03/29/2013, Alison Aldridge
Your toothbrush is an essential piece of equipment, and choosing the right brush can make your oral care routine much more effective and a lot easier. You'll find toothbrushes are available to buy in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. If you have a small mouth then you are far better off looking for a brush with a compact head, or even a child size brush, while people with larger mouths may want to use a full-size toothbrush head. The most important thing is to make sure you can easily brush your teeth right at the back of your mouth.
Choosing the Right Type of Toothbrush Bristles
Now you need to decide what type of bristles you want to have on your brush. You can purchase brushes with hard, medium or soft bristles, but most dentists will recommend using a soft bristle toothbrush, especially if you have sensitive teeth or gums or have recently undergone oral surgery. Although some people prefer to use harder bristles because they believe them to be more effective at removing plaque bacteria, this really isn't the case, and a soft bristle brush can be just as effective if used correctly. It's also far less likely to damage your teeth and gums, as a brushing your teeth too hard can lead to gum recession, and may cause more of the tooth root to be exposed, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
Do You Want a Manual or Powered Toothbrush?
The next thing to decide is whether or not you want to choose a manual or powered brush. This is definitely a personal decision; if you are diligent over brushing your teeth then a manual toothbrush may work just as well as a far more costly powered toothbrush. However a 2005 report did find that powered brushes with an oscillating action were more effective at removing plaque than manual brushes. It is all down to technique, but people with limited dexterity may find a powered brush much easier to use and some to come with some pretty nice features. Powered toothbrush heads come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but most tend to be a little smaller than manual brushes, so if you prefer to use a full-size manual brush head this might be something to consider as it could take a little bit of getting used to.
Different Types of Manual Toothbrushes
Even though manual toothbrushes can be bought pretty cheaply, most incorporate quite a few features in their handle and brush head design. You'll find multilevel bristles, and a variety of different bristle tips. Some are designed to give whitening benefits, and some bristles are even textured. The handles on manual toothbrushes are ergonomically designed to help make brushing easier. Some brushes incorporate gum stimulators or tongue cleaning pads.
Different Types of Powered Brushes
There are two different types of powered toothbrushes to choose from, as you can buy brushes that are battery-powered, and which generally use AA batteries or you can choose to splurge on a rechargeable electric toothbrush. This is the type that is plugged into the wall to recharge. Battery-powered toothbrushes can be bought relatively cheaply, but don't provide such good cleaning power as the more expensive rechargeable toothbrushes. However it might be worthwhile trying one of these first, just to see if you actually want to go down this route before investing in a rechargeable brush.
The advantage of rechargeable brushes is that they often come with lots of different types of cleaning actions. They may use an oscillating action to remove plaque and food debris, or they may use sonic technology. Features that can help improve oral health include different brushing modes, for example for teeth whitening or for sensitive teeth, and pressure sensors that indicate when you're brushing your teeth and gums too hard. Some may include digital reminders when it's time to change the brush head, and just about all have some sort of timer.
Having a built-in timer is perhaps one of the most useful features as it will time you to make sure you are brushing for 2 minutes, and will indicate when it's time to move to a different section of your mouth. Even if you choose to stick with a manual brush, it's probably worth putting a small timer in your bathroom to use when brushing your teeth. Most people tend to overestimate the time they spend brushing their teeth when using a manual toothbrush.
Replacing Your Toothbrush at Regular Intervals
Whichever brush you choose, it is important to replace it every 3 months, or more frequently if the bristles start to look worn and splayed. A worn toothbrush will be less effective at removing plaque and food debris, but the rate at which they wear out can vary considerably. You might find children's brushes need replacing more frequently than adults.
Caring for Your Toothbrush
When you finish brushing your teeth make sure you rinse the brush head thoroughly to remove all excess toothpaste and any small particles of food that may have become trapped in the bristles. It should be stored in an upright position where air can flow freely as this will help it to dry more quickly, and it shouldn't touch anyone else's brush as this could spread germs. You want your toothbrush to dry out in between uses, as a damp brush is the perfect environment for bacteria, so it's best not to store it in a closed container except when traveling. You should not share your brush with anyone else.
You can buy toothbrush sanitizers to help keep your brush clean, but it's not really known how effective these are. Some people like to rinse their brush in mouthwash to help keep it clean. Others like to put their toothbrush in the dishwasher to clean it, but very hot water may damage the brush and could lead to it becoming less effective. Replacement brush heads and toothbrushes are relatively cheap, so the best way to ensure your toothbrush remains sanitary is to simply change it at frequent intervals.