There are 6.8 BILLION people on the planet.
4 BILLION of them use a mobile phone.
Only 3.5 BILLION of them use a toothbrush.
So when I hear, “Hey Doc, what kind of toothbrush should I be using?” I actually get really excited. Believe it or not, this is not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of answer. Nowadays dentists universally recommend an electric toothbrush, but it’s not a luxury that everyone can have and so many folks are using manual toothbrushes. Almost all dentists will say any toothbrush that is medium-soft bristled will do the trick – and it will – but if you are suffering from bleeding or inflamed gums, moderate plaque buildup, tight spaces, yellowing teeth, or hard to reach back areas (who doesn’t have one of these problems?) – then you should be looking at some features in a toothbrush to help your brushing be more effective.
The first and most important thing you need to look at in a manual toothbrush is size. The size of your toothbrush should be appropriately selected to fit the opening of your mouth. For example, if your back end of your toothbrush keeps hitting the opposing arch while brushing, or the tip jams into the back of your jawbone, it’s probably too big for you. There are many adults that do fairly well with youth toothbrushes.
Secondly, stay away from stiff and hard bristles. Even though it may seem like the these types of brushes will remove stains or debris the best, your gums will be screaming at you. Toothbrush abrasion can and often causes receding gums, which exposes the root surface of your teeth. Not only can this be an esthetic concern, but it also increases the chance of root cavities and increased sensitivity. Also, the fancy toothbrushes with rubbery polishing disks and bristles do not impress me much. I personally don’t find them as effective at removing plaque, although it does feel a bit like a car wash and squeegee against the tooth.
Here are a few toothbrushes that I’d recommend depending on your specific needs:
Bleeding, Inflamed, and Irritated Gums
The very definition of gingivitis is the presence of inflammation in the gums and you should know that if you have been diagnosed with gingivitis, you are at risk of developing periodontal disease. It may shock you to know that 67% of Americans suffer from some degree of periodontal disease, and gingivitis often presents itself as early as the pre-teen and teenage years.
The best toothbrush I found for my gingivitis patients is one that is very soft and specialized to reach under the gumline and into the sulcus where the plaque is accumulating. The GUM® Sulcus Toothbrush consists of two rows of ultra-soft bristles to form a reduced contact area with the gums as to not irritate them further and is gentle on sensitive gums. It also has a smaller brush head enables cleaning in the gingival sulcus itself to sweep away the dental plaque.
Bone Loss and Periodontal Disease
If you’ve been diagnosed with periodontal disease – whether it be mild or advanced – it means that you already have an indication of bone loss in between and around your teeth. Many times the sulcus, or the pocketing of the area between your gums and teeth, are very deep where normal bristles can’t reach. For this instance, I recommend the GUM® Technique® Deep Clean Toothbrush. The handle of this toothbrush has a unique design that helps you to hold the toothbrush at the proper 45 degree angle, which is most effective at reaching below the gumline.
The reason I particularly like the GUM® Technique® Deep Clean toothbrush is because the bristles have a fine taper at the end that enables the “deep clean.” The very fine tapered bristle ends are narrower and more flexible than any other bristle design I’ve seen, so they reach deep into the pockets as well as in between the teeth. There is also another layer of bristles in the center to attack debris on the exposed crown of the tooth as well.
Orthodontic Care and Crowding
If you’ve ever had braces, then you know how difficult it can be to keep your teeth clean. It’s particularly difficult to get around the brackets, under the wires, and in those tight spaces. The Oral-B® PRO-HEALTH™ Gentle Clean with CrossAction™ Bristles Toothbrush is an extra soft toothbrush that is excellent for people with braces or with crowded teeth.
The Oral-B PRO-HEALTH Gentle Clean with CrossAction Bristles Toothbrush is surprisingly very soft, but the cross patterns of the bristles make it very effective against plaque buildup around any small space. The criss-cross bristles are at a 16 degree angle which is optimal to access those hard to reach spaces.
Another favorite is the GUM® Orthodontic Brush. This brush has specialized “v” trim and soft bristles that facilitates getting around those orthodontic buttons, ligatures, wires and brackets.
Waaay Back There
Many people have a very difficult time reaching the farthest molar in the back of their mouth. Whether they have a small mouth or too many teeth, the problem is still the same. Any hygienist will tell you that the most difficult tooth surface to reach is the one on the backside of the farthest molar. Especially if you still have your wisdom teeth or they are partially erupted like this one pictured, it is particularly difficult to reach the gumline behind that tooth.
Any end-tufted brush is good to reach this area and one that I like to use is the Oral-B End-tufted brush. It is extra soft and easy on the gums, and it has a unique contra-angle to help reach behind the tooth. Most toothbrush companies have an end-tufted brush like this one and I find they are all pretty much the same.
Dentures, Retainers, and Mouthguards
If you are wearing a complete or partial denture, have a retainer for orthodontic purposes, or wear a nightguard for grinding or a mouthguard for sports, you should still be brushing them daily to keep them free of germs and bacteria. Many manufacturers make denture brushes but the one I’ve seen most often is the GUM® Denture Brush.
I recommend this brush to anyone that has any type of removable appliance. The GUM® Denture Brush has two sides to it with different brush heads on each side: a flat bristled head for smooth surfaces and a single-tufted head for hard-to-reach areas. The flat bristles are extremely strong and resilient, and this side is used to remove plaque and debris from inner and outer surfaces of the denture or retainer. The single-tufted head consists of tapered bristles, which is useful to clean the hard-to-reach areas and corners of the appliance.
Another feature that is great about the GUM® Denture Brush is that the handle is great for people with limited dexterity such as young children with retainers or elderly folks with dentures. It is textured and has a wide area for a strong thumb support and handgrip and is easy to use.
I just recently tried the Oral-B® Complete ADVANTAGE™ 3D White™ Vivid Toothbrush. I was skeptical that it would perform any differently than another regular toothbrush, but surprisingly I could tell it was very easy to take off small stains on my teeth. This toothbrush is designed with bristles that are shaped like polishing-cups. This configuration maximizes the amount of toothpaste that stays in the bristles, which helps clean and whiten your teeth. While the polishing cup holds the toothpaste to remove surface stains, there are also power-tip bristles that help reach deep areas and in between teeth. This particular toothbrush also has indicator bristles that fade in color to let you know when it’s time to replace your brush. Used in conjunction with a toothpaste that has a little grit to it, I can see how this would be effective to maximize your potential for a bright white smile.
Babies and Young Toddlers
Many parents already know about those little finger brushes for your little one’s gums and itty bitty first teeth. But once you grow out of that cute stage, we all know what comes next: “Me, Me, Me!” I’m battling this right now in my life as my 18-month old demands she does everything herself, including brushing her teeth. The Brush Buddy Toddler toothbrush is my ultimate favorite little kids’ brush. I know it says “toddler” but I’ve been using this on all four of my children since they were old enough to hold it in their hands. This allows me to let my daughter brush her own teeth while I use another toothbrush to actually brush the other side at the same time. It took a few tantrums to figure this out but as long as she gets to hold a brush, she’ll let me do the same.
This brush is awesome for older babies because it’s safe where they can’t jam it to the back of their throat and injure themselves. The handle is textured so babies like to chew on this part for teething.
My other favorite brush that I like to use on young children up to about 2 years old is the Oral-B® Kids with Disney Baby® graphics Toothbrush, baby soft. Not only is it super cute, but the baby-soft bristles gently clean and massage baby teeth and tender gums. The head of the toothbrush is not as hard so it doesn’t hurt the baby, and the size is just perfect for children who do not yet have all their baby teeth in yet. I found out recently that this Oral-B® Kids 2-24months is the #1-recommended brand of manual toothbrushes for children among US dental professionals. So I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a great brush!
Of course looks should come second to function when it comes to selecting a toothbrush, but with kids’ brushes there are just too many that are way cool looking. This is the GUM® Junior Monsterz Manual Toothbrush, designed for children 5+. All the GUM kids’ toothbrushes are nice and soft, and I find the labeled age is accurate to the average child’s mouth size. My favorite part of these brushes? Hands down – the suction cup on the bottom. There’s nothing messier than a kid with a tube of toothpaste, at least the toothbrush can be kept upright and clean!
If you really don’t have any specific concerns and just need a go-to toothbrush, then just make sure you select one that is the right size, has soft medium bristles and is comfortable to hold. Just your average Plain Jane toothbrush, no bells and whistles, but absolutely does the job and does it well – this for me is the Oral-B® PRO-HEALTH™ Control Grip Toothbrush. This toothbrush is a gentle low abrasive brush that feels oddly feathery soft but strong enough to give a great fresh feeling afterwards.
Whether or not you select a toothbrush that does it all – floss tips, brushes, tongue scraper, all-in-one – or you select just a simple soft toothbrush, it is important to remember that brushing alone is not going to cut it. Flossing is extremely important before brushing to help fight gum disease and cavities in between your teeth. Obviously the right answer is to brush twice a day, and floss at least once, and extra points if you use a tongue scraper.
I should mention that I do not receive any gifts or financial gain from this article. I am strictly suggesting these products from my personal and professional experience – there are many products out there that are similar to the ones I’ve suggested and hopefully you will gain some knowledge into knowing what you are looking for in a toothbrush. If anything, the fact that you have read this post tells me you are on the right track to giving yourself a bright smile!
Smile On and Carry On,