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Savvy Senior: Electric toothbrushes can help seniors

Dear Savvy Senior: I have arthritis in my hands that affects my grip strength and dexterity and makes brushing my teeth difficult.

I’ve read that electric toothbrushes help make the job easier. Can you make any recommendations?

Still Smiling

Dear Still: For seniors who suffer from arthritis or have other hand weaknesses, an electric toothbrush is a great solution.

At the push of a button, an electric toothbrush will clean your teeth, and most come with a wide handle and rubberized grip that make them easier and more comfortable to hold.


With dozens of electric toothbrushes on the market, here are several points to consider:

>> Cost: Electric toothbrushes range from $15 to $300.

>> Brushing action: Brush heads tend to be either “spinning” (they rotate very fast in one direction, then the other, and bristles may pulsate in and out) or “sonic” (they vibrate side to side). Both methods are effective and a matter of personal preference.

>> Electric versus battery: Choose a brush with a built-in rechargeable battery and an electric charging station. They’re much more convenient and cost effective than toothbrushes that use replaceable batteries.

>> Brushing timer: Since most dentists recommend brushing for two minutes (and most adults brush less than 60 seconds), get a toothbrush with a built-in timer. Some brushes will even split the two minutes onto four 30-second intervals and will notify you when it’s time to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth.

>> Extra features: Most higher- priced electric brushes come with various settings such as sensitive (gentler cleaning) or massage (gum stimulation) and a charge-level display. There are even toothbrushes that connect to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth to track brushing habits.


While there are many makes and models to choose from, two of the best-selling, top-rated products to consider are the Oral B Pro 1000 (spinning brush head) and the Philips Sonicare 2 Series (vibrating brush head). Both are simple, very effective at removing plaque and reasonably priced — around $50.

To learn more, visit and


If flossing is difficult, try disposable floss picks. DenTek, Oral-B and others sell packages for a few dollars, or check out the Reach Access Flosser, which comes with a toothbrush-like handle.

Some other flossing devices to consider that are easy on the hands include: The WaterPik power flosser ($7), which gently vibrates to dislodge embedded food particles between your teeth; Philips Sonicare AirFloss water flossers ($50 or $90) that uses burst of water or mouthwash to and clean in-between your teeth; and WaterPik Water Flossers ($50 to $130), which use high-pressured pulsating water to remove food particles and plaque and will stimulate your gums in the process.

All these products can be found at your local pharmacy or online.

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