Oral Senses Challenges

TasteSmellTouchDry MouthSound

In some people, the brain has trouble organising and responding to information from the senses. People may be over-sensitive to sensory input, undersensitive, or both, all to varying degrees.

When over-sensitive, certain sights, smells, textures, and tastes can create a feeling of “sensory overload.” Bright or flickering lights, loud noises, certain tastes and textures of food are just some of the triggers that can make people feel a strong reaction, perhaps even overwhelmed and upset.

People with dementia can develop over-sensitivity and whilst they often don’t remember what specific oral care is provided for them, they do remember how it makes them feel. They either like the experience or they don’t. And if they don’t, then it can be very difficult to provide.

These sensitivities can lead to challenges when providing normal oral health activity. It is providing solutions to these sensitivities that are central to the Senses product ethos.

Taste

People with sensory processing issues can be oversensitive to certain tastes, from cooking spices to minty toothpastes.

People may develop sensitivities during their life, possibly due to chronic conditions such as dementia or medication.

Carers may therefore find that someone suddenly rejects a toothpaste they’ve used for years as they now find the taste too strong. In circumstances where someone refuses to accept oral care, it can be extremely difficult to provide it, causing frustration and worry for the carer and a downward spiral for oral care provision.

Smell

People with sensory processing issues can be oversensitive to certain smells, from minty toothpastes to scented shampoos. Taste and smell are closely connected. Your taste buds can identify basics such as salty, sweet, sour and bitter. But your sense of smell provides the rest of the input to notice flavour. That’s why smell can make a difference to people with taste sensitivities.

People may develop sensitivities during their life, possibly due to chronic conditions such as dementia or medication.

Carers may therefore find that someone suddenly rejects a toothpaste they’ve used for years as they now find the smell turns them off. In circumstances where someone refuses to accept oral care, it can be extremely difficult to provide it, causing frustration and worry for the carer. Finding a toothpaste that smells good can be the key to them accepting oral care

Touch

When providing oral care for others, its invasive nature may be a real problem for some. The size of brush head used can make a real difference as to whether a carer is able to persuade someone to allow a toothbrush in to their mouth. Then once in, it is easier to manoeuvre a small brush to clean effectively.

The texture of toothpaste used and the firmness of toothbrush bristles will also need to be considered.

A very firm toothpaste is likely to fall off the brush, limiting the effectiveness of the protective fluoride it contains. A low foaming toothpaste is easier for carers to use and probably means the paste won’t contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) which can cause dry mouth.

A manual toothbrush with compact soft to medium bristles is suitable for most people, but super soft bristles are kinder for those who:

  • Are frail or suffering from dementia and reject or refuse oral care
  • Have sensitive areas in their mouth due to gum disease or other infections
  • Are suffering from a dry mouth
  • Have loose mobile teeth
  • Have sensitive teeth

Where possible, making any oral care experience as pleasant as possible for a person is the best way to ensure they are happy to repeat it. As a carer, offering choice is key.

Dry Mouth

Signs that someone is suffering from a dry mouth are:

  • The tongue sticking to the palate causing trouble speaking, chewing food or
    swallowing
  • They may be thirsty and perhaps licking their lips frequently
  • They may complain of a dry, burning or sore mouth
  • Dentures hurt or don’t fit properly
  • Red, cracked or swollen gum tissues
  • Dry, cracked tongue
  • Changes in taste
  • Cracked corners of the mouth
  • Lips sticking to the teeth
  • Tooth decay

As well as being very unpleasant for the sufferer, consequences such as difficulties eating and communicating are potentially serious and needs to be managed.

Sound

The noises associated with provision of oral care can be particularly distressing for someone with aural sensitivity. Of course this is most often linked to the sound of the dentist’s drill, but even the noise of bristles brushing against teeth may be a source of discomfort and stress to some.

Most electric toothbrushes are noisy to use and it can be difficult to find one suitable for these situations.

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From the makers of

Use on extra soft, small brush head for optimum results.
Contains 1450ppm fluoride for best protection.