Choosing the Right Toothbrush

One of the most common questions our dentists and dental hygienists hear from patients is this: “What kind of toothbrush should I be using?”  Ideally, you too should ask this of the person who does a thorough evaluation of your mouth on a consistent basis.  Each person has individual problem areas and unique areas of concern, so the answer varies from person to person.

However, this blog will give you some important guidelines, if not specific recommendations for your unique needs.

Why Do We (or Why Should We) Brush Our Teeth?

The human mouth is full of bacteria that have the potential to cause cavities and gum disease.  These bacteria live in colonies that stick to the teeth in the form of plaque buildup.  Dental plaque is the combination of bacteria, food debris, and exfoliated tissue cells inside the mouth.  When plaque stays in contact with the tooth surface for an extended period of time, it causes both cavities and gum disease.

Plaque collects in the deep grooves and pits on the biting surfaces of the teeth, in between the teeth, and where the gums meet each tooth.  Removing that sticky plaque every single day is essential to having healthy teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth tackles two of those three important plaque buildup areas! Routine brushing can reduce plaque, which makes periodic dental cleanings more manageable.

What Does the Ideal Toothbrush Do?

The purpose of a toothbrush is removing harmful plaque buildup from the teeth.  An ideal toothbrush contains bristles that are capable of disrupting plaque and cleaning it away from every area it reaches.  Toothbrush bristles can reach most grooves and pits on the biting surfaces of teeth, and they can get to the plaque on all of the exposed surfaces of a tooth.  This includes the smooth surfaces of teeth that face the cheeks, lips and tongue.

An ideal toothbrush also has bristles that are soft enough to gently scrub the gums where they meet each tooth without causing any damage.

What Does the Ideal Toothbrush NOT Do?

Gum tissue is quite sensitive to any harsh forces or strong pressure.  It is important that a toothbrush be soft enough to avoid damaging the gums.

Another potential of the wrong kind of toothbrush is damage to the tooth itself.  Very forceful scrubbing with a hard-bristled toothbrush could actually erode away enamel, especially if you are using an abrasive toothpaste (such as whitening toothpastes).  Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it is not invincible.

If gum recession is present, the exposed root of a tooth is even more vulnerable to this type of damage from toothbrush bristles.

The ideal toothbrush contains bristles that are soft enough to ensure safe use on gums, enamel, and root structure.

What are Some General Rules that Apply to Everyone?

While each person has unique problem areas and may require some specific recommendations from your Premier Dentist and dental hygienist, there are some general guidelines that work for everyone.

  1. Never use a hard- or medium-bristled toothbrush!

When selecting your toothbrush, you should only purchase soft or extra-soft toothbrushes.  Plaque buildup is soft in nature.  It is so soft, in fact, that you can remove it with a baby washcloth.  Hard- and medium-bristled toothbrushes do NOT increase plaque removal, but they DO increase the risk of damage to the gums, enamel and root structures.

  1. Technique is more important than design.

Many toothbrush manufacturers spend time and money advertising a certain feature or design element of their brand.  While some of these features may be more comfortable or helpful in cleaning the teeth, they will never be as important as the technique you, the “operator”, use.  Even the very best toothbrush, when used incorrectly, will give poor plaque removal results.  And vice versa: the cheapest, simplest toothbrush will give great plaque removal results when used properly.

In order to remove every bit of plaque possible, any toothbrush must touch every exposed portion of every tooth, including the gums.  Ideally, the bristles should contact the junction between the tooth and gum at a 45-degree angle and move in a circular motion to break up and remove plaque debris.

  1. Electric is better than manual.

An electric toothbrush typically removes plaque more effectively and more efficiently than a manual toothbrush.  This is because the vibrations and movements of the bristles on an electric toothbrush automatically accomplish the correct plaque-removing technique.  With an electric toothbrush, your only job is to make sure the toothbrush bristles reach every exposed tooth surface.

  1. All toothbrushes need replacement at about three months of use.

No toothbrush lasts forever.  The bristles wear out over time and lose their effectiveness at plaque removal.  They can collect bacteria from the mouth, and some can even grow mold when not properly cleaned.

It is important to monitor your toothbrush head regularly.  In general, it needs replacement at the three month mark.  By replacing your toothbrush (or toothbrush head for electric toothbrush users) regularly, you ensure that you will continue to properly remove plaque from your teeth.  You will also ensure that you do not have anything unsanitary going on between the bristles.

Quick Tip:  Did you know you can throw your manual toothbrushes in the dishwasher for a quick sanitary cleaning?  This is very useful when someone grabs the wrong toothbrush, or when a family member has been ill.

What is the Most Important Thing to Understand about Brushing Your Teeth?

Even the most perfect toothbrush with the most diligent user will not remove all of the plaque from your teeth.  No toothbrush bristles can reach the plaque that builds up between the teeth.  Only flossing can remove the buildup of plaque and bacteria that collect between the teeth.  Brushing your teeth alone will not give you a healthy, plaque-free mouth.

More Questions about Which Toothbrush is Right for You?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a visit with our talented dental hygienists!  They can assess your unique needs and help you choose the best toothbrush for your oral hygiene needs.