Using a toothbrush
Older adults with
arthritis sometimes have trouble brushing their teeth
because they can't easily hold the toothbrush. Their hands and fingers may be
stiff, painful, or weak. If this is the case:
- Use an electric
- Enlarge the handle of a non-electric toothbrush by
wrapping a sponge, an elastic bandage, or adhesive tape around
- Push the toothbrush handle through a ball made of rubber or
- Make the handle longer and thicker by taping Popsicle
sticks or tongue depressors to it.
You may also be able to buy specially designed toothbrushes,
toothpaste dispensers, and floss holders.
Your doctor may recommend a soft-bristle toothbrush if you or the person you care for bleeds easily. Bleeding can happen because of a health problem or from certain medicines.
A toothpaste for sensitive teeth may help if you or the person you care for has sensitive teeth.
Normal dental care
To keep the teeth and gums healthy:
- Brush the teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day—in the
morning and at night—and floss at least once a day. Plaque can quickly build up
on the teeth of older adults.
- Watch for the signs of gum disease.
These signs include gums that bleed after brushing or after eating hard
foods, such as apples.
- See a dentist regularly. Many experts
recommend checkups every 6 months.
- Keep the dentist up to date on
any new medicines you are taking.
- Eat a balanced diet that includes
whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and that is low in saturated fat and sodium.
Good nutrition is vital to maintaining healthy gums and avoiding tooth decay.
- Avoid using tobacco products. They can affect dental and general health.
Many older adults have a fixed income and feel that they can't
afford dental care. But most towns and cities have programs in which dentists
help older adults by reducing fees. Contact your area's public health offices
or social services for information about dental care in your community.