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What Type of Toothbrush Do You Need?


You’d think that buying a toothbrush would be a pretty straightforward task.
multiple toothbrushes, what type of toothbrush do you need

But once you see all the choices, it’s suddenly a lot trickier. While it’s true that there are more toothbrush options than ever before, picking out the perfect one for you doesn’t have to require hours at the store. Instead, just use this handy guide to decide which toothbrush to buy based on your unique needs and dental health.

Toothbrush Bristles

There are three main types of toothbrush bristles: soft, medium and firm. Generally, dentists recommend soft-bristled brushes. This type of toothbrush will be best at removing plaque from the tooth surface while also removing unwanted debris from between teeth.

The area that the bristles cover is another factor you should consider. While large toothbrush heads may look like they’re better for brushing, it’s actually harder to get your teeth clean with this type of toothbrush. A small-headed brush is actually better since it’s easier to maneuver into all areas of your mouth, including those nooks and crannies near your molars. A bristle area covering 1 inch by ½ inch or less is ideal for most people.

There are also various bristle designs you’ll be able to choose from, including flat bristles, dome bristles or rippled bristles. These are optional features that may be better suited to certain individuals simply based on their personal preferences. When it comes to the bristle shapes and lengths, you should simply choose the one that works best for you. Just make sure that there are no sharp or jagged edges and endpoints when you take your toothbrush out of the packaging as these could cause damage to your gums and mouth.

Toothbrush Handles

You might wonder why there are so many different handle sizes and types for toothbrushes. There’s no real reason for this other than simple comfort. While some people prefer holding a thinner handle, others like the thicker handles for easier grasping. Choose a handle that feels more comfortable to you.

While there are some great design features found on modern toothbrushes, such as non-slip grip areas and flexible brush necks, these things aren’t necessary to get your teeth clean. However, they can enhance the cleaning process for some. For example, you might like a tapered brush head as opposed to a rectangular brush head if you have a smaller mouth and want to be able to reach all areas with your toothbrush.

If you’re a little overwhelmed by the toothbrush handle options available, you can look for those with packaging that features the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. Toothbrushes that display this seal have a handle that has been manufacturer-tested to show durability under normal use. In addition, these toothbrushes have been shown to have durable bristles that are free of any sharp edges.

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes

What about electric toothbrushes? Manual toothbrushes are much more common, but today, there is a rapidly increasing selection of powered toothbrushes from which to choose.

When used properly, manual toothbrushes are sufficient for keeping your teeth clean. However, there are still some cases in which a powered toothbrush may be a better fit, such as:

  • Age: Children often have trouble getting their teeth properly cleaned with a manual toothbrush. A powered toothbrush makes it easier for them to reach all areas and achieve the friction necessary for teeth cleaning.
  • Manual dexterity: Those with compromised dexterity in the hands, wrists or arms may have trouble brushing properly. A weak grip or inability to achieve rapid motions with a toothbrush over the teeth are examples of conditions that may lead to insufficient brushing. In these cases, a powered toothbrush allows for independent brushing without the help of someone else. Senior citizens and those who have experienced a hand, wrist or arm injury often choose a powered toothbrush for this reason.
  • Comfort: Some people dislike the feeling of a manual toothbrush. For these individuals, an electric toothbrush can allow them to keep up with their dental hygiene routine without experiencing discomfort.

Replacing Your Toothbrush

Keep in mind that, according to dentist recommendations, you should replace your toothbrush every three months. You may even need to do it sooner if the bristles on your brush begin to fray. You should also toss out your toothbrush after having a cold since germs can become trapped in the bristles.

You don’t need to seek out any specialty stores to find a good toothbrush. The ones in your local supermarket or drugstore are acceptable, especially if they feature the ADA Seal of Acceptance. In addition, you can ask your dentist for a new toothbrush at your bi-annual visits; most dentists offer toothbrush replacements for free for their patients.

Teeth-Brushing Tips

Ultimately, the type of toothbrush you choose isn’t as important as your brushing technique. Most dentists agree that it’s more important that you brush correctly than brush with a specific type of toothbrush. To make sure your teeth stay clean and healthy, use these handy teeth-brushing tips:

  • The recommended time for brushing teeth is at least two to three minutes, twice per day. This is about as long as the length of one song on the radio. You can also use a timer to make sure you’re hitting this benchmark. This is one of the main issues with improper teeth brushing since most American only brush for 45 to 70 seconds at a time.
  • The best way to hold your brush is at a 45-degree angle beside your teeth. Rub back and forth gently to remove plaque and debris effectively.
  • Make sure you brush all the right surfaces in your mouth. Focus on brushing both the front and the back of your teeth, the areas between the teeth, and your tongue.
  • Don’t forget about flossing. This critical step is often overlooked even though it’s the best way to remove plaque and debris from areas that your toothbrush can’t reach. It doesn’t matter when you brush or floss first as long as you do both thoroughly.

As mentioned above, there isn’t one specific type of toothbrush that’s been proven to be more effective. Instead, it’s best to choose a toothbrush that takes into account both professional recommendations and your personal preferences.

Photo via Flickr by Kevin Byrd

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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