Oral Care Tips for Dementia Patient

Dementia is a progressive deterioration of memory, thinking and the ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia.1 Worldwide, there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.1 The total number of people with dementia is projected to reach 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050.1

Older people with dementia are at increased risk for oral health issues as plaque builds up and their cognitive and motor skills decline. 2 Good oral care at home and having regular professional dental visits are key to maintaining oral health for people with dementia.

What’s important to know about dementia and oral care?

A person with dementia may forget:

  • Why it’s important to brush teeth
  • What a toothbrush or toothpaste is
  • How to brush teeth
  • How to rinse and spit after brushing

Early-stage dementia dental care focuses on prevention.3 Getting or continuing professional check-ups and excellent homecare (brushing and flossing teeth regularly) can help prevent the need for extensive dental care later, when the person with dementia may be less able to tolerate it. Maintaining healthy teeth is also necessary to prevent eating difficulties, digestive problems and infections.3

Oral care tips for dementia patients:3

  • SHORT and SIMPLE – keep your instructions short and simple. Break down oral care steps;
    1.  Hold the toothbrush 
    2. Put paste on the brush 
    3. Brush teeth 
    4. Rinse
  • WATCH ME – hold a toothbrush and show the person how to brush his or her teeth. If needed you can place your hand over theirs, gently guide the brush. If uncooperative, uncomfortable or agitated, postpone brushing until later in the day.
  • KEEP IT CLEAN - Very gently help provide brushing of teeth, gums, tongue and roof of mouth at least twice a day. The last oral care should occur after the evening meal or after nighttime liquid medication.
  • DO IT FOR THEM - Be patient and allow time to find the most comfortable position and routine. Remember to gently place the toothbrush in the person's mouth at a 45-degree angle, massage gums and clean teeth at the same time.
  • KEEP UP WITH DENTAL VISITS - Work closely with your dental team, provide a list of other healthcare providers, medications and update health histories each visit. Keep up with regular visits as long as possible.

Bonus tip: Be sure to use flavors of toothpaste and rinse liked by the person with dementia, this can help increase compliance.

World Health Organization, Dementia, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia, accessed 07/27/2022.

National Institute of Health, Oral hygiene and oral health in older people with dementia: a comprehensive review with focus on oral soft tissues. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748411/# accessed 07/27/2022.

3 Alzheimer’s Association, Daily Care - Dental Care. https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/dental-care, accessed 07/27/2022.