Top tips - Good oral hygiene in people with swallowing problems

Having dysphagia can make oral hygiene difficult to maintain - read this article to find out why it’s so important

​Part of our Top Tips series for Dysphagia management

Good oral hygiene is important as it makes the mouth feel comfortable and helps to prevent halitosis. Brushing stimulates the mouth and production of saliva and reduces hypersensitivity. If you have difficulty or pain in swallowing due to dysphagia, it is more important than ever to have good oral hygiene. Food and liquid that isn’t removed from the mouth may enter the lungs which may cause harmful bacteria to grow and cause chest infections. A serious infection can result in aspiration pneumonia.

It is paramount that the oral health is addressed on a daily basis:

  • The appropriate posture is important to support swallowing. Avoid tilting the head backwards as this obstructs swallowing. If possible sit in a suitable chair with your feet firmly on the ground. If the patient is bed bound raise the bed to an incline and use pillows to support the back, head, neck and shoulders. Tilt the head forward and to one side
  • Brush teeth twice a day with a medium textured/small headed toothbrush
  • Use a fluoride low foaming toothpaste e.g. Nurse,Sensodyne, Proenamel, Biotene and NO water
  • Spit, or gently wipe the mouth after brushing, to keep the fluoride in the mouth to strengthen enamel of teeth. You do not need to use water when cleaning the teeth. Just wipe excess away with a tissue/towel

Watch our video for a demonstration: