Choosing the right toothbrush for you…
You may not know this, but us dental people rarely spend time in the tooth products aisle of any given store. We’re fortunate in that dental products come to us via our dental product rep – the person we buy our dental office supplies from.
A few summers ago, one of our staff members forgot to pack the family toothbrushes for vacation. In her 25 years in dentistry, she had never had to purchase a toothbrush and now found herself standing in front of a selection of dental products like the picture above. She realized that this is what the average person has to deal with every time they make their family’s dental purchases … Choices … Too many choices! Since her family was vacationing for only a week, she opted for the least expensive ones.
Having choices can be a great luxury, but it can also be very overwhelming! There’s no one-size fits all toothbrush, so you should select one that meets your own individual needs and will benefit you the most.
No matter how fancy the toothbrush, if you cannot reach all the hard to get to spots in your mouth then you will not be able to clean effectively. The head of the toothbrush where the bristles are should be small enough to brush all the surfaces of your teeth and gumline without causing you pain or too much gagging. Oftentimes, an adult will find that a child-sized toothbrush will fit better than a larger one. The handle of the brush should be long enough to fit in your hand and to maneuver the brush with ease and comfort in the mouth.
It is surprising that many people still think that a hard-bristled toothbrush will do a much better job at removing plaque than soft-bristled ones. We’ve had patients tell us they find that it hard to believe that soft bristles can do an effective job and that the bristles seem to wear out quicker than hard ones. It is important to understand that soft bristles are flexible enough to splay (spread out) and get into the nooks and crevices of each tooth and up under the gum slightly without causing damage to enamel and gum tissue.
When you use harder bristles or use too much hand pressure when brushing your teeth you can wear away enamel and gums over time and actually cause your teeth to appear darker. When you wear away enamel more of the darker dentin tissue underneath may begin to show through the outer enamel. Hard brushing action can also cause grooves or notches to appear on your tooth along the gum line which will allow bacterial plaque and food to accumulate. These grooves will have to be eventually be filled in with filling material so that a cavity will not form. When you wear away enamel or gum tissue they never grow back. Over time, this wearing away action causes the underlying dentin to wear away also and/or the tooth root to appear. These parts of the tooth are more sensitive to hot and cold and decay much more readily than enamel.
Like the way a hard-bristled tooth brush removes plaque more readily but don’t want damage your teeth and gums?
Plaque is soft and easily brushed away using a softer toothbrush if you just take your time and brush correctly. Over time, if plaque is not removed the saliva will mineralize and harden it turning it into a material we call calculus. You cannot remove this calculus with a toothbrush so there’s no sense in brushing vigorously and causing damage while trying to remove it. Your dental hygienist can remove this calculus (tartar) at your regular cleaning appointment.
You wouldn’t use hard, abrasive products that will ruin the smooth, glossy finish on your bathtub. Treat your teeth even better!
Electric vs Manual
If you are using the correct toothbrushing technique then your hand held manual toothbrush can be just as effective as an electric one. However, time and time again, we have seen a remarkable improvement in the cleanliness of teeth and overall gum health when our patients have switched to an electric toothbrush. Perhaps people tend to spend a little more time brushing or concentrate a little harder when using one. Regardless, the price of electric toothbrushes have decreased so significantly that they are now an affordable option for many and are especially useful for people with limited hand coordination and mobility.
With electric toothbrushes, all you have to do is tilt the brush at a 45 angle and guide the brush along the gum line and in between the teeth – the bristles do all the work! The newer models even warn you if you are using too much pressure. The pulsation of the bristles are excellent for healthy gum stimulation and for getting into all the hard to reach places easier, but the strength of the vibration can take some time getting used to. Patients also find that electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing tooth stains. The good news is that most parents who have had struggles getting their children to brush are reporting that their kid seem to find electric toothbrushes “fun” and are spending more time brushing. This, of course, leads to cleaner, healthier teeth.
For hygienic reasons and to avoid cross-contamination of bacteria, viruses and disease: Never share toothbrushes!
When to buy a new toothbrush
If you are brushing as often as you are suppose to (2-3 times/day) you will find that after 3-4 months your toothbrush bristles will begin to appear bent and frayed. In this condition, the bristles are not as effective and it’s time to buy a new one.
Bacteria breed in warm, dark and wet places. Never store your toothbrush in a closed container. After use, rinse your toothbrush with water and store in an upright position in a clean cup to air dry until the next time you use it. Keep your toothbrush away from the flush of the toilet, the splash of the nearby sink and other people’s toothbrushes. Some people even prefer to store their toothbrush in a safe, clean place in their bedroom.
There are many toothbrush sanitizers on the market that use ultra violet light to kill germs and help keep your toothbrush clean. The science behind these devices show that they are effective at killing most of the germs, but not 100% of them. The choice to purchase one comes down to how effective you are in keeping your toothbrush clean and you should certainly do you research before making the investment. We have found that some patients really like the sanitizing units that come with their electric toothbrushes, while others seem not to care one way or the other.
A toothbrush is a small investment that can make the world of difference to the health of your mouth and your overall well being. Your teeth can last a life time and we work hard at Your Smile Dental Care to educate our patients and help them feel comfortable in asking questions about their individual dental needs. All of our patients are provided with a new toothbrush and floss at their re-care visits so that the only choice they are faced with is what colour they will choose. 🙂
Are you using the proper tooth brushing technique! Watch our video below:
Yours in better dental health,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team