Try these smart dental care products for seniors

SENIOR SAVVY

SPECIAL TO THE HERALDOctober 26, 2010 

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

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.

How to choose

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 range from $10 up to around $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 that beeps 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?

Top power toothbrushes

Some of the top brands and models, in all price ranges, as recommended by Consumer Reports and ConsumerSearch.com are Oral-B’s Professional Care SmartSeries and their Vitality models (oralb.com), Philips Sonicare Flexcare (sonicare.com), Waterpik Sensonic (waterpik.com) and the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush ProClean (spinbrush.com).

To find these products visit their respective websites, your local pharmacy or retailer that sells personal care products, or try amazon.com and drugstore.com who usually sells 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.

Easy flossing Tools

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 toothbrush-like handle for a better reach.

Another good option for seniors is power flossers. The Oral-B Hummingbird, Reach and WaterPik’s power flosser are three popular brands sold today. For around $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 around $50, water flossers use high pressured, pulsating water to dislodge embedded food particles and plaque and will stimulate your gums in the process.

Most flossing products can also be found at your local pharmacy or retailer that sells personal care items or online at amazon.com.

Jim Miller, a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book, can be reached at Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org.

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