“Brush Up” on your Mouth Care Skills

Article Categories: Basic Skills & Activities of Daily Living

Every CNA knows the importance of providing good mouth care to patients. In fact, mouth care is one of the skills which may be tested on the CNA Certification Examination.

Everyone needs good dental care each day. Proper care of the teeth and gums can impact health as much as the medications and treatments your patient receives. It can be easy or challenging, depending on the patient or the situation. If you’re a new CNA, or if it’s been a while since you first learned the basics, take a few minutes to pick up some tips from your colleagues.

Let’s Get Started!

• Get everything ready: toothbrush, toothpaste, a cup of water, and a towel.
• Have good lighting. Unless you can see what you’re doing, you can’t do a thorough job.
• Always tell your patient what you’re going to do.
• Wash your hands and put on gloves.

If the Patient Is Alert:

• When possible, have the patient sit up and participate in the process.
• If giving care to a bed-bound patient, raise the head of the bed to 30 degrees.
• Using the toothbrush, clean the teeth, gums, and tongue.
• Brush the front, top, and back of each tooth.
• Help the patient rinse with plain water, swishing a small amount around before spitting it out. If swallowing is a problem, use gauze wrapped around your finger to finish.
• Remove and dispose of the gloves and wash your hands.

If the Patient is Unconscious:

• Raise the bed to a height that will allow you to work comfortably. Elevate the head of the bed to 30 degrees. Drape a towel over the patient’s chest.
• Carefully turn the patient’s head toward you and use a tongue depressor to open the patient’s mouth.
• Gently brush the teeth, gums, and tongue.
• If available, suction the patient’s mouth to remove saliva and toothpaste. If no suction is available, use gauze wrapped around your finger to finish.
• Remove and dispose of the gloves and wash your hands.
• Return bed to previous height and position.

Safety and Such:

• Use only a small amount of toothpaste, about the size of a pea.
• The toothbrush should be soft-bristled to avoid damaging the gums.
• Replace a toothbrush every three months or after a contagious illness.

Tips and Tricks:

• If patient is sitting in a wheelchair, stand behind the patient and use an arm to support the patient’s head.
• Use mouth care time as an opportunity to inspect the patient’s mouth for signs of infection and unusual spots or lesions.
• For dementia patients, keep the process consistent and maintain the same schedule. Allow the patient to hold a favorite object during care.
• Music can be helpful for patients who have dementia or behavior disorders.

Proper mouth care is important to everyone. When a patient is unable to perform the task independently, you not only provide necessary hygiene, you also help your patient feel fresh and clean. With the proper skills and supplies, in a few minutes you can actually improve your patient’s quality of life!

Try reviewing the course material on oral hygiene from our course library.


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