Question for Dr. CC: How to give good oral care to frail elder

Dear Dr. CC,

I am trying to help look after my great grand-father when I can.  Sometimes my grand mother will ask me to clean his teeth when I ask her how I can help.  He does not like to have his teeth brushed anymore since he says it hurts. What should I do about this so everybody will be happy?


Good for you for asking how you can help!

This is an easy fix.  Gently wipe your great grand father’s gums and teeth with a slightly damp cloth after meals.  Wipe his tongue, too.  This will help eliminate most food and food borne bacteria from his mouth without scratching his delicate gums. The fact that he is sensitive could be a factor of age or a more serious complication so also make sure he gets regular dental check ups.

Like for the rest of us, good oral health for the frail elderly is important for general health, well-being and quality of life. It brings significant benefits to self-esteem, dignity, social interaction and general nutrition. Poor oral health can lead to pain and tooth loss, and can negatively impact self-esteem and the ability to eat, laugh and smile.

Older people and people with dementia may be prescribed many medications which can cause dental or oral health problems. One of the main side-effects of this can be a dry mouth. Saliva acts as a lubricant and also has a cleansing effect on the mouth and teeth. Its absence leads to a build up of bacteria and food debris, gum disease and dental decay, particularly at the neck of the tooth. So make sure he gets plenty of water to keep his mouth moist, too.

Here’s a video that will show you how to clean your elders teeth

I hope this helps!

Dr. CC

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About Elder Care Advice blog

Get professional elder care giving advice, advocacy, education and tips for those who care for and about the frail elderly at the ElderCareAdvice blog. We are generously sponsored by Most posts are written by Cathleen V. Carr, unless attributed otherwise. We welcome relevant submissions. Submit your article and by-line for publishing consideration (no promises!) to Havi at, our own editor who will ensure submissions are given the best possible treatment and polish before publication, ensuring a professional level of publication. There is a nominal service fee involved ($45). Allow up to 30 days for publishing.
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