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Oral Assessment and Care


Assisting an unconscious patient to perform oral care

Detailed below is a suggested method of assisting an unconscious patient to perform oral care. Like many clinical procedures, you may find that variations exist in clinical practice although the underlying principles will be the same.

Toothrbush, with lidEquipment Required

  • A clean cup or beaker
  • Clean receiver or bowl
  • Small headed, soft toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouth wash or cleaning solution
  • Disposable gloves and apron
  • Denture pot
  • Foam sticks
  • Towel
  • Tissues
  • Lip lubricant
  • Suctioning equipment
  • Waterproof sheet or cover


  1. If the patient is unconscious, explain the procedure to them or any family members/carers that may be present
  2. Wash or decontaminate hands effectively and gather the necessary equipment. The patient’s own toothbrush and toothpaste may be used if appropriate
  3. If the patient has dentures, these should be removed and cleaned and stored in a clean bowl with the patient’s details clearly identified on a label. If the patient has no teeth, it is still important that oral care be carried out although this may require the use of a foam swab soaked in water or an appropriate mouthwash. If a medicated mouthwash is being used, ensure that it has been prescribed appropriately
  4. Make certain that the patient is in an appropriate position on their side with their head well supported. Take appropriate actions to ensure privacy. For example: this may involve drawing the curtains around the patient’s bed-space and asking that visitors if they would like to leave
  5. Use the towel or another suitable covering to protect the patient’s clothing from potential spills. Place a waterproof sheet under the towel to ensure that bed linen does not get wet
  6. Don the disposable gloves and apron in order to protect clothes and minimise the risk of cross- infection
  7. Prepare the equipment by filling the cup with water and squeezing a small amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush. Alternatively prepare the foam swab by soaking it in water or mouthwash solution
  8. Clean the teeth (using the recommended technique) or swab the mouth gently with the foam swabs taking care not to cause discomfort. Ensure that all areas of the mouth are cleaned using a new swab for each area
  9. Rinse mouth thoroughly in order to remove toothpaste and any debris. This can be done using a toothbrush or foam swabs soaked in water. Suction equipment may be required
  10. Dry the mouth on a clean towel or tissues
  11. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the lips in order to maintain moisture
  12. Reposition the patient into an appropriate position that will ensure comfort and safety
  13. Dispose of used equipment as appropriate
  14. Wash hands and document the procedure

(Jamieson et al, 2002).

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Last modified Monday, 28-May-2012 14:58:57 BST by