As a dental hygienist for over 25 years, a common question that I get frequently is “what type of toothbrush is best?” Oh if only I had a dollar for every time I heard that question I would be one rich lady! I know it can be difficult choosing what is the best toothbrush to use so let’s get down to it. Here are some things to consider:
Why soft bristled is important
You only have one coating of enamel so it’s extremely important to protect what God gave you to start with. You can always re-mineralize enamel but you cannot REGROW it. Using soft bristles is perhaps one of the most common ways to help protect your enamel. People often ask me why stores sell medium and hard bristled brushes and all I can say is they make great grout cleaners. You never want to use a medium or hard bristle. Soft or extra soft is the way to go because plaque (that nasty biofilm that makes up part of our saliva), is soft and sticky. You could use a Brillo pad for 30 seconds and the plaque would still be there. It’s not how hard you brush but the length of time that you spend brushing.
Technique is also really important if using a manual toothbrush. Angle the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle down into the gums for the bottom teeth and up into the gums for the top. Brush in tiny circular motions, NOT in long strokes back and forth. I don’t know about you, but when I use a manual toothbrush it’s like a weapon in my hand and I can’t seem to stop scrubbing my teeth. This can cause toothbrush abrasion and receding gums so it’s important to use the right technique and brush.
The head of the toothbrush can be round or square at the end. A toothbrush head can also be diamond-shaped. The diamond style is typically the most beneficial. This is because the point of the diamond makes it easier to reach the backs and sides of your molars.
You will want to choose a head shape that is small enough to maneuver hard-to-reach places inside your mouth. The best toothbrush for you will probably have a head size that covers only one or two teeth at a time.
You wouldn't think the shape of the toothbrush’s handle would have any impact on your brushing experience but it does. For a long time, straight handles were the only type available on the market. Experts then began to think about the angles needed to reach those back teeth and molars. Other handle shapes became available as a result.
Aside from straight, a few different handle shapes include flexible, non-slip gripped handles, and contra-angled handles. The non-slip grip and flexible handles can be straight or angled. These are designed for added ease of use and ergonomics. The contra-angle handles involve a slight bend halfway down the neck of the brush. This bend is highly beneficial for reaching the wisdom teeth and farthest back molars.
Toothbrushes have become much more than simple rows of bristles. Many unique patterns have been introduced over the years to suit the needs of every individual. Popular designs include wavy and tapered patterns as well as crisscrossing. There are even bristles that mimic polishing cups.
Wavy patterned bristles are ideal for gum health. Tapered bristle patterns help to make cleaning as efficient as possible. They are beneficial for thoroughly cleaning the surface of the teeth, the gum line, and even those tough-to-reach interdental places. Crisscrossing bristles can greatly reduce gingivitis and the risk thereof. Polishing cup bristles are great for helping the toothpaste stay on the bristles. These may help whiten the teeth as well as clean them.
The strength of bristles on your toothbrush is as simple as soft, medium, or hard. Please never use a medium or hard toothbrush as they can damage your enamel. It’s not how hard you scrub but how long you spend brushing. The proper technique is what’s most important. Feel free to check out my video on how to brush properly.
In your search for the best toothbrush, you may come across an interdental style brush. This is also called an interproximal brush. The interdental space refers to the gap between your teeth where the gums are. This space is tricky to get to, so the interdental brush was made with this in mind. This type of brush is typically plastic and disposable. It is especially beneficial for those who have braces and need to get between those wires.
The handle can be angled or integral for added ease of use. Some people use this in tandem with regular brushing. The benefit of doing both is a significant reduction in the risk of gingivitis. You may also greatly reduce plaque.
Just like the name implies, this toothbrush keeps ecological impacts in mind. To combat pollution, ecological toothbrushes avoid plastic. They are typically made of biodegradable materials. You will find the handles are mostly made of wood. The bristles can be made of bamboo or pig hair. Some of these even go a step further and offer replaceable heads. These are usually biodegradable as well.
This type of toothbrush has a small, round brush head (similar to electric toothbrush heads). It has seven little groups of soft bristles, normally nylon. These bristles are tightly packed together into "tufts" and trimmed at an angle. This is so that the center bristles are longer and equipped to reach those deeper, smaller crevices. The design of these brushes, from the handle to the bristles, is made to be as ergonomically friendly as possible.
The handle is often built with grip, control, and precision in mind. This type of brush is ideal for tricky spaces. These can include reaching wisdom teeth, crowded teeth, and areas near missing teeth. End-tuft brushes are also great for any dental appliances such as dentures, caps, implants, bridges, and even braces.
This is perhaps the easiest and most popular option for on-the-go. The chewable toothbrush takes the form of a miniature molded brush. It typically looks like the circular head of the end-tuft or electric brush. It's made of plastic, is one-time use, and is disposable. It is truly the best toothbrush for traveling. It even has different flavors such as bubble gum and mint.
This brush is popular with younger children as well, especially those with decreased dexterity. If you're wondering how efficient these are, they are often seen as an equally effective alternative to manual brushing.
This small brush is great for concentrated areas, namely the interdental spaces. The bristles of this brush are typically shaped like an arrow. The point of the arrow can clean along the gum line. Sulca-brushes are a solid choice for spot-cleaning specific areas you can’t get with your everyday brush. This type could be additionally effective if used in tandem with normal brushing. Keep these in mind for in-between crowns, crowded or overlapping teeth, and bridges as well.
What electric toothbrushes work best?
According to scientific research, the ultrasonic vibration toothbrushes are more effective at removing the biofilm than manual brushes. Also, according to an 11 year study, the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that electric toothbrushes resulted in 22% less gum recession and 18% less tooth decay which is a significant finding.1 Your better electric toothbrushes have a 2 minute timer built in so it will automatically shut off without having to guess if you’ve brushed long enough. It honestly takes about 3-5 minutes with a manual toothbrush to do the work an electric one does in 2 minutes so if you’re in a time crunch…go electric.
The first electric toothbrushes came out in the late 1930’s but the first practical electrical toothbrush wasn’t made until the 50’s by a doctor named Dr. Philippe-Guy Woog, a Swiss inventor. However, these type of toothbrushes were really impractical and it wasn’t until the 1990’s that technology made electrical toothbrushes not only more user friendly, but more efficient as well.
Sonicare was the first to hit the market place with the ultrasonic vibration technology that makes it unique. Then Procter & Gamble came out with their version of the electric toothbrush, which is known as the Oral-B Braun (previously owned by Gillette). Here’s a quote from a recent study done in Germany, “Electric toothbrushes have become increasingly popular among all age groups in Germany but few studies have tested their long-term effectiveness,” said study author Dr. Vinay Pitchika, of the University of Greifswald, Germany. “Our study shows that electric toothbrushes are most beneficial in maintaining good oral health and are linked with slower progression of periodontal disease.” 2
The ultrasonic brushes were also shown to be more effective in breaking up biofilm that contained the Streptococcus mutans bacteria (bug that causes cavities), according to this study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29630788/ I realize that budget is often a concern for many people so I encourage my patients to at least use a battery powered toothbrush. The downside of battery brushes is that as the battery power decreases, so does the effectiveness of the brush. Plus, it does produce a lot of unnecessary waste in our landfills since they oftentimes have to be thrown out.
With technology constantly changing, there are more and more options for the average consumer to choose from. Costs can range anywhere from $5-$250 depending on how fancy of a brush you’re looking for. Personally, I tried using the Sonicare toothbrush connected to an app on my phone to help me determine how I was brushing but I found that to be very annoying instead of helpful. You really don’t need to spend a ton of money on one. It’s a proven fact that just using an electric toothbrush will remove more biofilm so this will automatically help your oral health, not harm it.
So, Which Is the Best Toothbrush for Me?
If you find that you like a few of the types listed above, don’t be afraid to be exploratory. You may also find it’s most beneficial to double up. You can use the Sulcabrush along with your electric brush. You can also use the interdental brush with your ecological one.
Keep in mind the products you use are also important for superior oral health. None of our products contain harmful chemicals such as SLS, fluoride, glycerin, GMOs, TEA, alcohol, parabens, or even abrasive agents. They also contain zero artificial colors or sweeteners and are ideal even for the most sensitive teeth.
Time for a New Brush?
If you want to try my favorite electric toothbrush, the BURST has a LIFETIME warranty as long as you get the subscription head sent to you every 3 months for $7. It also holds a charge for approximately 4 weeks, the price point is extremely reasonable ($40 using my BURST ambassador code GA6BH or $69 full price www.burstoralcare.com), and it uses the ultrasonic vibrations as opposed to rotary method.
I know there are so many different types of electric toothbrushes and non-electric to choose from but do your own research and determine what you think will work best for your mouth and budget. I can honestly say that once you go electric, you don’t go back. However, like anything else, there may be an adjustment period so make sure you give it at least 2 weeks before you throw in the towel. I’m sure your hygienist will be happy you made the switch! Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments. My email is email@example.com and if you’d like to get some specific advice, we invite you to use our consultant services. We'll help you get on track with the best care options for you.
We also encourage you to read our blogs. You deserve the best dental hygiene, and when it comes to your mouth, you can't learn too much. Check out the products that started it all: our Simply Silver Mouthwash, Toothpaste, and Breath Spray, all 100% natural. Let us help you get started on your path to top-notch dental hygiene!
ORAL HEALTH FOUNDATION (2018) ‘National Smile Month Nationwide Survey 2019’, Atomik Research, May 2019, Sample 2,003.