DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: I have arthritis in my hands and shoulder, which has made brushing and flossing my teeth very difficult. My dentist recommended that I get an electric-powered toothbrush to help make the job easier, but with so many choices I’m not sure what to get. Any suggestions? — Still Smiling


DEAR STILL: Your dentist is right. For seniors who suffer with arthritis or have problems with manual dexterity, the easiest and most effective way to keep your teeth clean is with a power toothbrush. At the push of a button, a power toothbrush will do everything but shake, rattle and roll to do the work for you, and most come with a wide handle and rubberized grip that make them easier to hold on to.

With literally dozens of different power toothbrushes on the market, here are several key points you’ll need to consider to help you choose:

Price: The cost of power toothbrushes today ranges from $10 to about $150. How much you’re willing to spend will determine how many features the brush has. Also, be aware that replacement brushes — which are recommended every three months — cost between $4 and $8, will add to your overall costs.

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

Electric or 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), consider a power toothbrush with a built-in timer — they motivate you to brush longer. Some brushes even offer an audible signal every 30 seconds, indicating that it’s time to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth.

Features: Most higher-priced electric brushes come with various settings such as sensitive (gentler cleaning) or massage (gum stimulation), a charge-level display and more. What extra features do you want or need?

Some of the top brands and models, in all price ranges, as recommended by Consumer Reports and, are Oral-B’s Professional Care SmartSeries and its Vitality models (, Philips Sonicare Flexcare (, Waterpik Sensonic ( and the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush ProClean (

To find these products visit their respective websites, your local pharmacy or retailer that sells personal care products, or try and, two sites that usually sell them at a lower price. Also, be sure you check the return policy of the brush as some companies offer a money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied.

If you find flossing difficult too, floss picks are a good alternative. These are disposable plastic tools that have floss threaded onto them, which makes them easier to use. DenTek, Oral-B and Crest all sell packages of floss picks for a few dollars, or check out the Reach Access Flosser, which comes with a toothbrushlike handle for a better reach.

Another good option for seniors is a power flosser. The Oral-B Hummingbird, Reach and WaterPik’s power flosser are three popular brands sold today. For about $10 these flossers, which run on batteries, gently vibrate to do the work for you, and they all have easy-grip handles. Or, if you hate flossing, consider a WaterPik Water Flosser. For about $50, water flossers use high-pressure, pulsating water to dislodge embedded food particles and plaque and will stimulate your gums in the process.


Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit


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