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Get a Grip with Arthritis

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Part of my responsibility, to patients, is to make sure that they successfully grip and maneuver their toothbrush and floss. This may seem like a silly phrase, until one considers my patients with arthritis. Their front 12 teeth are clean, and the rest are marginal. Patients rarely tell me or my hygienists about their limitations, they just tell me that they “can’t” or “don’t” floss. Or else they avoid guilt by stating that they only floss the teeth they can easily reach. With further probing after this response, almost 40% of these patients have joint tenderness or coordination issues. Here’s what we suggest:

To grip a toothbrush and have better control, cut a narrow rectangle out of a bicycle handlebar grip where there is customarily a small hole. Then place the toothbrush handle into the rectangle and you now have a larger handle, specifically designed to have great gripping power. In contrast, electric toothbrushes sometimes have ergonomic handles but the toothbrush heads are large. Use a child’s toothbrush head and close your mouth a bit to reach back teeth.

One of the better solutions for holding floss is one that keeps not-so-nimble fingers outside the mouth. It looks like the letter “Y” with a knob in the center. Wrap some floss around this knob, feed the floss down one branch of the Y, across the gap, and back up the other branch until returning to the knob, where you wrap it a couple more times. Now secured, you wiggle the floss back and forth with a slight pressure toward the gums and it passes between the contact point of two teeth. Push against one side and move the floss up and down, then repeat on the other tooth. It is okay, and recommended, to take the floss gently under the gums.

The other solution for flossing is an interdental cleaner. Once again, arthritic patients must have something substantial to grip. Picture a miniature bottle brush for cleaning narrow jars and baby bottles, found in the Oral Care aisle of the “Wal” stores. It comes in a few sizes and two shapes. I always suggest a smaller size unless our hygienists feel you need something larger, usually cone-shaped. This brush cleans between teeth and under dental bridges just by inserting it with its wire core parallel to the ground and moving in and out, from both the cheek-side and tongue-side of each tooth. Like a toothbrush, you just rinse it between uses and allow it to air dry.

When in doubt, bring in a flossing aid that seems difficult to use and tell the hygienist that you want to get a grip on adequately caring for your teeth. They are my Pros.

Contact Winterset Dental today to find out which treatment is right for you.