How to Choose the Right Toothbrush
The sheer volume of different toothbrushes available seems to grow more overwhelming every day. Between bristle stiffness, power source, material and motion type, the days of simply grabbing a toothbrush off the shelf and moving on with your day are long gone. Fortunately, this simple guide can make it easy to choose the best possible toothbrush for optimal dental health.
"According to the American Dental Association, both electric and manual toothbrushes can effectively clean your teeth."
Toothbrush Head and Style
For most people, the head of the toothbrush, which is the part covered with bristles, should be only an inch or less long. A longer toothbrush head can make accessing the nooks and crannies of your mouth difficult, especially for smaller people or children. Keep in mind, too, that you might need to experiment with a few different brands and styles of toothbrush before you find one that is comfortable for you to use and that can effectively reach all areas of your mouth. You will find a broad variety of different handle types, head angles, bristle cuts and other factors, all of which will impact how comfortable and user-friendly you find using the toothbrush. In many cases, a 99 cent option from the corner convenience store just is not going to get the job done.
Toothbrush Bristle Stiffness
Many people assume that the stiffer the toothbrush’s bristles, and the harder you brush with them, the cleaner your teeth will get. However, that can actually lead to additional sensitivity-related dental problems. A brush with soft bristles that you use carefully and regularly will actually do a much better job of protecting your dental health.
Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes
According to the American Dental Association, both electric and manual toothbrushes can effectively clean your teeth. Proper technique and sufficient duration are far more important for the health of your teeth than whether your toothbrush is manually or electrically powered. That being said, some people find it easier to clean their teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush, either because of joint problems or simply due to the added motivation and ease of use of an electric toothbrush. However, others find that dealing with the batteries or chargers necessary to operate an electric toothbrush to be more of a hassle than the convenience is worth.
If you do decide to purchase a powered toothbrush, choose a “rotation oscillation” variety; they have been found to be the most effective type of electric toothbrush available. No matter which type of toothbrush you use, you should spend roughly one to two minutes brushing your teeth twice per day, being careful to clean all surfaces of your teeth.
You may have heard of the “natural toothbrushes” that are beginning to increase in popularity. The bristles of these toothbrushes are usually made from a unique type of tree root or similar product that occurs in nature, instead of the nylon found in most toothbrushes. So far, however, very little research has been done to determine how effective these types of toothbrushes are, although there are indications that they may wear out faster than ordinary toothbrushes.
When to Replace a Toothbrush
Many people use their toothbrush for far too long without replacing it. Ideally you should swap out your toothbrush (or your toothbrush head, if you use an electric option) as soon as the bristles begin to fray and bend, which in most cases will be about every two to three months, but can sometimes be more often, especially with children’s brushes. If you get sick before your toothbrush wears out, you should still replace your toothbrush as soon as you feel better. Not only will a worn out toothbrush often do a poor job of cleaning your teeth, it can also tend to hold bacteria that can cause tooth and gum diseases. In fact, Oral B reports that a three month old toothbrush will remove as much as 30 percent less plaque than a brand new toothbrush.
If you find it difficult to locate a toothbrush that meets your needs, you may need to ask your dentist for advice. If you need a new toothbrush before you are able to visit your dentist, looking for an ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Approval on the toothbrush box can help steer you toward higher-quality options.
Which kind of toothbrush do you prefer?
Delta Dental: “How to Select a Toothbrush”
Academy of General Dentistry: “How Do I Choose and Use a Toothbrush?”
Reader’ Digest Best Health: “Dos and Don’ts of Choosing the Right Toothbrush”
American Dental Association: “Learn More About Toothbrushes”
Men’s Journal: “How to Choose the Best Toothbrush”
Oral-B: “Choosing a Good Toothbrush 101”
WebMD: “Choosing a Toothbrush: The Pros and Cons of Electric and Disposable”
Colgate: “Choosing the Right Toothbrush”
Oral-B: “Using the Right Toothbrushes”
1-800-Dentist: “How to Pick a Toothbrush”