Learning to Clean Your Teeth after a Stroke

After a stroke, many patients are left with some amount of paralysis on one side of their body. This paralysis may be temporary or permanent, depending on the extent of the physical damage. As a result of this paralysis, many stroke patients struggle with the loss of ability to clean their own teeth properly. If you are a stroke victim, you may find that loss of manual dexterity and other motor controls can make it difficult to hold the toothbrush or properly open your mouth to accept a cleaning. The best way to learn how to clean your teeth after a stroke is to work carefully with your occupational therapist and to use helpful products available on the market.

Invest in Tooth-Cleaning Products

There are a variety of adaptive products that can help you learn to brush your teeth independently.

  • Electric Toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes can make up for some lack of strength and manual dexterity while brushing your teeth. These toothbrushes also have thicker handles than standard toothbrushes and may be easier for you to hold.
  • Disposable Floss Sticks. Use disposable floss sticks to floss your mouth one-handed.
  • Oral Irrigator. An oral irrigator will help you flush debris from your mouth, if your mouth or hands aren't cooperating for the daily tooth brushing. While the oral irrigator is not meant to stand-in for tooth brushing, it can help make up for poor tooth brushing practices.

Apply Toothpaste to your Tongue

If you aren't able to hold the toothbrush in one hand and the toothpaste tube in the other, squeeze the toothpaste out onto your tongue with your strong hand, then use the head of the toothbrush to scoop up the toothpaste.

Use the Weaker Hand

One of the best ways to recover manual dexterity and adapt to new physical challenges is to intentionally use the weaker side of your body. Tooth brushing with the weaker hand presents an opportunity to strengthen the hand, helps you to re-establish use of the hand and teaches you how to work around your stroke-related impairments.

On a regular basis, work with the occupational therapist to manipulate the toothbrush inside your mouth using your weaker hand. Brush your teeth at least once per day with the stronger hand to ensure that your teeth are getting adequately cleaned.

Practice with the Occupational Therapist

A successful occupational therapy program will be personalized for your needs, to teach you to function in daily life. If you struggle with brushing your teeth, practice tooth brushing with your occupational therapist. Your OT can show you more strategies for getting your teeth cleaned.