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Dependent Elderly And The Mouth


If you are caring for your parents or loved ones, it means that they may be functionally dependent on you. Advanced age, chronic medical problems and physical impairment may lead to the dependent elderly requiring assistance for the routine activities of daily living such as brushing teeth, taking shower and etc. As a carer, taking care of dependent elderly poses some challenges.

Patience, compassionate and skill account for the challenges in the provision of care for the dependent elderly, especially in relation to declining memory and behavioural issues. It is difficult to perform oral hygiene tasks for someone else but if you can make it possible for you and the person you cared for, it certainly would be a rewarding experience.

What is Healthy Mouth?

Healthy mouth is not just about clean teeth and healthy gum. The goal of healthy mouth in dependent elderly is achieved when:

  • Able to chew and drink / eat well

  • Talk comfortably

  • Feel good with own appearance

  • Good social interaction and self-esteem

  • Avoid pain and tooth loss

  • Able to perform oral hygiene tasks

  • Has motivation to perform oral hygiene tasks

Care For the Natural Teeth

Different types of toothbrush suitable for use with dependent elderly.

How to recognize dental pain in dependent elderly who can no longer verbally express their needs?

How to brush for others?

Approach from the person’s back. Stabilize the person’s head by wrapping your arm around the head and place a support on the lower jaw as shown in the photo.

Strategies when performing oral hygiene tasks

What are roles and responsibilities of carer during dental visits?

  • Inform the dentist any medical and dental past and present history of person you are caring for.

  • Show the list of medications or any drug allergies.

  • May need to help out during the dental treatment in order to minimize anxiety/ behavioural challenges of the dependent elderly.

  • Address any questions or if you need more information to the dentist.

Denture Care


  1. Chalmers JM. Behavior management and communication strategies for dental professionals when caring for patients with dementia. Spec Care Dent 2000;20:147-54.


Last Reviewed : 20 March 2015
Writer : Dr. Norjehan bt. Yahaya
Accreditor : Dr. Siti Zaleha bt. Hamzah