Brushing Teeth with Rheumatoid Arthritis


Original Article:
Cleaning Advice and Tips
by the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

“Manual toothbrushes are light to use and economical, however, tend to have slim handles and huge heads which makes them hard to grip and to get right to the back teeth if jaw opening is limited. A grip can be wrapped round, such as tennis racket grip tape (this can be bought at a sports shop or online) or Dycem non-slip material (can be bought on a reel online), but would need replacing each time a new toothbrush was purchased. Your dental professional or occupational therapist can also make a personalized grip for your toothbrush using impression material. This can be removed from your toothbrush and cleaned in the dishwasher as necessary… Consider an electric toothbrush with a small (mini) head. They can be maneuvered round the whole mouth with the lips still lightly closed, relying on touch sensation rather than feel (it’s not essential to open wide to see where the bristles are, you can feel this). Less technique and movement is required (as the head rotates/vibrates itself) which can help if twisting and scrubbing motions are tricky, or you can’t use your dominant hand. They also have a chunkier handle which makes them easier to hold. The latest electric toothbrushes are much lighter than before… ‘With an electric toothbrush, that’s made a huge difference because you can get different sizes [of handles]’… RA in finger joints will affect how well things can be gripped which can make cleaning your mouth all the more difficult… If you’ve had an operation on your dominant shoulder, arm or hand; brushing can be harder to do as well as painful. Brush as well as you can with either hand (if you feel comfortable, you can ask someone to brush for you)”

In this article, the challenges of dental hygiene for individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis are exposed, as is a potential area of opportunity. This article seemed to encourage the use of electric toothbrushes—citing the fact that their big handle and small heads made them easier to maneuver. The article also discusses manual toothbrushes and offers a few tips for altering the handles to make them thicker; however, the tips seem cumbersome because they must be repeated with every new toothbrush.
Because manual toothbrushes are typically the most cost-efficient option and arthritis affects a plethora of people without regard to socioeconomic status, there seems to be a potential area of opportunity in manual toothbrushes for people with arthritis on the market.