19 Ways to Modify Your Toothbrush If You Have Arthritis

Elderly man holding hand his hand, displaying sever arthritis

Arthritis can make everyday activities very difficult. 

From opening jars to typing on a keyboard, to even impacting how you brush and floss your teeth. 

Toothbrush handles are small, making the toothbrush hard to hold if you have joint stiffness and limited range of motion. 

And if brushing is hard, working with a 2 – 3 mm thick piece of floss isn’t even worth thinking about at times.  

You could use items that may already be in your home for a quick way to help with brushing and flossing. 

You don’t need an expensive fix to relieve your flare-ups, especially when symptoms come and go.  

The following list can be used also if you have a shoulder, arm and or hand injury. Having a restricting range of movement due to such injuries can make brushing and flossing difficult. 

These household items are the best to help ease your arthritis symptoms while brushing and flossing;

1- Elastic band 

Wrap the elastic band around the palm of your hand as you see in the picture.

You want the elastic band to be firm in place – this will allow for more control with your toothbrush (but make sure it’s not too tight that it cuts off your circulation). Then place the toothbrush between your hand and the elastic band.

No need to bend your fingers at all, as the motion comes from your shoulder and elbow. 

2- Pool noodle 

The hole in the middle of the noodle is the perfect spot for the toothbrush handle.

You can cut the pool noodle to the exact size that you need, making it completely customizable.

Depending on the size of the hole in the middle and the thickness or your toothbrush, you may need to use some tape to secure your brush in place.

The soft grip of the pool noodle is large enough that you won’t have to squeeze your hand too tightly around it. 

3- Tennis Ball 

You can usually buy tennis balls with slits at the top at the Dollar Store.

The tennis ball is almost too perfect for your toothbrush. The brush can be pushed into the slits and voila, you have a fantastic grip which is secure and easy to grab.

Don’t worry if you can’t find the tennis balls with the slits in them because they are easy to make at home. All you have to do is cut an “X” through the ball about the size of a quarter. If you are unable to do it yourself ask for some help. 

4- Tennis Racket Grip Tape 

Wrap, wrap and keep wrapping. This is a great way to get the exact thickness around the handle as you want.

You can even make it thicker at one end to better form fit your hand’s grip.

It provides a cushy grip that is easy to hold. The only downside is that you will have to re-tape your toothbrush when you change it every 3 months. 

5- Foam Hair Roller 

A smaller version of the pool noodle method. Just detach the plastic clip that is attached to the foam piece.

There are different styles of hair rollers, the one that works best is displayed in the photo.

Another great thing about the hair rollers is that they come in so many different sizes. Because the hole is a little smaller there is no need to secure it in place with tape. 

6- Bicycle Handlebar Grip

The grips have one end that is open and the other end is closed, preventing it from sliding up the handle of the toothbrush.

I like this option because you can easily detach it to clean the grip and when it comes time to change your brush, the grip can be reused. Plus as an added bonus – they usually come in a pack of two.

If it is too big for your brush you could tape the handle first, or secure the grip with tape. 

7- Duct Tape/Electrical Tape 

Similar to the tennis racket grip tape method (number 4), just a less expensive option. 

8- Cloth and Elastics

Roll the cloth around the handle of the toothbrush and secure it into place with elastic bands.

A face-cloth usually works best. However, if a larger grip is needed a dish towel may be a better option. I like this method because it can be reused and washed. 

9- Sponge

Take the sponge and wrap it around the toothbrush handle on its long edge. Secure it with elastics.

Depending on the thickness and size of the sponge you could also try and cut a slit in the sponge and insert the toothbrush. This can make more of an even grip.

10- Aluminum Foil 

You can bunch up the foil around the end of the handle. It could be reusable or a one time use.

Form it into any shape you wish to! If you have enough strength in your hands, you can squeeze your hand shape into the foil – making it custom moulded to your unique hand. 

11- Popsicle Sticks

Attach however many popsicles sticks to the handle of the toothbrush. You can use tape, zip ties, or even elastics to secure the popsicle sticks.

The size is customizable to however thick you want the grip. Be careful of splinters – this is why I prefer using tape, so you can seal off the sticks. 

12- Stress Ball 

Poke a hole through the stress ball (I used a BBQ skewer).  Insert the end of the handle into the ball.

You can go all the way through or stop just before the end of the brush pokes through. 

13- Hot Glue Nozzle

You can apply multiple layers of hot glue to the handle of the brush, making it bigger.  This is nice if you know you need it thicker in certain areas.

This is a cleaner option because once the glue is set in place it can be washed easily. 

14- Styrofoam Ball

Poke a hole through the ball (I used the BBQ skewer again). You can go all the way through or stop wherever you desire.

I personally prefer not putting the brush all the way through as I find it stays in place better. 

15- Velcro Straps

Wrap the velcro around the handle of the toothbrush. It is easy to build more width in areas that are needed.

And they can be removed and washed as needed. 

16- Garden Ties 

These come in various sizes from just a few mm thick to almost a cm in diameter.

Just wrap it around the brush where you need the most grip. The ties have metal that runs through the middle so be sure to cut it off or cover it (I was able to tuck it in so the metal wasn’t exposed) 

17- Drawer/cupboard liner and elastics

Similar to the cloth and elastics (number 8). Wrap to your desired thickness and secure it with elastics.

18- Dog Toy (with a hole in the middle)

Similar to the tennis ball (number 3). No poking or cutting required.

If your toothbrush handle is too small you may need some tape to secure it.

19- Hot Water 

You can also take the plastic brush and run it under hot water to try and bend the top of the brush. This allows you to get to difficult areas such as the back of the mouth.

When the desired bend is made you can remove it from the hot water or if you can turn the tap to cold.

The cold water will set the bend in place. 

Maintain regular cleaning appointments at your dentist 

Even if you are keeping up with your oral hygiene, the teeth have different grooves and indents that can build up plaque and tartar (calculus). These difficult to reach areas need to be professionally cleaned.

Having regular cleanings will contribute to maintaining your oral health.

Your dental professional will discuss with you what areas in your mouth need more attention. They can also provide you with some tips and tricks to reach those areas that need added care. 

Upgrade to an electric toothbrush

If these tips and tricks seem overwhelming and you want something that will automatically do the work for you then maybe an electric toothbrush is for you.

Electric toothbrushes have larger handles than regular manual brushes and the electric brush does most of the work – the Oral-B electric toothbrushes can move up to 48,800 movements per minute!Opens in a new tab. And your manual toothbrush you can only do about 300 – 600 per minute.

Read Now: 12 Benefits of Using an Electric ToothbrushOpens in a new tab.

Imagine doing that with your hands? It would take months of brushing to get up to that number! 

With so many electric toothbrushes on the market, it can be really hard to choose which one is right for you.

My personal preference is Oral-B because of the size of the toothbrush head. The Oral-B brush head is small and I feel that it can do a better job at contouring around and reaching farther in between the teeth. 

Also, some of the Oral-B models have a pressure sensor and will decrease to the power of the brush to protect your teeth and gums. It will flash a red light at you to show that you are brushing too hard and you need to ease off the amount of pressure. Not only will it flash red at you but it will also lower the power, preventing tooth and tissue damage.

The movement of the electric toothbrush stimulates the gum tissue, increasing blood flow and can increase the healing of the gum tissue.

I use the Oral-B genius toothbrush.Opens in a new tab.

Oral-B does not endorse me, this is solely my professional opinion. 

If you are having a difficult time brushing and flossing your teeth you can incorporate an alcohol-free mouthwash that contains fluoride. This will help to cleanse the mouth, aiding in tissue healing and prevent cavities.

I am a firm believer that something is better than nothing. Osteoarthritis and a limited range of motion can have a huge impact on your oral health. 

Try and stay motivated and do what you can, every little bit counts! 

I know you can do it!  

Holly 🙂

Holly Verran RDH

I have been a Registered Dental Hygienist in Ontario, Canada, since 2014. I currently hold registration and good standing with the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario and the Canadian Dental Hygiene Association.

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