One of the basics of good oral hygiene is tooth brushing. The challenge is finding the right toothbrush that’s just for you. Contrary to what many may believe, toothbrushes are not created equal. There is a myriad of brands and varieties available on the market which makes choosing the right one seem like a Herculean effort.
Don’t let the decision fatigue overwhelm you or keep you from choosing the toothbrush that suits yours and your family’s needs. Here are a few tips to help you understand and make the right decision:
Assess bristle pattern
There are a variety of bristle patterns to choose from. Here are a few of those varieties.
- Flat – The bristles on a flat-headed toothbrush are the same level.
- Crisscross – Crisscross patterns with bristles angled at opposite directions. These are effective for removing plaque.
- Multilevel pattern – The multilevel pattern combines both short and long bristles. This design allows the bristles to reach difficult areas between teeth.
- Polishing bristles – Polishing bristles are similar to the multilevel pattern ones but with round rubber circles placed in the middle. These toothbrushes are designed to reduce stains.
Although there are a staggering number of bristle patterns you can choose from, very little evidence suggests that the fancier designs are better than the more traditional ones. It depends on other factors too including the shape and alignment of teeth. Settle for the toothbrush that can sit comfortably in your mouth while allowing you to clean all your teeth properly.
Bristle colour counts
The colour on toothbrush bristles is not the for the sake of appearances alone. It is used as an indicator of wear. When the colour begins to fade, you need to replace your toothbrush. Typically, a toothbrush needs to be replaced every three to four months.
Consider the shape
The shape of the toothbrush may seem like a frivolous aspect to think about, but it determines if it will fit comfortably in your mouth or not. Toothbrush heads come in a variety of shapes, among which are: round, rectangle, and diamond. This may require some trial and error for you to figure out which one is better for you. To get you started, try toothbrush heads with ends that are rounded or tapered. These typically fit more easily at the back of your mouth, giving you better access teeth at the back.
Your toothbrush should fit easily in your mouth to allow you to clean difficult-to-to-reach areas. If your toothbrush is too wide or too large, it will not fit well and you’ll have trouble moving it so you won’t be able to clean teeth well. You don’t have to choose the smallest one. Adults can use a mid-sized toothbrush, which is about half an inch wide and an inch tall.
Children’s mouths, however, are significantly smaller compared to those of adults. In order for them to use a toothbrush with some degree of comfort, a smaller-sized toothbrush head is recommended for children.
Bristle stiffness is important
Using hard bristles can cause damage to teeth and gums. They can wear down tooth enamel and lead to gum recession — especially if you brush too hard. While it may seem that soft-bristled toothbrushes can’t clean teeth well enough, they are, in fact, more effective than the stiffer, firmer options and are recommended by dentists. Whether or not you have sensitive teeth, soft or extra soft bristles are the superior option.
Choose between manual and electric toothbrushes
Both manual and electric toothbrushes have their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s compare:
● Cost – Powered toothbrushes are more expensive than manual options. Costs can add up, especially since you need to replace the toothbrush head just as often as you would switch to another manual toothbrush.
● Effectiveness – Researchers who conducted a comparative study on the effectiveness of manual versus electric toothbrushes have found that one is just as effective as the other. This is with the exception of one particular type of electric toothbrush — the oscillating-rotating (O-R) brush — which, research suggests, can reduce plaque, gingival inflammation, and bleeding better than a manual toothbrush. Despite the initial (and subsequent) costs of this particular variety, it may be a better option in terms of preventing gum disease. This is especially useful for those who may not be paying any mind to their brushing technique.
The bar graph above displays the comparative results between the percentages of plaque, gingival, and bleeding index that were reduced within four weeks of using an O-R brush (in blue) and the manual brush (in red). The graph shows that nearly 90% of plaque was reduced when using the O-R brush compared to 68% using a manual. The O-R brush also proved to be more efficient in removing gingival inflammation by up to 85% compared to the 75% reduction using the manual brush. Lastly, the O-R brush reduced as much as 93% of bleeding versus the manual which registered only 72%. The O-R brush appears to be more effective overall.
● Timer – A few electric toothbrush models are equipped with a particularly useful feature — a timer. A timer allows you to gauge how long you’ve been brushing so you don’t brush below the minimum recommended time of two minutes. When those two minutes are up, the toothbrush starts to beep to tell you, you’re done. Much newer models have timers that go off in 30 seconds, which is how long you have to brush each quadrant of your mouth. This is an especially helpful feature for children. However, adults can benefit from it as well. The average time an adult spends brushing their teeth is 45 seconds, which is not nearly enough to thoroughly clean teeth and is decidedly below the two-minute minimum. If you want to make sure you’re brushing the minimum required time, a powered toothbrush may be better for you.
Take into account ease of use
Older adults may have limited mobility due to arthritis or other rheumatic disorders. This can make brushing teeth a challenge. Electrically powered toothbrushes can address this issue. The bigger handles allow for a better grip. Set to run automatically, they don’t need to manipulate it beyond holding and guiding the brush head along from tooth to tooth.
While most adults can hold a toothbrush with no problem, children still need some guidance, especially very young ones. They need a toothbrush model that will be easy for them to use. A powered toothbrush fits the bill and has the added benefit of a timer to teach them how long they need to brush their teeth.
The video above contains instructions on how to use an electric oscillating-rotating toothbrush to brush your teeth. To use it, wet the brush head and apply any kind of toothpaste. Avoid splashing by placing the brush head to your teeth before turning it on. Move it slowly along the gumline spending a few seconds brushing each tooth. Brush both your teeth and gums, inclining the brush head so the bristles can reach the areas between your teeth. When you’re done brushing the outside surface of your teeth, brush the inside surface, then afterwards brush the top area used for chewing. You don’t need to make a scrubbing motion; the toothbrush will do the work for you. Also, don’t brush too hard. Some toothbrushes have a mechanism that alerts you when you’re brushing too hard. Brush twice a day for two minutes, spending 30 seconds on each quadrant of the mouth. It is recommended that the brush head be changed every three months.
Make it a teaching moment
If you want to teach your child proper brushing techniques, a manual toothbrush is the way to go. Also, consider getting toothbrushes with toothpaste indicators. These serve as a guide for both parents and children in terms of how much toothpaste to put and where.
More importantly, remember to make it fun. In order to encourage them to brush their teeth regularly, you have to make oral hygiene enjoyable. When choosing a toothbrush, have them make some of the decisions, specifically in terms of colour or design. They might enjoy it more if it has a picture of one of their favourite cartoon or TV characters.
Select dental health products that pass the standards set by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). No matter how tempting it might be to opt for the cheaper, non-branded variety, these options may come with its own risks. The bristles, for example, may not be as durable and will fall out, making it less effective and likely to damage gums and teeth. Branded products may cost more, but they have likely passed quality control.
When it comes to yours and your family’s dental health, you can never be too careful. The choices are endless, but one of the best ways to find out what toothbrush is good for you is to ask your dentist. Placing extra care in selecting the right toothbrush for each of your family members will help all of you preserve the health of your teeth and gums while spurring on the development of good oral hygiene at the same time.
Start encouraging your family to take their oral health seriously and for your children to continue this practice throughout their adult lives with this simple step. Complement best practices at home with regular visits to the dentist.