Oral Care (Mouth Care) for the Unconscious Patient

Document created by tfreiberg Employee on Dec 27, 2016Last modified by Mary Aycock on May 3, 2018
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Good mouth care can prevent cracking, dryness and sores.  Keeping the area clean and moist will bring comfort to the patient.         


Supplies you will need

  • Padded tongue depressor
  • Soft-bristle toothbrush or mouth swab
  • Toothpaste
  • Gloves
  • Emesis basin (Kidney dish)
  • Towel
  • Lip balm   


What to do

  1. Explain to the patient what you are going to do, even if you are unsure whether they can hear.
  2. Put on gloves.
  3. Place patient on their side.
  4. Place a towel under the chin.
  5. Place the kidney dish under the chin on top of the towel.
  6. Use the padded tongue depressor to open the patient’s mouth. Never use your fingers; the patient may bite down, causing injury.
  7. Brush the teeth and tongue with a soft-bristle toothbrush or mouth swab. Use care when brushing the tongue, going too far back may cause the patient to gag.
  8. Rinse the mouth with a small amount of water on a mouth swab.
  9. Apply lip balm.


Special instructions

  • How to make a padded tongue depressor: wrap gauze around one end of a tongue depressor and secure with tape.
  • If the patient has dentures, talk with a nurse about mouthcare.


Adapted from: Harkreader, H., & Hogan, M.A. (2007).  Fundamentals of nursing: Caring and clinical judgment. St. Louis: Saunders