toothbrush 101: finding the right toothbrush for you and your family

It’s not a mystery that good oral hygiene is vital to maintaining your overall health and wellbeing.  It’s also not a revelation that brushing your teeth is a critical part of maintaining good oral hygiene. Choosing the right toothbrush, however, can be a bit murky. Toothbrushes with nylon bristles were invented in the late 1930s, and when they first arrived on the market, there were very few options for consumers to choose from. Now, there seems to be endless choices when it comes to toothbrushes – from soft or hard bristles to manual or electric. Read on to find out more about the various toothbrush options out there and how to choose which one is right for you and your family. 

The Right Size for Adults and Kids

For most adults, the head of the toothbrush should be about half-inch wide and one-inch long. This size allows for easy access to all surfaces of your teeth, including hard-to-reach areas, such as the sides and backs of your molars. The handle of the toothbrush should also be long enough that you can hold it comfortably in your hand. 

For children, make sure that you choose a child-size toothbrush with soft bristles. An adult-sized toothbrush will be hard for children to maneuver and will be too big to get to those hard-to-reach areas. 

And while we’re discussing children’s toothbrushes, it’s a great idea to have your kiddo pick out their own toothbrush when they’re old enough. Getting them involved in the process will lend itself to more enthusiasm (or at the very least, cooperation) for teeth brushing overall.  Children’s toothbrushes come in a variety of colors, and many even feature popular characters and/or play music to help your child know how long they should brush.  

Which Bristle Type? 

When looking in the toothbrush aisle at the drugstore, there are typically three different bristle types available: soft, medium and hard. For most people, soft-bristled toothbrushes are the best and safest option, as medium and hard bristles can actually damage your gums and/or tooth enamel if you are an especially vigorous brusher. However, before making a final decision, talk to your dentist. 

ADA Approved

The most important thing to look for when buying a toothbrush, either manual or electric, is that it has received the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval.  Toothbrushes with this seal have undergone quality control tests for safety and cleaning effectiveness – meaning that when used properly and regularly, they reduce plaque build-up and can prevent the beginning stages of gum disease. 

For manual toothbrushes, this seal ensures that the bristles have rounded tips and will not fall out of the toothbrush during use. It also means that the handle can withstand wear and tear from normal use.  Electric toothbrushes with the ADA Seal of Approval meet these requirements and are further tested in an independent lab to ensure that they are safe for use on the soft tissues of the mouth and on any dental hardware that may be in place.   

And speaking of manual and electric toothbrushes…

Which is Better? Manual Toothbrushes vs. Electric Toothbrushes

Long story short – Both manual and electric toothbrushes are the perfect tools for keeping your teeth and gums healthy as long as you are brushing twice a day and using the proper brushing technique. That being said, there are a few things to note when deciding which toothbrush is right for you and your family: 

  • Cost. Electric toothbrushes are more expensive than manual toothbrushes. In addition to the initial cost of the toothbrush, the removable toothbrush head needs to be replaced every couple months. However, you also should consider that if you use your electric toothbrush properly, it could keep your teeth and gums cleaner than a manual toothbrush. This could definitely cut down on future dental bills. 
  • Ease of use. Let’s be honest, the best toothbrush for you and your family is going to be the one that you are more likely to use regularly and properly. For example, if you don’t like the feel of the vibrations of an electric toothbrush, you may cheat and brush your teeth for a shorter amount of time than the recommended two minutes. In this case, a manual toothbrush is a better choice. However, if you find that an electric toothbrush more easily cleans all your tooth surfaces, and you like the accountability that the built-in timer provides, then an electric toothbrush is right for you. 
  • Effectiveness. While most electric toothbrushes haven’t been proven to be more effective than manual toothbrushes, evidence does point to rotation oscillation toothbrushes outperforming both manual and other types of electric toothbrushes.  A rotation oscillation toothbrush has bristles that go round and round, as well as back and forth. 
  • Safety.  In addition to looking for that ADA Seal of Approval, talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about the type of toothbrush you should be using. If you are a vigorous brusher, an electric toothbrush may make it a bit easier to be gentle on your teeth and gums while still cleaning them effectively. There also may be situations where a manual toothbrush is a better option for people with specific health conditions.  Regardless, it is never a bad idea to consult your dentist and ask them to recommend the type of toothbrush that is best suited for you and your specific oral health needs. 

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