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Special Toothbrushes For The Elderly: Alternatives to a Standard Toothbrush

Special Toothbrushes For The Elderly: Alternatives to a Standard Toothbrush

Some examples of special toothbrushes for the elderly include electric toothbrushes, U-shaped toothbrushes, finger brushes, oral swabs, and more. Learn more about these options below.
Special Toothbrushes For The Elderly
Special Toothbrushes For The Elderly
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Maintaining good oral hygiene is not an option as it prevents gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. It is even more crucial as one grows older since, with age, one is more prone to oral problems like cavities, tooth sensitivity, and gum recession.

According to a research study conducted by WHO 1, oral diseases pose a significant health burden, affect individuals throughout their lives, and cause disfigurement, discomfort, pain, and even death. Brushing your teeth is a pretty simple process, but there is more to oral health than using any toothbrush and toothpaste.

When getting a toothbrush for the elderly, there are multiple factors you need to consider. How do you determine what toothbrush is the right choice for an older adult? Do you pick a toothbrush based on the type, looks, grip, or bristles?

There is a wide variety of toothbrushes for the elderly to choose from, so it helps to know a few basics. Read on to learn more about special toothbrushes for the elderly and tips on choosing the best.

Are There Special Toothbrushes For The Elderly?

With age, one is more likely to experience different oral health problems than they would have at a younger age. Different oral health threats become more severe with age, so daily dental care is vital. This is precisely why you must choose the right toothbrush for seniors.

There are multiple special toothbrushes available that the elderly can choose from depending on their preference, budget, and other unique needs. One crucial aspect to consider when choosing the right special toothbrush for the elderly is the type of bristle. The bristles must be soft as the elderly are more likely to have significant gum recession.

A gum recession exposes more of your tooth’s root, making that area more sensitive. Therefore, if an older adult uses a toothbrush whose bristles are not soft, they will likely skip that part as they brush, potentially leading to a significant dental problem.

While there are different special toothbrushes for the elderly to choose from, it would be best to choose an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are an important oral hygiene product for older adults because they increase gum health and effectively removing plaque. According to a study 6 posted on Science Direct, electric toothbrushes used in a short period promote better teeth and gum health.

Top 6 Alternatives To The Standard Toothbrush

Are you looking for an alternative to the standard toothbrush? Here are several special/non-standard toothbrushes available for seniors and the elderly.

1. Electric toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes are pretty convenient as they save you from all the work of brushing your teeth up and down. This makes them an excellent choice for older adults, especially ones with restricted movement. The best part is that some electric brushes have a 2-minute timer, allowing a user to brush for the recommended two minutes.

Electric toothbrushes are also great at eliminating plaque, offer gentle gum care, and some models may even have pressure sensors. While electric toothbrushes are a pricier option than standard toothbrushes, they are often better for the elderly.

2. U Shaped toothbrushes

symplbrush tooth cleaning device close 300Pin

U-shaped toothbrushes are also known as auto-brush or mouthpiece toothbrushes and are a variation on the electric toothbrush. They are designed to clean your teeth at once and in a shorter period, so they are pretty effective and get the job done much faster than a manual toothbrush.

I personally use the SymplBrush (they sent me one to try and I have used it ever since). I love that you can clean your teeth in 30 seconds instead of the recommended 2 minutes. It has 20 times the bristle coverage and cleans safer and faster than any other toothbrush. So, for seniors can only stand for a limited amount of time or who have mobility problems, this can be really helpful.

3. Finger Toothbrushes

These brushes are generally soft-to-the-touch toothbrushes designed to be used with your fingertip. They can be used by a caregiver taking care of an older person and can also clean a child’s teeth.

Finger toothbrushes are gentle to the gums and teeth. You do not require water or toothpaste when using them and are ideal for the elderly. However, it is worth mentioning that a finger toothbrush is not as effective at getting rid of plaque as a standard toothbrush.

4. Oral swabs/”Toothettes”

Toothettes or oral swabs are often small and pretty soft. You can use them to remove any stuck food debris between the teeth and clean between them. These are also a pretty excellent choice for individuals with sensitive gums as they are pretty gentle on the mouth.

5. Toothbrushes with ergonomic handles

Ergonomic essentially means making something more efficient. Ergonomic toothbrush handles come with an exceptional grip to allow individuals to hold the brush better and are also often lighter than standard toothbrush handles. Their toothbrush head’s design also allows one to brush hard-to-reach parts easily. They are best suited for and will significantly benefit the elderly and anyone with a physical limitation.

6. Toothbrush holders

Toothbrush holders are an excellent solution for older adults, or anyone really, who experiences hand tremors. They often have added weight that assists in stabilizing the hand tremors and a handle with a larger grip.

Toothbrush holders encourage and increase independence in older adults, especially ones who need caregivers.

Tips For Choosing A Toothbrush For Elderly

When choosing a toothbrush for an older person, consider multiple factors. These include the size and type of the toothbrush handle, shape and size of the head, grip, and the style/stiffness of the bristles. Your budget may also be a determining factor for the type of brush you buy.

While there is a wide range of toothbrushes you can select from, it will be best to choose one with soft bristles. According to ADA 2, you should brush your teeth twice a day using a brush with soft bristles. You do not require a lot of force to brush enamel away. Soft bristles ensure that you effectively clean your teeth without damaging your gums.

When choosing a toothbrush for an older adult, pick one with a smaller head as it will easily reach more parts in the mouth. Another vital aspect to consider is the grip. You want a toothbrush that is easy to hold as it guarantees an older person can easily use it without it slipping away.

Why Are Standard Toothbrushes Difficult To Use For Some Older Adults?

While some older adults can use a standard toothbrush to brush their teeth, it is not often the best choice for most. Typically, a standard toothbrush requires one to use their strength while brushing their teeth. A recent study 3 revealed that individuals are likely to brush their teeth harder when using a standard toothbrush than they would with an electrical one.

As one grows older, they may experience age-related challenges like muscle weakness or arthritis, making it difficult to brush their teeth using a standard toothbrush. Check out my guide to the best electric toothbrushes for arthritic hands for more information about this.

Standard brushes can also be challenging for the elderly to use as they require manual operation and may sometimes be impossible to grip. As you age, you want a toothbrush that you can comfortably grasp and use with ease.


Good dental and oral hygiene are vital, especially as one grows older. There are different special toothbrushes for the elderly, and all are available in a range of colors and unique features.

Regardless of the type of special toothbrush for adults you choose, ensure you choose one with soft bristles.

The best special toothbrush for the elderly will depend on the user’s unique needs. It comes down to the functionality of the brush and whether the user is comfortable using the brush. If you are not sure about the right special toothbrush for the elderly, it will be best to consult with your dentist and discuss your options regarding the best alternative to a standard toothbrush.


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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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