Finger Toothbrushes for the Elderly [The Need, Uses, and Which are Best]

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Luckily, there are some alternatives to the standard toothbrush that can make brushing easier for the elderly. They are not always as effective as a traditional manual brush, but they are certainly better than not brushing at all. One of the simplest and most effective alternatives for seniors is the finger toothbrush.

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Income Disclosure: Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. Learn More.

Toothbrushes were once considered a luxury item in 17th century Europe. Today, they are a staple of modern hygiene and most adults use them daily. Numerous health problems can make brushing more problematic as we age. Conditions like arthritis and limited mobility lead to many seniors giving up on the routine.

Luckily, there are some alternatives to the standard toothbrush that can make brushing easier for the elderly. They are not always as effective as a traditional manual brush, but they are certainly better than not brushing at all. One of the simplest and most effective alternatives for seniors is the finger toothbrush.

What Are Finger Toothbrushes?

A fingertip toothbrush is an incredibly simple device that can be used in lieu of a traditional toothbrush. Most finger toothbrushes are made from a soft, flexible plastic like polypropylene. They are close to 2 inches long and shaped like a cap that slides over the tip of the index finger. On one side of the brush is either a row of rubber-like bristles or larger bumps with even spacing. Some fingertip toothbrushes are dual-sided with bristles on one end and bumps on the other.

It functions nearly identical to a traditional toothbrush. You can place toothpaste on the rubber bristles and then gently brush your teeth. The bristles are softer than those on a normal brush so they are less likely to cause discomfort or bleeding. You control the motion with your finger instead of holding a brush and controlling it with your wrist.

Finger toothbrushes have become increasingly popular over the last decade. Parents frequently use them on their infants and pet owners use them to brush their dog’s teeth. Seniors can also benefit from their unique design for several reasons.

What Uses Do Finger Toothbrushes Have For The Elderly?

These small brushes may be an ideal solution for seniors who are having a difficult time committing to regular brushing. There are certain symptoms of aging that make life, in general, more difficult. If you’ve already crossed into your 50’s or above, then you’re likely very familiar with these symptoms. It may seem easier to just avoid brushing altogether. Studies indicate that many seniors abandon their oral hygiene routines and even visits to the dentist. However, this type of behavior can lead to many unwanted oral health conditions.

Fingertip toothbrushes provide an alternative for seniors who are committed to maintaining their oral routine. Arthritis is one of the biggest obstacles that prevent seniors from brushing regularly. The CDC claims that there are more than 54 million adults in America who suffer from some type of arthritis. They also state that the vast majority of these adults are above the age of 65.

Arthritis in the hands or wrist can make regular brushing and flossing extremely difficult. Arthritis symptoms often include severe inflammation and pain. Simply holding a toothbrush in a closed fist and moving back and forth can seem nearly impossible. Replacing the manual toothbrush with an electric toothbrush can make it slightly easier, but it’s not an outright solution.

Fingertip toothbrushes don’t require closing your fist to grip the toothbrush. It allows you to hold your hand in a position that is comfortable to you and brush at your own pace. The bristles are not entirely as effective as a high-quality standard brush. However, when compared to not brushing at all, it is a much better alternative.

Poor mobility is another serious problem that many seniors face. If the bathroom is upstairs, then making regular trips can be exhausting and painful. Most adults also try to stand above the sink when brushing, which can be painful for seniors who have trouble standing for long periods.

Disposable fingertip toothbrushes generally come individually packaged while reusable options will have their own case. You can keep the package or case near your bed or chair. You can brush your teeth while sitting without needing to go to the bathroom. The only walking that is required is getting a glass of water for the rinsing process.

This also makes it possible for a senior to effectively use the fingertip toothbrush if they are bedridden. All that’s needed is access to water, toothpaste, and a trash can. It’s much easier than trying to use a manual or electric toothbrush when confined to a bed.

Overall, a fingertip toothbrush is a very practical and reliable tool for seniors who struggle to maintain their oral routine. They are gentle on the teeth and gums, easy to use, and can be used in a variety of different locations.

Are Finger Toothbrushes Safe For The Elderly To Use?

Absolutely!

As mentioned, finger toothbrushes are often used for infants as well. They are safe for infants and safe for the elderly as well. However, it’s still a good idea to closely research the brand before purchasing a specific brush. Take the time to discern what materials they use to make the brush and read the customer reviews. If a particular brand has experienced safety issues in the past, then you will likely be able to find mention of the incident in online reviews.

What Are The Best Finger Toothbrushes For The Elderly?

Fingertip toothbrushes are fairly simple devices and it may not seem like there is much variation from one brand to the next. Even so, there are some that easily stand out as the best on the market. The differences usually include the type of material, the feel of the brush, and the style of the bristles. Here are the top three options.

Safety 1st Fingertip Toothbrush and Case

Where to Buy:

This re-usable fingertip toothbrush is manufactured by Safety 1st and comes with a convenient storage case. It’s manufactured according to high-quality medical standards and regulations. Their products are independently tested to ensure they meet these guidelines. The brand is partnered with the New England Medical Center and has a reputation for producing reliable, safe products.


Dr. Brown’s Finger Toothbrush

Where to Buy:

This is another high-quality, reusable finger toothbrush that is commonly recommended by medical professionals. It’s entirely silicone-based and is dual-sided. The toothbrush can be easily sterilized with boiling water and the plastic will not melt. It is also labeled as being dishwasher safe. The bristles on one side are ideal for brushing while the textured reverse side is best for cleaning gums.


360 Degrees Bristle Silicone Finger Toothbrush

Where to Buy:

This product may be labeled as a baby’s finger toothbrush, but it works equally well for seniors. It’s slightly more expensive than the other options because each order includes two brushes. It has a unique 360 degree textured design, which means there are soft bristles along the entirety of the brush’s surface. It has 12 times more bristle coverage than other fingertip toothbrushes. This makes it much easier to brush your teeth and gums in hard-to-reach spots.


What Are Some Alternatives To Finger Toothbrushes For Seniors And Elderly?

Fingertip toothbrushes aren’t the only solution available for seniors who need help with their oral routine. Toothette oral swabs are single-use toothbrushes that are primarily used on the gums. Seniors who are missing their natural teeth will find these much easier to use than a standard toothbrush and they won’t hurt sensitive gums.

Another popular alternative is the SymplBrush. These brushes are larger and have a unique design that can brush all of your teeth at once. You simply bite down in between the bristles and turn on the brush. It can effectively clean all of your teeth in only 30 seconds without any repetitive motion.

Summary

Living with limited mobility or severe arthritis can lead to a lot of suffering. It’s not uncommon for seniors to avoid certain activities that cause them to experience pain. Even when those activities are very important to their health, such as brushing their teeth. Using a finger toothbrush, a Toothette, or the SymplBrush are all reliable solutions for seniors who want to continue caring for their teeth while suffering from these problems.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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