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Assistive Devices to Help Seniors with Arthritis Brush Effectively

by Dr. Joshua Davidson, Senior Dental Care Expert
July 21, 2017

Question: Can you recommend assistive devices that can help seniors with arthritis brush effectively?

Answer: If you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, always use a toothbrush with soft bristles. There are ergonomic choices for those whose manual dexterity is decreasing

Firstly, I recommend an electric toothbrush. Why? The handles are fatter to accommodate the battery component thus providing a bigger grip for the user and the toothbrush is doing the work for you! Be thorough and let that toothbrush work every surface of every tooth and you will be surprised at how clean your teeth feel. I have no vested interest in this particular brand, but for my patients I have recommended the Phillips Sonicare 2 series toothbrush. Price, timer and rechargeable are the factors I require. This model recharges on a small stand. The unit has a two minute timer to help you do a thorough job. Sure there are some very expensive electric toothbrushes out there, but they all do a good job.

For those using a manual toothbrush there are some options. The goal is to fatten up the handle making it easier to grip. Go to any hardware store and buy a piece of pipe insulation. It’s a foam tube with a hole in the middle. Cut off a piece of foam and slide it over the handle. Use duct tape to tighten down the foam if needed.

Another option is to go to a bike store. Buy a kid’s handlebar handgrip. The inside diameter may be a bit big so use your creativity. You can also wrap the handle with lots of duct tape and customize the grip. Be creative, but the goal is to enlarge the handle decreasing the strength needed to grasp the toothbrush. Another aid is a tennis ball. Cut an X in opposite ends of the tennis ball and have someone slide the toothbrush handle through these cuts. One could use a racquetball if a tennis ball is too large. Be creative and do whatever you can to increase the diameter and shape of the toothbrush handle.

Flossing - Lots of hand gymnastics are needed to accomplish this task, but there are a number of pre-strung flossing handles in the marketplace to help with the task of flossing. Peruse your local oral healthcare aisle and assess the different options. Word of mouth is good. Ask your friends what works for them.

Ultimately, trial and error will prove which configurations suit you best. 

Joshua Davidson is a 2011 graduate of the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. He simultaneously received his Masters Degree in Public Health. He currently works at the Chippewa Falls Dental Center in Chippewa Falls, WI focusing on issues of geriatric dental care.

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