The forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for and helping a senior care for their teeth and gums.

Prompting and Assisting with Oral Care

“I bought my mum an electric toothbrush, which she had never used before. I put the toothpaste on it for her, then get her to hold it. As she puts it to her mouth, I quickly turn it on and she just moves it around her teeth. The movement encourages her, and I’m sure it does a way better job than if she were just using a manual toothbrush. It makes a sound after 2 minutes or so, and she has miraculously learned that it means she’s finished. I definitely have to prompt her to brush and set it all up, but at least she (or the toothbrush) is brushing her teeth and not me!” –Lucyboo

“We put Mom’s toothbrush out on the sink with just a little baking soda toothpaste and remind her to brush nightly. She is agreeable, but if it wasn’t set out, she would be hard pressed to do it.” –celeste

“See if your loved one will use a Water Pik or another type of water flosser. My husband has less problems using it than a toothbrush, even though I have to help with both. On a low setting, it works great to rinse out any excess food.” –mar126

“I work as a caregiver and specialize in caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. One trick I use to get a client to brush, rinse, and floss is bringing my own supplies so we can do it together. This way I am demonstrating how to go through the process as well as encouraging, explaining and helping as needed. It can take a few tries to figure out the level of assistance required, but usually they can cooperate and this helps encourage as much independence as possible. When their level changes, then I just assist more. By then they are used to the routine and it’s usually easy to do for both of you.” –taxelson

“Try using a wash cloth to clean their teeth. That used to be a method folks used when they could not afford toothpaste and toothbrushes (during the Great Depression). A little mouthwash like ACT can help rinse out any food particles.” –ferris1

“I have found that trying to have my mom brush her teeth after bathing and dressing does not work, because she is already tired out from those activities and refuses to brush. Therefore, it seems to work out much better when I ask her if she wants to brush her teeth before bedtime. We have actually turned this into somewhat of a bedtime routine along with washing her face. She has an electric toothbrush, and I usually have to give her verbal cueing on how to turn it on and off. Sometimes I’ll just go ahead and do it for her as well as applying the toothpaste, although at times she is able to do it herself. I usually stand right by her or nearby just to make sure she is doing okay since her balance and motor planning/sequencing is not good. Using a toothpaste your loved one likes can help as well.” –lmccarthy1

“Try getting their doctor or dentist to prescribe Peridex. It’s an anti-microbial mouth rinse that’s usually used to prevent infection in people who have had an extraction or other mouth surgery. It will stain their teeth slightly, and I don’t know about long-term use, but if their mouth is in really bad shape, it could be a temporary lifeline.” – Christine73

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“Drinking water helps when all else fails. Better to get your teeth flushed with water than a sugary drink, etc. I know of one kids’ song and I am sure there are more about brushing teeth that makes it kind of fun. The auditory nerve goes to so many parts of the brain, so rhythmic music is very good for all of us. If your loved one has some favorite music, maybe you can pick out a two-minute version to listen to while brushing.” –Freakedout

“Sometimes you just keep trying things until you find something that works. Try gentle reminders, saying ‘you brush your teeth while we talk’ and different flavors of toothpaste. It’s not always easy, but you do what you can. My dad wears dentures, so mouth care is a little bit easier for us. I just have him take them out and then I brush his dentures for him.” –terryjack1