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Mom gradually has stopped taking care of her own personal hygiene and now I see she is not brushing her teeth. Except for a two-tooth bridge, she still has all her own teeth and I'd hate for her to lose them at this stage. She's 95. So I need help with the logistics of brushing so it's comfortable for her and makes as little mess as possible. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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95 and all but two natural teeth! I'm jealous, at half that age I only have one natural tooth! My mom has most of her lower teeth. She is missing both molars on one side. Here is how I help my mom with her dental hygiene. She sits in her transfer chair at the table for dinner. As soon as the meal is finished I gather the items I need. I sit in a chair in front of her at eye level. I ask if she is ready to clean her teeth, usually she says yes. If she says no I wait a few minutes and then ask again. Only a problem if she is ill or super tired. To remove her upper denture I put on gloves and ask her if I can touch her face while I put my pinkie finger on the side of her mouth on the side where the molars are missing. The tip of my finger is pointing to the center of her face. Everything is super slow and non threatening. I ask if she will open her mouth, if she does it is usually only a little and then she immediately closes it so I gently move my pinkie up and slightly down and continue to ask her to open her mouth. I'm able to get the tip of my finger between her lips and usually she will gradually open up a little. I slowly bring my other hand up toward her mouth and wait till she separates her teeth a little and use the index finger on the second hand to get between her teeth and keep her from clamping down. With the first hand I turn the pinkie around and point it toward her back teeth. I slide it toward where the molars are missing and slip it in that spot. Everything is going slow and gently and I'm looking at her and talking sweetly to her the whole time. Usually between the pinkie at the posterior teeth and the other finger at the anterior teeth I can get her to open and hold her mouth open long enough for me to position the pinkie at the rear of the upper denture. You want your pinkie to be as high on the rear of the denture as possible so that you can use your pinkie to pull down on the denture. If you can get to that spot you can bring the denture down in the rear which will break the suction and I keep the lower jaw down with the second finger while I get the denture out. Patience is the main thing. It's got to be terrifying to feel a part of your body being removed and not understanding! For my mom's natural lower teeth I use "interproximal brushes" instead of flossing and then use a soft brush with the MINIMUM amount of toothpaste possible. My mom REFUSES to spit it out so I use sensitivity toothpaste. A hygienist told me that it is actually good to spit but not rinse after using sensitivity toothpaste because it leaves behind a protective substance on the teeth. Before I figured out this routine it was impossible to get my mom to brush her teeth. Several days would go by between getting the dentures out because just asking her to let me get them or trying to grab them at the front and tip the rear of the denture down to remove them was too much for her. Now she gets her teeth cleaned almost every night after dinner. Getting the denture back in afterwards can be hard too. I let all the water drip off because if it drips on my mom she freaks out. Then I ask her to look at it, and I say how nice they look. I show her the front and sides and hold it up to the light so we can "admire" the denture :) Then I ask if she is ready to get them back and usually she says yes. When I get them in I automatically lift up her upper lip with my finger as I take it away from my mom's mouth. Otherwise she clamps down on them with her upper lip inside instead of outside of the denture. It actually looks freakishly hilarious when she does that but it's just easier to get her lip on the right side of the denture before she clamps down on it.
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to Meatjeanne, here's a link in case you can't find the finger brushes. I have them for my dogs. Just don't use the toothpaste! lol
drsfostersmith/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3307+59+22883&pcatid=22883
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meatjeanne Yes, it was by the kids toothbrushes. If you can't find it, ask at the pharmacy if they have them or will order one for you. It wasn't expensive. I use peroxide to disinfect it after using it and a washcloth to pull it off my finger. I have arthritis in my hand so it's a little hard for me to get off. (your sign on name is funny, wondering how you picked it).
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Starshine...I assume I might find that in the dental area of Walmarts? Like around the toothbrush and paste area? Thats exactly what I was thinking of, but thought maybe I had just dreamed it!! Thanks.
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Hi Everyone, I haven't done this on a person, but have success using it on my pup. I use a soft, flexible brush that slips over your finger. It's made for babies. Easy to use and very gentle.
I got it at Wal-Mart, but pretty sure you can find them anywhere.
It's about an inch long. I put the toothpaste on it and then massage her teeth. I used a soft smaller kids toothbrush on her before I found this slip-on finger brush.
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I found that a very soft toothbrush and a small amount of warm water worked best. I called it his morning dental massage. The first time I said it he looked at me as if I was crazy but after that he came to enjoy it. He'd smile and open his mouth when I showed him the brush. During the seven years I cared for my father-in-law I found being creative and flexible to be the best way to deal with the many challanges and opportunities that arose.
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After my husbands cancer of the esophagus chemo, radiation, and surgery, his already-bad teeth had to be pulled. He never got use to dentures. A year later he was diagnosed with Alzheimers. He has just 4 teeth, bottom front. If I try to make him open his mouth, 'it ain't gonna happen'. Is there anything over the counter to put on the finger tip to brush, rub against the teeth, something that I could use on him?
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I have helped clients in this situation and some are afraid of the vibrating toothbrushes, so be careful on that. If she is okay with you using one, help her guide the toothbrush to the areas that need attention, make sure she spits out as much as possible and give her just a bit of water to rinse with. If you need to use a manual toothbrush, you may need to have her sit on the closed toilet seat and have her let you brush her teeth for her.
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When my dad was bed bound we used a child's tooth brush which is softer and smaller. You can use a little less toothpaste. Also, in hospital supply stores or walmart even, there are little disposable sticks with sponges on the end to gently brush or do dental hygiene.
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When I was in your situation, I'd say, "Let's brush teeth." Mom would usually agree and we'd walk into the bathroom together. Or, a really good time to brush would be right after she had used the toilet and we were in the bathroom already. You may need to put toothpaste on the brush (just a pea-sized squirt) and cue her as to the steps involved, rinsing, etc. It's good for her to retain the memory/ability of doing this herself.

However, she didn't do it very thoroughly, so after she'd rinse, I'd go over her teeth again. I'd also use floss or the little inter-dental brushes which are easier and quicker. You can brush with a dry brush and you don't have to use toothpaste.

Then I'd have her rinse with Listerine or ACT. That helped a lot. This way, we'd only brush once a day (Mom lived in her own house and I wasn't over there 24/7). Don't stress about brushing twice a day. I believe it takes 24 hrs. for plaque to form, so I brush whenever it's handy, no matter what time of day it is.

Mom is 100 and lives in a memory care facility now, but I wheel her to her sink, put the toothbrush in her hand and she goes to town. I have to cue her on each step now, but it's a kind-of nice activity we can do together. Mom is mostly very compliant, but if she fusses, we'll just try again later.

I believe that it's very important to keep her teeth, as the people in Mom's facility have varying amounts of teeth remaining and each handles eating in a different way. It's hard to depend on the caregivers to cut the food small enough, and I don't want her on a mechanical soft diet yet.

Also, we still go to the dentist regularly, every 3 months or so. Get the dental hygienist to show you how to brush her teeth. Stay in there while they clean her teeth and you'll learn a lot. Several hygienists have helped me through the years - you learn something different from each one. I certainly do a better job of caring for my own teeth now, too!

When she was in the hospital, we'd do it with her in bed. She'd just spit into that hospital basin they give you. Worked fine and it wasn't messy.

Good luck!
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my mom has had dementia/alzheimers.... stopped walking,, talking, going to the bathroom, eating... now on feeding tube.... i have to gently restrain her hands (putting a pillow on top of her hands while she is in bed) you may have to restrain in another way.. i got a succion machine from the doctor... and electric toothbrush from walgreens...i brush with toothpaste... a little hydrogen peroxide and mouthwash... and i have 2 cups of water to rinse the toothbrush in one and then dip in the other for clean water... succion out the excess as I go... works wonders she has not had pnemonia for a year...but also i dont lay her down to change diaper unless food has been off for 2 hours so she doesnt asperate..mom is 82
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