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How to Give Mouth Care

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.

Mouth care is important because it prevents infection, plaque, bleeding gums, mouth sores, and cavities. It also freshens breath and improves appetite.


Items used for mouth care:

  • An electric or manual toothbrush, or foam brush
  • Toothpaste, dental sticks, or floss
  • An apron or towel to protect clothing
  • A cup of water for rinsing
  • A bowl or cup for the person's saliva
  • Water-based lip balm or moisturizer

Prepare the person for mouth care:

Ask the person to move into an upright position if he can, or help him sit up. Turn the person's head sideways to keep him from choking if he needs to lie flat. Place the apron or towel on the person's clothes.

Brush the person's teeth:

  • Wet the toothbrush and place a small amount of toothpaste on it.
  • Gently place the brush onto each tooth, and move it in a circle. Do not press too hard. This may injure the gums.
  • Clean the inner, outer, and top surfaces of the person's teeth. Brush the gums and top of the tongue if his mouth is free of sores.
  • Use foam brushes dipped in water, or just water if his mouth is too sore to be brushed.
  • Have the person swish the water in his mouth, and spit it into a bowl or glass.
  • Dry around his mouth. Apply water-based lip balm or moisturizer to his lips to avoid cracking and dryness.

Floss the person's teeth:

Ask the person's healthcare provider before you start to floss. You may be told to use waxed floss for easier movement between teeth. Thread the floss between each tooth, but do not push down on the gums too hard. This can cause gum damage. Make sure to floss on each side of every tooth.

Floss every day

Clean the person's dentures:

It is still important to clean the person's gums and mouth daily if he wears dentures. Remove the dentures from his mouth before you clean them. Moist dentures come out more easily. Ask the person to drink a sip of water before you remove his dentures. Gently rock the dentures from side to side to loosen them. Then pull them out.

  • Brush the dentures at a sink with clean water and denture cleaner or toothpaste.
  • Brush the dentures on all surfaces with clean, lukewarm water. Do not use hot water. Hot water could damage the dentures. Be careful not to bend any clasps on the dentures as you brush them. Rinse them with cold water. You may need to place a thin layer of denture adhesive on the dentures. Do this before you place them back in the person's mouth. Ask the person's healthcare provider which adhesive to use.
  • Soak the dentures in a denture solution each night after you brush them. Rinse them in cold water before you place them back in the person's mouth.

Contact the person's healthcare provider if:

  • The person gets new mouth sores, or his sores change.
  • The person has excess plaque buildup.
  • The person's dentures do not fit well.
  • The person has pain with brushing.
  • You have questions or concerns about the person's condition or care.

Return the person to the emergency department if:

  • The person chokes or has trouble breathing during mouth care.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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