Good dental care is always important, but especially so if you have arthritis. The May-June 2008 issue of the Arthritis Foundation's Arthritis Today cautions that bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation and artery clogging. They recommend keeping your mouth clean, quoting Michael F. Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer of the Institute of Wellness at the Cleveland Clinic as saying "Flossing regularly can make your real age as much as 6.4 years younger." (Real age is the biological age of your body.) So how can you engage in brushing with arthritic hands? There are several options including electric toothbrushes, enlarging the handle of a standard toothbrush, and large-handled toothbrushes.

Electric Toothbrushes

If you have trouble with small motor skills, an electric toothbrush can be very handy. Just hold the base and the bristles automatically turn round so your joints don't have to do the work of brushing.

The availability of refills is a consideration when buying electric toothbrushes. If purchasing an inexpensive one, buy plenty of refills at the same time so you will be sure to have them available. I really loved the smaller electric brush in the photo, which was inexpensive and purchased at a grocery store. When I went back to get refills, they were no longer made for this particular brush. I have since heard from a lot of people who have had similar experiences. So I bought the larger electric brush shown, which was a great deal more expensive but was made by a company committed to ongoing support of their products. I believe I would have been better off buying the less expensive brush and stocking up on refills at the time of purchase when they were still available.

Electric and Manual Toothbrushes with Handles of Varying Sizes


The down side of electric toothbrushes is that they are heavier than "manual" toothbrushes. I found that the extra weight bothered me more than the brushing movement, so I went back to manual brushing.

Non-electric Toothbrushes

Toothbrushes are manufactured with varying handle sizes, as shown in the photo above from small on the left to large on the right , with the Radius Original toothbrush at the very right still in the package. While I can't hold a standard-sized toothbrush because the small diameter handle requires too tight a grip, the larger-handled ones are manageable for me.

When I got arthritis, my first approach was to enhance the handles of the toothbrushes I was using. This can be done using rubber bands or insulation made for copper pipes, or by plastic grips made for this purpose. While these solutions are good for pens and pencils, I wasn't sure if I could adequately maintain the hygiene on a toothbrush over time so I switched to larger-handled brushes instead.

Various Ways to Build Up a Toothbrush Handle

Finding a toothbrush with a large-enough handle could be frustrating.  Models of toothbrushes seemed to change every time I went to the grocery store and no specific brand or product name consistently offered a large handle.  I had to look through all the choices available in the store at the time I was ready to buy to find the largest handle.

Finally, I found a toothbrush that was perfect for me and I've been using it ever since.  I purchased the huge-handled Radius Original toothbrush at Whole Foods, but they are also available online. This brush is ergonomically-designed, very easy to hold, and comes in both right-handed and left-handed versions as well as a child's size. The handle is very large and formed to fit so a tight-fisted grip is just not necessary.

The head is larger than a standard toothbrush, and I wasn't sure I would like that. However, what I have found is that because the head of the brush is so big, there isn't as much movement required to reach all my teeth. The Radius brush is not very heavy, even though it is significantly larger than a standard toothbrush. 

The longer I have used this toothbrush, the more I like it. This is my favorite toothbrush because, even with my arthritic fingers, it is the easiest for me to use.

See these links for additional ways to make life with arthritis a bit easier:

 Squeeze a Tube of Toothpaste in Spite of Arthritis

 Arthritis Aids for Flossing Teeth