My adventurous, strong, beautiful mom passed away October 20, 2009 - although because of her years of swimming every day (even into her 80s) and her health foods-and-vitamins regimen, it took more than 7 years for the debilitating effects of her massive stroke in 2002 to ultimately take her life. Although I tried at first to care for her at home, it was clearly impossible and Mom had to go into a full-time care facility. I moved 5 minutes away and went every other night after work plus weekends to be with her for at least an hour or two. Besides of course giving her love and trying to restore some of her dignity that was constantly being stripped from her, I flossed and brushed her teeth after dinner whenever I was there. Aides will wash and diaper and dress an invalid who can no longer do those things for herself, but I never saw one resident getting any dental care. I knew this was critical. It became part of a normal routine; I’d put on latex gloves, use floss wherever I could, and then use floss threaders to get under the bridgework, finishing up with a gentle but thorough brushing. Sometimes I would continue our one-sided conversation while I did this, sometimes I’d softly sing some songs Mom had loved. Unfortunately, Mom had lost the concept of spitting out the rinse water I gave her, so I learned to gently pull out one of her cheeks over a plastic tray so the water could dribble out. For 81 years, this woman had moved heaven and earth to help and support me through childhood and adulthood without ever asking one thing in return; there was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. Although sadly, there was so little I really could do for her, so this consistent and loving dental care became very important to me.  When Mom passed (surrounded in her final moments by loving family), it was a small thing, but I felt good that she had had seven years of being able to avoid unnecessary extractions and pain from neglected teeth and gums. Maybe this sounds silly, but I’m so glad I could do this for my mother.

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