Oral hygiene care guide for elderly & palliative patients

Written by Ranger Home Care
9 February 2024

Oral hygiene care is an essential aspect of health, especially for elderly and palliative patients. When people age or deal with serious illnesses, their ability to maintain oral hygiene might decrease, leading to infection and health complications. It’s extremely important when caring for someone who is elderly or seriously ill, to pay attention to their mouth health, along with the rest of the body.

Read on for a comprehensive guide to help carers and patients with effective oral hygiene practices.

The importance of oral care

Oral health is really important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for older people and those who are very ill and need palliative oral care. So, why is it so important?

It benefits individuals by:

Stopping infections

It’s really important to keep the mouth clean to stop germs from causing infections, especially in older and ill people who get sick easily. A clean mouth helps prevent bacteria from getting into the blood and causing more health problems. Brushing and rinsing regularly is a big part of keeping a patient’s overall health good and stopping serious infections.

Decreasing pain

Dental problems like cavities, gum disease or ill-fitting dentures can cause significant pain and discomfort. This could be distressing for anyone, especially those already facing health challenges. Proper oral hygiene can prevent these issues or help catch them early when they’re more manageable.

Giving a better quality of life

Oral care for elderly patients is very important. It enables them to eat comfortably and enjoy their meals. It also helps them talk more easily and express themselves better – making them able to socialise and feel happier.

Oral hygiene for the elderly

It’s really important to keep an eye on the mouth health of older and seriously ill patients. You should regularly look inside their mouth to see if there are any issues like redness, swelling, plaque buildup, sores, bleeding gums or cavities. Doing this is key because often these patients might not tell you when they’re in pain or uncomfortable.

By checking regularly, you can catch any problems early and help keep their mouth healthy, which can make a big difference in their overall comfort and health.

Daily oral hygiene routine


Brush teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush. If the patient struggles with a regular toothbrush, consider using an electric one or a toothbrush with a larger handle for better grip.


Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles. If flossing is difficult, use a floss holder or interdental brushes.

Denture care

If the patient wears dentures, ensure they are removed at night and cleaned daily. This helps prevent infections and sores.

Dealing with dry mouth

Encouraging elderly and seriously ill patients to stay hydrated is crucial, so remind them to sip water regularly. It’s also important to avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes, as these can make dry mouth worse.

If they’re struggling with dry mouth, over-the-counter saliva substitutes can be a big help. Additionally, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free sweets can stimulate saliva flow, which helps keep their mouth moist and comfortable.

Eating for oral health

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains is key for good oral health. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals that strengthen teeth and gums. For those who struggle with chewing, soft, nutritious options such as cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes and soft fruits are ideal.

It’s also important to steer clear of sweets and cakes that can lead to cavities. Dairy products rich in calcium and phosphate, are a better choice as they can help fortify teeth.

Overall, a tooth-friendly diet is a vital part of preventing dental issues and improving the general well-being of the elderly.

Professional dental care

It’s obvious that regular visits to the dentist are really important for keeping teeth healthy – but what if it’s hard for someone to get to a dentist? Many older people suffer with mobility problems and those who are receiving palliative care are unlikely to be able to move at all.

So, it’s important to look for dentists who know how to treat older people or seriously ill patients and can do house calls.  This way, they can get the dental care they need without leaving the comfort of their home.

Dentists who understand the special needs of these patients are also likely to give more tailored care.

Palliative oral care

Oral care for palliative patients is centred around a gentle and compassionate approach. It involves the use of soft toothbrushes or moistened gauze pads for cleaning the mouth – with a focus on being extra careful to avoid causing any discomfort or injury.

This approach is particularly important when caring for patients who are unable to communicate or move. It also requires a high level of patience and understanding, as some patients may show resistance to oral care.

In these situations, carers play a crucial role. They need to be empathetic and provide assistance, while also encouraging the patients to keep their independence.

To do this, carers must be well-trained in proper oral hygiene techniques that are personalised to meet the unique needs of elderly and palliative patients.

This training gives carers the knowledge and skills they need to provide good, careful and respectful dental care. If this doesn’t happen, patients who need palliative care run the risk of declining health, making their last days and months uncomfortable and distressing.

Oral care for palliative patients goes beyond just treatments– it’s about building a caring and supportive environment that always puts the patient’s comfort and well-being first.

Exceptional live-in care services

Maintaining oral hygiene in elderly and palliative patients is a crucial part of overall care. It requires patience, understanding and a routine tailored to their specific needs.

Ranger Home Care provides continuous, 24-hour support through our live-in care services, ensuring that your loved one is always in safe and capable hands.

If you’re wondering what live-in care entails or how it can benefit your loved one,  contact us directly on 01252 850040.

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