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Providing oral toothbrush care for dependent elderly can be tasking. You have to monitor this closely as they are susceptible to oral problems like gum recession, tooth sensitivity, and cavities.


It is not easy to perform toothbrush care for someone else. But we are left with no option most times. If you can make it possible for the person you cared for, it would be a great experience.

Old age, chronic medical conditions, and physical impairment may lead to the dependent elderly requiring assistance for routine activities. This can be as serious as requiring your assistance to perform tooth brushing. You should know that there are a lot of challenges involved in providing Oral care for them. It requires you to have patience and be able to understand them. When providing oral care for a dependent individual, you must brush thoroughly to remove food and plaque and avoid any oral complications. Special skill is also required in providing toothbrushing care for them. 

Why brushing can be difficult for dependent elderly

As a result of old age, there is a lot of difference in the oral physiology of the elderly. One of such is a decrease in the amount of saliva produced. This often causes dry mouth. Also, the mouth’s tissues begin to thin, increasing the chances of infections. There is also slow sores healing. All these make toothbrushing for the elderly difficult.

The teeth are also weakened as a result of tear and wear. This can make eating difficult and affect the individual’s eating ability. The mouth’s muscles become weak. You need to know all these changes happening in the dependent adults. This will help you provide the special care that addresses their needs.

Common oral problems in dependent elderly

Aging adults are likely to face more dental issues than others. Among adults, it occurs more in those that are no longer independent and need people to carry out basic activities like brushing. Some dental health issue in the aging adult includes; 


Cavities results from tooth breakdown by acid. These acids are from the bacteria present in plaque. One factor that can result in this cavity formation in the mouth is weak teeth. Dependent adults have very weak teeth, probably due to other dental diseases.

They do have a lot of bacteria present in their mouth due to ineffective brushing. Some might even stop brushing long before you know. There will be cavities in the mouth when there are too many bacteria cells.

 Taking sugary foods occurs more in children than the elderly, but some elderly still takes a lot of sugar. When the elderly take foods with much sugar contents, they should immediately brush their teeth. These cavities often result in tooth loss, especially in the aging population. Tooth loss is not a part of the aging process. It often results from poor oral hygiene and can be prevented by good dental care.

Swollen gum

Dependent elderly do have swollen or inflamed gums. If you are not careful when brushing their teeth, they can have gums bleeding. This is why special techniques are required.

If you see that the gums are swollen, you may need to use toothbrush alternatives. Swollen gums often result in bad breath. The swollen gums can separate from your teeth and spread over to the mouth’s bones if left untreated. This can result in tooth loss or severe problems.

Mouth thrust

Mouth thrush is an oral condition among the elderly too. It is caused by a yeast infection in the mouth. It is common among denture wearers. It does not cause any pain, and the infection usually appears white. It can be treated using antibiotics. It can be severe if the yeast infection becomes systemic. If you maintain proper oral hygiene and toothbrush care for your elderly, thrush infections can be prevented.

Type of toothbrush to use for independent elderly

Depending on your choice, you can use manual or electric toothbrushes for your elderly. There are different toothbrush designs made for adults. But in general, any toothbrush chosen must have a soft bristle so as not to damage the weakened gums and teeth. When you notice bleeding, frequent tapping, or groaning, you need to stop the brushing immediately. The handle must be easy to grip and not slip easily from the hand, and the head must not be too large 

Oral care is dependent elderly

As said earlier, there is low saliva production due to old age. Therefore, the lips are always dry. To begin oral cleaning, you can clean the lips using a wet cloth. You can also apply a moisturizer

You have to brush their teeth at least two times daily after meals. It is advisable to use toothpaste that contains fluoride. This will help strengthen the weak teeth.

 Alcohol-free mouthwash helps to increase salivation and reduce dry mouth. It also gives fresh breath.

Toothbrush care

Ensure you clean the toothbrush under running immediately after use. Soak the toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide solution for 20 minutes to disinfect. If such an individual can rinse their properly, you can use toothpaste, but if they cannot rinse their mouth properly, you have to dampen the toothbrush with mouthwash or water.

How to provide oral care to a dependent Individuals

When you want to give toothbrush care to a dependent elderly, you need to take some time to check the inside first. This will tell you if there are any signs of dental problems. You should check for inflammation, swollen gums, tooth decay, loosening teeth, and cavities. If you see any, you may need to see a dentist. If there’s none, you need to follow these techniques when assisting the elderly with tooth brushing:

· Position the elderly and let them sit upright

· Support the head by standing behind them

· Put on a disposable glove 

· Pull the cheek back gently to see the mouth well

· Use a clean wet cloth to remove any food leftover stuck between the cheeks.

· Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean the tooth gently.

· Make sure you also brush the tongue and lips gently


Dental care for dependent elderly is an important aspect of their health and wellness. Good oral hygiene keeps the older adult in good health and lowers the risk of oral issues and complications. With the changes in the mouth and dental issues associated with aging, toothbrushing in the elderly has to be done well and with care. 

Also, to provide good toothbrush care for dependent elderly, you need to check the lip and tooth while remembering to inspect the mouth for any potential issues.