manual toothbrushes: what to look for

“Which type of toothbrush should I use?” is a question I get asked by patients all the time! Since it is such a hot topic in oral hygiene, let’s take a closer look.

First of all, I assume everyone knows why they need to brush their teeth in the first place — hint: it’s to remove dental plaque and bacteria from our teeth and gums. So if you’ve decided to go with a manual toothbrush instead of an electronic one, the question really becomes “Which manual toothbrush is the most effective at removing plaque and bacteria from our teeth and gums?”

What about the Brush Head?

Manual toothbrushes come in many models, with variations in size of the toothbrush head and handle, as well as different strengths of the toothbrush bristles. 

Usually, a toothbrush with a smaller head is best for most people because they tend to brush more carefully, adjusting the bristles to reach individual teeth and carefully brushing at the gumline. Often using a toothbrush with a larger head leads to less careful brushing and a less precise brushing technique. 

What about the Handle?

The handle of the toothbrush can almost seem like a Goldilocks situation; some are too big, some are too small, and every once in awhile, you find one that’s just right! 

From a clinical perspective, I would say handle size is up to patient preference. But here’s something to consider: A handle that is too large can make it difficult to grasp for individuals with smaller hands. A handle that’s too small, however, will likely make brushing uncomfortable for patients with larger hands. This often causes people to apply too much pressure when brushing, which can lead to other problems like gum recession and inflammation. 

Another strong recommendation I have for choosing a toothbrush handle would be for individuals with movement restrictions or joint problems. An example would be arthritis. Someone with limited mobility like arthritis in their hands tends to do better using a larger handle, as it’s easier to maneuver. 

What about the Bristles?

The last and arguably the most important feature of a manual toothbrush is the bristle strength.  You should always use a manual toothbrush with soft bristles. I cannot emphasize this enough. 

People will sometimes ask me why if this is true do stores still sell medium or hard-bristled toothbrushes? My answer is you can ask the same of cigarettes or candy. We know they are not good for us but people will buy them as long as people sell them. But a soft-bristled toothbrush will help ensure you do not damage your teeth and gums while still cleaning your teeth effectively. 

If you are used to using a hard or medium bristled toothbrush, at first you may not feel as though your teeth are getting thoroughly cleaned using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Trust me they are! You are also avoiding complicated and costly future procedures, like gum grafting and bone grafting that can often be avoided by using a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Of course, there’s often a follow-up question: ”What about power toothbrushes? Should I try those?” Read on for more advice about power toothbrushes in our next blog! 

Want to talk it out with your friendly dental hygienist? Book an appointment with Virtudent to chat toothbrushes during your next dental cleaning.

Denice McClure

Author Denice McClure

Denice has been a dental hygienist for over ten years since she graduated from Middlesex Community College with a degree in Dental Hygiene in 2009! After graduation, she began working in a multi-specialty private practice office. She continued her education by obtaining her bachelor's degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Dental Hygiene as well as a dual Masters in Dental Hygiene and Public Health. In her free time, Denice can be found reading, running, swimming, traveling, or watching one of her favorite reality Bravo reality shows.

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