keep teeth strong and healthy from childhood to old age. Here’s how:

1. Start children early. Despite great strides in decay prevention, one in four young children develops signs of tooth decay before they start school. Half of all children between the ages of 12 and 15 have cavities. “Dental care should begin as soon as a child’s first tooth appears, usually around six months,” Caryn Solie, RDH, president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, tells WebMD. “Teeth can be wiped with a clean, damp cloth or a very soft brush. At about age 2, you can let kids try brushing for themselves — although it’s important to supervise.”

2. Seal off trouble. Permanent molars come in around age 6. Thin protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth can prevent decay in the pits and fissures. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sealants can significantly reduce caries. Yet only one in three U.S. kids receives dental sealants. Talk to your dental professional.

3. Use enough — but not too much — fluoride. The single biggest advance in oral health has been fluoride, which strengthens enamel, making it less likely to decay. Three out of four Americans drink water that is fluoridated. If your water isn’t fluoridated, talk to your dental professional, who may suggest putting a fluoride application on your teeth. Many toothpastes and mouth rinses also contain fluoride. Fluoride should be used sparingly in young children — no more than a pea-sized dab on the toothbrush. Too much can cause white spots on teeth.

4. Brush twice a day and floss daily. Gum disease and tooth decay remain big problems — and not just for older people. Three-fourths of teenagers have gums that bleed, according to the ADHA. Along with the basic advice, remember:

  • Toothbrushes should be changed 3 to 4 times a year.
  • Teenagers with braces may need to use special toothbrushes and other oral hygiene tools to brush their teeth. Talk to your dentist or orthodontist.
  • Older people with arthritis or other problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. Some people find it easier to use an electric toothbrush. Others simply put a bicycle grip or foam tube over the handle of a regular toothbrush to make it easier to hold.

5. Rinse or chew gum after meals. In addition to brushing and flossing, rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial rinse can help prevent decay and gum problems. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal can also protect by increasing saliva flow, which naturally washes bacteria away and neutralizes acid.

6. Block blows to teeth. Sports and recreational activities build healthy bodies, but they can pose a threat to teeth. Most school teams now require children to wear mouth guards. But remember: unsupervised recreational activities like skate-boarding and roller-blading can also result in injuries. Your dentist can make a custom-fitted mouth guard. Another option: buy a mouth guard at a sporting goods store that can be softened using hot water to form fit your mouth.

7. Don’t smoke or use smokeless tobaccoTobacco stains teeth and significantly increases the risk of gum disease and oral cancer. If you smoke or use chewing tobacco, consider quitting. Counsel your kids not to start.

8. Eat smart. At every age, a healthy diet is essential to healthy teeth and gums. A well-balanced diet of whole foods — including grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products — will provide all the nutrients you need. Some researchers believe that omega-3 fats, the kind found in fish, may also reduce inflammation, thereby lowering risk of gum disease, says Anthony M. Iacopino, DMD, PhD, dean of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Dentistry.