Practical tips on providing oral care for people with dementia


People with dementia often experience memory loss, become more confused in unfamiliar environments and find it increasing difficult to carry out activities that require organisation and planning. As the illness progresses the individual relies heavily on cues from their environment to think through a situation or know how to react.

When it comes to administering oral care, clear routine allows the person with dementia to identify cues and recognise the situation in order to know how to respond. Research by Dalhousie University identifies these nine tips to help make the process a success;

  1. Set a routine time and place for oral care

  2. Identify yourself and what you plan to do

  3. Use short sentences and simple words as well as visual  and verbal cues

  4. Maintain a calm and quiet atmosphere

  5. Use positive reinforcement like nodding heads, or thumbs up

  6. Provide oral care at a time when the care recipient is most content and receptive, for instance after a meal

  7. Distract the care recipient by singing or giving them something to hold, like a toothbrush or facecloth.

  8. Initiate tooth brushing but encourage participation from the care recipient if you can (perhaps by putting the toothbrush in their hand and guiding it with your own)

  9. Attempt to provide oral care EVERYDAY

The Bedi Shield helps make this process easier. It is also important to pay attention to their reactions in order to create a routine that best works for them. Remember that each person with dementia is an individual with unique needs.

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