Toothbrushes today come in about as many sizes and shapes as one can imagine. There are angled heads, raised bristles, oscillating tufts and handles that change colours with use. While makers of toothbrushes make a lot of claims, there isn’t any evidence that any one type of toothbrush design is better at removing plaque than another.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for a toothbrush is that you actually use it. If you achieve unsatisfactory results from your toothbrush, it’s more likely than not that you either aren’t brushing long enough, or using the correct technique.
Many people simply do not brush long enough. To effectively reach all areas and scrub off cavity-causing bacteria, you should brush your teeth at least 2-3 minutes twice a day. Brush your teeth for the length of a song on the radio, the right amount of time to get the best results from brushing. Unfortunately, most Americans only brush for 45-70 seconds twice a day.
Which toothbrush is best? In general, a toothbrush head should be small (2.5cm) for easy access to all areas of the mouth, teeth and gums. It should have a long, wide handle for a firm grasp. It should have soft nylon bristles with rounded ends so you won’t hurt your gums.
Toothbrushes should be changed every three to four months. Be sure to change your toothbrush, or toothbrush head (if you’re using an electric toothbrush) before the bristles become splayed and frayed. Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, but they may harbour harmful bacteria that can cause infection such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Sick people should change their toothbrush at the beginning of an illness and after they feel better.
Electric vs. manual toothbrushes
A recent study in the Journal of the American Dental Association examined powered toothbrushes. The study evaluated the effectiveness of one type of powered toothbrush in 16,093 patients. The toothbrush provided by the company in the study was considered by dental professionals (dentists and hygienists) to have a positive effect on the oral health of more than 80 percent of the patients. Most patients reported their oral health was somewhat better or much better after using the powered toothbrush.
That said, electric toothbrushes don’t work that much better than manual toothbrushes, but they do motivate some reluctant brushers to clean their teeth more often. Electric toothbrushes do have one advantage over manual: they can cover a greater area more quickly. Electric toothbrushes are recommended for people who have limited manual dexterity, such as a disabled or elderly person and those who wear braces. Sometimes, it takes more time and effort to use an electric toothbrush because batteries must be recharged, and it must be cleaned after every use.
Most electric toothbrushes have rechargeable batteries that take 10 to 45 minutes to recharge. The gearing in an electric toothbrush occasionally must be lubricated with water. Prices range from $30 to more than $200.
Electric toothbrushes generally work by using tufts of nylon bristles to stimulate gums and clean teeth in an oscillating or rotary motion. Some tufts are arranged in a circular pattern, while others have the traditional shape of several bristles lined up on a row. When first using an electric toothbrush, expect some bleeding from your gums. The bleeding will stop when you learn to control the brush and your gums become healthier. Children under 10 should be supervised when using an electric toothbrush.