Can Mouthwash Replace Tooth Brushing a Few Times a Week?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Getting my dad with dementia to brush his teeth is sometimes a real struggle and so if it's going to start a fight then I don't do it and then try to work in at some other point in the day. The other day he walked by the bathroom while I was gargling and told me he wanted to also. Is there some type of mouthwash that I am can get him to use, which is good for his teeth and gums since he seems to like swishing it around his mouth and spitting it out for those days when getting him to brush his teeth is impossible?

Expert Answer

Dr. David Blende, DDS, has more than 20 years' experience providing comprehensive dental care. His practice, the Blende Dental Group, serves the phobic, disabled, geriatric, and medically compromised communities through sleep dentistry. A division of his practice, Bay Area House Call Dentists, delivers dental services to senior communities and private homes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There is no substitute for brushing and flossing when it comes to good oral hygiene. Regular professional cleanings are recommended to remove plaque and deposits that the patient is unable to eliminate between visits. Mouth rinses such as Listerine, Scope and ACT are available over-the-counter and serve as an adjunct to maintaining oral health. However, mouth rinses uses alone are insufficient. It is a good idea to continue making attempts to properly brush your Dad's teeth and also take him to his dentist for a complete evaluation of his overall health.

For tips on how to approach someone with dementia to provide daily care, including tooth-brushing, I highly recommend the teachings of Teepa Snow. Her DVD, "It's All in Your Approach" is for sale on this website.