After a stroke, you should have help and support to look after your mouth and teeth.
Good oral hygiene can help you to stay healthy by reducing the germs in your mouth. If you get a build-up of germs in your mouth, it can lead to problems including:
- Complications due to swallowing problems: looking after your mouth and teeth can reduce the risk of serious complications due to swallowing problems, such as a lung infection (pneumonia) caused by breathing in bacteria from your mouth. Learn more about all aspects of swallowing problems and how to deal with them.
- Changes to taste and smell: a bacterial infection or thrush can lead to a bad taste in your mouth, which can put you off eating. Learn more about taste and smell changes after stroke, including practical tips for improving your appetite.
- Tooth decay and gum infections: regular cleaning will reduce the chance of gum infections or tooth decay. These can make your mouth sore and make it harder to eat and drink.
If you have swallowing problems, ask your stroke nurse or speech and language therapist for individual advice about how to keep your mouth and teeth clean.
Tips for good oral hygiene after a stroke:
- Ideally, you should brush your teeth or clean your dentures after every meal. Try to aim for at least twice a day if you can.
- If you have swallowing problems, ask your nurse or speech and language therapist to show you the safest way to clean your teeth, tongue and mouth. You can get non-foaming toothpaste, or you may need to use a special gel to clean your teeth.
- Make sure you use toothpaste with high levels of fluoride and that your toothbrush is dry before you start to use it.
- As well as your teeth, it's important to clean your mouth and tongue. You can do this with a soft brush and some toothpaste.
- After cleaning your mouth and teeth, lightly rinse your mouth with some water. If you can, also use a mouthwash. If you have swallowing problems, check with your stroke nurse on how to do this safely.
- Any dentures should be taken out overnight and cleaned regularly.
- Avoid sugary drinks and snacks as these will damage your teeth. If your dietitian advises you to eat sweet foods, clean your teeth carefully after eating. Food supplements can also increase your chance of developing tooth decay, so clean your teeth or rinse your mouth with water after taking them.
- It's important to keep your mouth moist. Even if you can't drink, you may be able to use a saliva spray or special gel to stop your mouth from getting dry. Ask your speech and language therapist about this.
- Use lip balm to stop your lips from getting dry or cracked.
- See your dentist regularly. They can make sure that your teeth and mouth are healthy and give you any other advice you need. You may also need new dentures or have your current ones adapted to help you put them in and take them out. If you can't get to your dentist's surgery, ask whether they can visit you at home.