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Alberta Dental Association

Buying the Best Toothbrush: What You Need & What You Don’t

It seems like oral hygiene companies are always trying something new with toothbrushes. They release new designs featuring silicone bristles, fancy handle shapes, or tongue scrapers, all with the promise that with these new features, we can finally get the highest level of clean.

But how many of these features do we actually need? And what should we actually be looking for in a toothbrush? Rather than have to try every brush on the market yourself, we’ve put together a comprehensive buyer’s guide to outline what’s a nice to have, what’s necessary, and what’s outright useless in a toothbrush.

Bristle Stiffness

Most of us look at bristle stiffness when we are shopping for a new toothbrush. You probably even have a preference based on your oral health and brushing habits. But do you know which type of bristle is really most effective for your dental hygiene?

For the most part, Dentists typically recommend soft-bristled brushes over firm-bristled brushes because they’re gentler on the enamel and gum tissue. People buying firm-bristled toothbrushes may think that the stiffer the bristle, the more effective the toothbrush. The truth is that firm-bristled brushes can contribute to receding gums and gum sores. With the right brushing technique, a soft-bristled brush will have more than enough cleaning power to remove plaque effectively.

If your teeth are particularly sensitive, try an extra-soft-bristled toothbrush. This might help limit or slow down enamel erosion.

Electric Vs. Manual Toothbrushes

Technology has made a lot of things possible for our society. As a result, we have almost been conditioned to believe that if there’s a digital or electrical version of anything, it’s probably better than a manual version. While that idea isn’t necessarily false, it’s not totally true either.

Dentists and laypeople alike have put a lot of time and energy into sorting out which type of toothbrush is better: electric or manual? And for the most part, both manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes really come out about the same. Both types of toothbrushes remove about the same amount of plaque when used properly. The differences mainly come down to preference.

The one thing you may want to consider in the electric vs manual debate is technique. If you tend to rush through brushing your teeth or miss spots, an electric toothbrush is a good way to keep your technique consistent and ensure you clean the whole surface of the tooth (especially because the rotating circular heads that often come with electric toothbrushes may be slightly more effective at reaching more sheltered areas.)

If, on the other hand, you always brush thoroughly and systematically, you can do just as good a job of cleaning your teeth with a manual toothbrush, and you’ll save yourself some money.

Extra Features



Dental professionals agree that cleaning your tongue should be a regular part of your oral hygiene routine. But do you really need a textured rubber pad to do it? Or can you just brush your tongue with a toothbrush for the same results?

One study suggests that, while toothbrushes, tongue cleaners, and tongue scrapers will all reduce the amount of bacteria hiding in the tongue’s tiny fissures, tongue scrapers and cleaners may be slightly more effective at reducing bad breath in adults.

Having said that, the study indicates that, for a tongue cleaner to be effective, it needs to be primarily smooth, similar to a squeegee you would use to clean windows. The tongue cleaners that come on toothbrushes are usually just small, textured rubber or silicone pads, which may not be all that much more effective than simply brushing your tongue.

So all of this to say: you definitely should clean your tongue. Ideally, you’ll use something like this to do it. If you don’t want to buy a dedicated tongue cleaner, a soft-bristled toothbrush will do fine. The tongue-cleaner built into your toothbrush isn’t necessarily the best tool for the job

Gum Massagers

You know those little chocolate chip-shaped rubber pieces that come at the end of some toothbrushes? That’s not actually to pick your teeth, it’s to massage your gums. There’s plenty of science to support the benefits of gingival massage; it stimulates blood flow and can help treat gum disease. Some periodontists recommend that you massage your gums every day to help keep your mouth healthy.

But should you go out of your way to buy a toothbrush with a gum massager or gum stimulator? Well, that depends. Some toothbrushes feature rubber or silicone “bristles” on the head of the toothbrush to massage your gums. While these flexible tendrils may stimulate the gum line, they won’t necessarily do much more for your gums than a normal toothbrush. To really get the full effect of a gingival massage, you need to stimulate more of the gum tissue.

As of January of 2018, there hasn’t been quite enough detailed research to indicate whether a gum stimulating tool on the end of your toothbrush is more effective than gently massaging your gums with a soft-bristled toothbrush every day.

For now, it’s safe to say that any way you choose to massage your gums is beneficial as long as it’s gentle and it affects the gums in their entirety.

Time to Replace Your Toothbrush?

You may think your current toothbrush is fine for now, but are you sure? You should get a new toothbrush every three months, or sooner if you’ve been sick in that time. If your current toothbrush looks worn out, or even just a little bit tired, it’s time to replace it. Use the information you’ve learned here to get your ideal toothbrush and take the best possible care of your teeth!

How to Help Your Kids Build Strong Dental Hygiene Habits.

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140-4000 Glenmore Court SE

Calgary, Alberta, T2C 5R8


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