- Choosing a Toothbrush: The Pros and Cons of Electric and Disposable Center
- Slideshow: Top Problems in Your Mouth
- Teeth Whiteners That Work
- Dental (Oral) Health Quiz
You can't overestimate the importance of good oral
In the late 1930s, when toothbrushes with nylon bristles were first invented, consumers choosing a toothbrush didn't have many options. Now, the story's completely different when it comes to toothbrushes. Most stores that sell oral hygiene products now have an extensive collection of different types of toothbrushes on their shelves, including manual (disposable) and powered (electric) varieties.
Choosing a toothbrush: General tips
There are certain characteristics that you should look for in whatever toothbrush you choose, regardless of whether it is manual or powered.
Size. The best toothbrush head for you should allow you easy access to all surfaces of your teeth. For most adults, a toothbrush head a half-inch wide and one-inch tall will be the easiest to use and the most effective. Though there are larger toothbrush heads available, you may find that it is difficult to maneuver them to clean certain hard-to-reach areas, such as the sides and backs of your molars. The toothbrush should have a long enough handle so you can comfortably hold it in your hand.
Bristle variety. If you go to the drug store to purchase a manual toothbrush or a replacement head for your electric toothbrush, you will be able to select a toothbrush with soft, medium, or hard nylon bristles. For the vast majority of people, a soft-bristled toothbrush will be the most comfortable and safest choice. Depending on how vigorously you brush your teeth and the strength of your teeth, medium- and hard-bristled brushes could actually damage your protective tooth enamel. For even more tooth protection when you brush, be sure the bristles on the toothbrush you select have rounded tips.
Expert recommendation. To ensure your toothbrush has undergone rigorous quality control tests for cleaning effectiveness and safety, ask your dentist for a recommendation. Or look for manual or powered toothbrushes that have earned the American Dental Association Seal of Approval.
For disposable toothbrushes, this seal ensures that: the bristles will have safe tips; the bristles will not fall out of the toothbrush under typical brushing conditions; the handle will withstand normal use; and the toothbrush will effectively reduce plaque build-up and gum disease in its early stages.
In addition to satisfying these conditions, powered or electric toothbrushes bearing the seal also must undergo safety testing in an independent laboratory and prove through a clinical trial that the toothbrush is safe for use on the tissues of the mouth and teeth as well as any dental hardware that may be in place.
Quick GuideCosmetic Dentistry Before and After Photos
The best toothbrush...disposable or electric?
As long as you clean your teeth regularly using proper brushing technique, you should be able to reduce plaque build-up and keep your gums healthy with either a manual or powered toothbrush. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about choosing the best toothbrush:
Cost. Although there are some more affordable powered toothbrush options being sold, electric toothbrushes cost many times more than manual toothbrushes. In addition to the initial expense of an electric toothbrush, you will need to replace the removable toothbrush head every three or four months. Of course, if using an electric toothbrush helps you keep your teeth cleaner, you may make up for the expense with a reduction in dental bills.
Likability. When it comes down to it, the best toothbrush for you is going to be the one you're most likely to
Effectiveness. Numerous scientific studies have been conducted to investigate whether manual or powered toothbrushes are more effective at reducing gum disease and eliminating plaque. A review of nearly 30 studies comparing disposable and electric toothbrushes found that, overall, there was not a significant difference between electric and manual toothbrushes in their ability to remove plaque and prevent gum disease. But, evidence suggests that a certain type of powered toothbrush called a rotation oscillation toothbrush (the bristles go round and round and back and forth) is more effective than manual toothbrushes.
Safety. Although all toothbrushes with an ADA Seal of Approval have been tested for safety, there may be certain individuals for whom a particular type of toothbrush is safer. If you tend to brush too vigorously, which can damage your gums and teeth, a powered toothbrush may make it easier for you to be gentle on your gums and teeth and get them clean at the same time. Some studies suggest that using a powered toothbrush may increase the amount of bacteria in the bloodstream more than a manual toothbrush. This does not pose a risk for healthy people with normal immune systems and healthy hearts. But it could increase the likelihood that people with certain heart conditions could acquire a potentially dangerous infection in the heart. Further investigation is needed to determine whether this should be a cause for concern.
The best toothbrush for children
When it comes to choosing the best toothbrush for your child, it's important to opt for one that your child will use properly and regularly. There are a variety of disposable and electric options available for children. And they come in a variety of colors and often feature children's favorite characters from classic stories and popular cartoons. Some varieties even play music to help your child know how long to brush.
To choose a good toothbrush for your child, try the following suggestions:
- Make sure the toothbrush you select has an ADA Seal of Approval.
- Pick a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles.
- If your children are old enough, have them help you pick out their toothbrushes. Getting your children involved in the process and excited about a new toothbrush may make tooth-brushing a more enjoyable task.
WebMD Medical Reference
American Dental Association: "Toothbrush Care: Cleaning, and Replacement."
American Academy of Periodontology: "Are Your Gums Getting the Respect They Need?"
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Pediatric Dental Health."
University of South Carolina School of Medicine: "General Home Care: Toddlers and Teeth."
Reviewed by Matthew Hoffman, MD, on July 10, 2008
© 2008 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Oral Health Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Top Choosing a Toothbrush Related Articles
ArthritisArthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness and pain. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and pseudogout.
Brighter, Whiter TeethWant brighter, whiter teeth? Brushing up on these photo tips can help keep your teeth white. Discover which smile-whitening ideas will make your teeth shine their brightest and how to avoid future stains.
Children's HealthChildren's health is focused on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence. There are many aspects of children's health, including growth and development, illnesses, injuries, behavior, mental illness, family health, and community health.
Common Dental ProblemsLearn about dental problems such as cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and oral cancer. Explore procedures such as root canals, crowns, and dental implants that help improve dental hygiene.
Dental Health QuizTake the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers healthy mouths and teeth from brushing to flossing and everything in between check-ups!
Diabetes MellitusDiabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are referred to as type 1 (insulin dependent) and type 2 (non-insulin dependent). Symptoms of diabetes include increased urine output, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. Treatment of diabetes depends on the type.
Gum DiseaseGum disease is caused by plaque and may result in tooth loss without proper treatment. Symptoms and signs of gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease) include receding gums, bad breath and pocket formation between the teeth and gums. Treatment depends upon the stage of the gum disease, how you responded to earlier treatments, and your overall health.
Gum ProblemsGum problems may be caused by improper brushing and flossing, gum disease, canker sores, treatments and hormonal changes. Symptoms of gum problems include red, swollen, sore and bleeding gums. These symptoms can be prevented by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating a well-balanced diet, drinking enough water, not smoking, and relaxing.
Heart Disease (Coronary Artery Disease)
Heart disease (coronary artery disease) occurs when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
Angina, shortness of breath, and sweating are just a few symptoms that may indicate a heart attack. Treatment of heart disease involves control of heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes, medications, and/or stenting or bypass surgery. Heart disease can be prevented by controlling heart disease risk factors.
Teeth PictureThe teeth are the hardest substances in the human body. See a picture of the Teeth and learn more about the health topic.
Toothache OverviewA toothache is a pain on or around a tooth. It may be caused by a variety of things from a cavity, abscess, or even sinusitis. Toothache symptoms include pain, headache, ear ache, bad taste in the mouth, and gum swelling. Dental X-rays and other tests performed by a dentist are used to diagnose the cause of a toothache. Tootache treatment depends on the underlying cause. Taking proper care of the teeth and gums can help prevent toothache.