Toothbrush 101

People have been brushing their teeth for a long time.  Primitive versions of the toothbrush have existed for around 5000 years!  Thankfully, we have come a long way since the days of hog bristles and handles of wood, ivory, or bone.  Today’s brushes are virtually all made of plastic with nylon bristles.  But that’s often where the similarities stop.  With so many different types of toothbrushes out there, choosing which brush is right for you can get confusing.  Will a $3.49  manual do the trick or is it worth it to shell out $180 for a SoniCare toothbrush?  Ultimately, it is going to depend on your unique dental needs but here are some of the basics to take into consideration.

Toothbrushes on the market today can be sorted into two basic categories: manual and electric.

Manual Toothbrush

Manual toothbrushes are what come to mind when one hears the word ‘toothbrush’.  They consist of a handle with nylon bristles.  The cleaning motion of a manual brush is supplied by the brusher.  Proper cleaning of the teeth with a manual brush requires a certain level of manual dexterity.  One has to be able to maneuver the brush in a way that will remove plaque from all of the surfaces of the teeth.  Most people have the ability to quickly learn how to adequately clean their teeth using a manual brush… but the fact is that many people lack the motivation or attention to detail to learn.  This is where an electric brush can help.

Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes typically have the same nylon bristles as their manual counterparts but their brush heads vibrate, oscillate, or spin (depending on the type of brush) to remove the plaque from the teeth.  This enables patients to clean without much manipulation of the brush.  One must simply hold the brush next to each tooth for a short time in order to clean.  People with limited mobility, little hand-eye coordination, or impaired manual dexterity often benefit from the assistance that an electric tooth brush offers.  I also strongly recommend electric toothbrushes for self professed ‘lazy brushers’.

Brush Head Size

One important factor to consider when purchasing a brush, whether it is a manual or an electric, is the size of the brush head.  People with limited jaw movement, tipped or crooked teeth, or just small mouths can have a hard time fitting a standard toothbrush head into the tight spaces of their mouth.  Compact brush heads will allow easier access to those hard to reach places.

Soft, Medium, or Hard Bristles?

Manual toothbrushes come in a variety of bristle types.  A soft bristle tooth brush is almost universally recommended.  Harder bristles may actually damage tooth structure or gums, especially for people who brush particularly hard.

Bells and Whistles

Many of the electric brushes have extra bells and whistles that can come in handy but are not absolutely necessary.  With this, it simply comes down to the preferences of the brusher.  For example, many of the electric brushes have a built in two minute timer (the recommended time to brush each time you brush your teeth).  Many people already have an idea of how long to brush or have devised a method for making sure that the teeth are cleaned thoroughly and might not want to pay extra for that particular feature.

Certain brush types may be better suited for certain individuals but the bottom line is this: the best toothbrush for you is the toothbrush that you’re most likely to use.

For a custom recommendation on what type of toothbrush is best for you, consult your dentist or hygienist.


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