The Savvy Senior | Easy-to-use dental care products for elderly seniors

The Savvy Senior
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Dear Savvy Senior, 

I have arthritis and hand tremors that affect my grip strength and make brushing my teeth difficult. I’ve read that electric toothbrushes can help make the job easier. Can you make any recommendations for seniors? 

— Arthritic Alice 

Dear Alice, 

For seniors who suffer from arthritis or have other hand weaknesses or tremors, an electric toothbrush is an often-turned-to solution for keeping your teeth clean. At the push of a button, an electric toothbrush will do everything but shake, rattle and roll to do the cleaning for you, and most come with a wide, slightly weighted handle and rubberized grip that make them easier and more comfortable to hold on to.  

How to Choose 

With dozens of different electric toothbrushes on the market today, here are several points to consider to help you choose:  

Cost: The cost of electric toothbrushes will range from $10 for a model with replaceable AA batteries to more than $200 for some models with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, multiple brushing modes, smartphone integrations, and other features. How much are you willing to spend?  

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 (most adults average about 45 seconds), get an electric toothbrush with a built-in brushing timer – most have them. Some brushes will even split the two minutes into 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 extra features like cleaning modes, pressure sensors, a charge-level display and more. There are even “smart” toothbrushes that connect to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth to track brushing habits. What extra features do you want?   

Best Electric Toothbrushes 

According to Consumer Reports – an independent, nonprofit product testing and research organization – the top electric toothbrushes for 2024 are the Oral-B iO 7 Series ($150); Oral B Genius X 10000 ($200); Bruush Electric Toothbrushes ($95); and the Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 ($120). And the top rated low-cost electric toothbrush is the Brightline 86700 ($30). 

The New York Times Wirecutter, another popular product reviewing service, rates the Oral-B Pro 1000 ($40) as the best electric toothbrush followed by the Philips Sonicare 4100 ($40). 

Easier Flossing Tools 

If flossing has become challenging too, a good alternative to traditional string floss are floss picks. These are disposable plastic-handle tools that have floss threaded onto them, which makes them easier to hold and use. DenTek, Oral-B and others sell packages for a few dollars or check out the Listerine UltraClean Access Flosser, which comes with a toothbrush-like handle for a better reach.  

Some other flossing products to consider that are easy on the hands are the WaterPik Power Flosser ($15), which gently vibrates to dislodge embedded food particles between your teeth. Or consider a water flosser, which use high-pressured pulsating water to remove food particles and plaque and will stimulate your gums in the process. WaterPik offers a variety of water flossing products at prices ranging between $40 and $140, as does Oral Breeze, which offers the Shower Breeze and Quick Breeze water flossers (around $40) that connects directly to your faucet or shower head.  

All of these dental care products can also be found at your local pharmacy or retailer that sells personal care items or online. 

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book. 

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