Most people don't put enough thought to picking out a toothbrush. When you pick a toothbrush based on the brand, colour or look, you are not considering what is arguably the most important factor. Bristle strength should be one of your top considerations. The common notion that picking a hard brush simply because it cleans more thoroughly is highly misleading. In fact, the opposite is true. As a general rule, most dentists would recommend a soft bristled toothbrush,1 and for good reasons.
A toothbrush can be abrasive to your tooth enamel – the protective outer layer of your teeth – so you should avoid scrubbing too hard lest you damage your teeth and gums.2 Enamel is irreplaceable, so it should be preserved at all costs.
Let’s take a look at the two main reasons why soft brushes will serve your dental needs better:
They preserve your tooth enamel better
While it may be true that, to an extent, hard bristles are great at removing plaque and stain, they also wear down the enamel layer of your teeth. As the protective layer of your pearlies, the enamel plays a critical role in protecting your teeth from harmful bacteria. Constant abrasive action by a hard bristled toothbrush tends to wear your teeth down faster than a soft brush.2 The good news is, a soft toothbrush cleans just as effectively as toothbrushes with harder bristles.3 Even a toothbrush manufacturer like Colgate – that produces toothbrushes with a range of bristle strengths – recommend soft bristled toothbrushes, even though harder bristles remove “slightly more plaque” than soft-bristled brushes.1 Some dentists recommend only using toothbrushes with rounded and tufted fibre ends.4
The type of toothbrush is not the only factor to consider for effective cleaning. The brushing technique you employ is just as important. Firstly, it is important to understand that vigorous brushing isn’t necessary to remove plaque.2 Instead, you should use gentle pressure throughout the brushing process, angle your toothbrush bristles toward the gum line, and brush in circular strokes to achieve effective plaque removal.
By taking the time and effort to clean each quadrant of the mouth carefully, it’s a good way to make sure you remove plaque, bacteria, and food particles.1 Ideally, the hand pressure of the brush should press lightly against the teeth – just enough to lightly fray the bristle against the teeth. Unless you want your teeth to suffer from notching, or what is known formally as Tooth Brush Abrasion (TBA), you should never drag the toothbrush back and forth in a sawing motion.4
They protect your gums as well
Besides harming your enamel, hard bristled toothbrushes can also damage your gums and eventually cause them to recede.3 When your gums recede and the root surface of the tooth is exposed, you are effectively rendered more prone to teeth sensitivity and developing cavities in these areas.3 Gums that are too thin cannot withstand the abuse of overbrushing by a standard toothbrush.5 Gum recession is usually a permanent condition that requires dental surgery as a remedy.5
- Freeman, Amy. "Soft vs. Hard Toothbrush: Which One Should You Use?" Colgate Oral Care Center. April 25, 2016. Accessed May 22, 2017. http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/basics/selecting-dental-products/article/soft-vs-hard-toothbrush-0316.
- "Overbrushing: Watch out for too much of a good thing." Delta Dental. https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/overbrushing.html.
- "Why You Should Switch to a Soft Toothbrush." Caitlin Batchelor Dentistry. http://www.batchelor-dentistry.com/blog/why-switch-soft-toothbrush.
- "SOFT BRISTLE TOOTH BRUSH ONLY!!" Dental Associates of Leominster. December 14, 2015. https://dentalassociatesofleominster.com/soft-bristle-tooth-brush-only/.
- "Ultra-Soft Toothbrush for Receding Gums & Gum Disease - DENTIST RECOMMENDED." Periclean. May 08, 2017. https://www.periclean.com/.
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