Choosing a good toothbrush 101

How do you go about choosing a toothbrush? Sometimes, it's not easy. There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to purchasing a toothbrush, which makes it difficult to know what to look for. A good starting point is to ask your dentist and hygienist for a recommendation.

In addition, here are some general tips on what to look for:

  • Small brush head and well-designed bristles: Choose a toothbrush with a small brush head and a bristle design that helps you to get to the hard-to-reach places of your mouth.
  • Soft bristles: Your toothbrush should have soft bristles that are gentle on your teeth and gums.
  • Comfortable handle: Many toothbrushes have non-slip grips which make them easy to use even if wet.
  • Additionally, the handles on many Oral-B toothbrushes have been modeled based on research into the five different ways that people hold their toothbrush while brushing.

Remember that regular replacement of toothbrushes contributes to maintaining a consistently high level of oral hygiene because clinical research shows a new toothbrush can remove up to 30% more plaque than one that's three months old.*

*Research with a flat trim manual toothbrush.

Are angled bristles better than straight ones?

Multi-angled bristles, like Oral-B's CrissCross® bristles, are designed that way to increase contact with tooth surfaces between teeth, lifting out plaque even from tough spots.

Toothbrushes: shapes and sizes

When it comes to oral care, consistency is everything. The single most important element of good oral care is following a regular routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing.

Using the right toothbrush can make your daily oral care routine more enjoyable - and more effective.

A toothbrush is personal, which is why they're available in a variety of sizes and shapes. If you have a large mouth, you may prefer a full-sized toothbrush head. If you have a small mouth, opt for a compact head. And some adults even prefer youth or child-sized toothbrushes because they find them easier to use for brushing behind the back teeth.

A manual toothbrush works well if you are a diligent brusher, but more and more people are opting for power toothbrushes.

As with a manual toothbrush, the best power toothbrush for you is the one you like and will use everyday. Electric toothbrushes come in different sizes, too. In general, the replaceable heads of electric toothbrushes are smaller than the full-sized head of a manual toothbrush, so if you are used to a full-sized head, the electric toothbrush may take some getting used to.

But keep in mind that one of the benefits of the smaller head size on an power toothbrush is that it is better able to clean each tooth individually. Many different styles of brush heads are available, from polishing brush heads to brush heads for sensitive teeth. There are a number of varying bristle movements powered toothbrushes utilize. Oscillating-rotating technology is the only technology independently validated as better than manual brushing in reducing plaque and gingivitis. One example of a power toothbrush which uses this oscillating-rotating technology is the Triumph with SmartGuide.

The bottom line is that if you choose the toothbrush that is the right size and style for your mouth and your oral care needs, you'll be able to clean your teeth more completely and help prevent bacterial buildup and the development of plaque.

Types of toothbrush bristles

Brushing your teeth twice a day is essential for good oral hygiene. Most of us are more inclined to stick to a good oral health care routine if the type of toothbrush - especially the type of bristle - is comfortable and feels just right.

So next time you buy a toothbrush, be sure to read the package to find out what type of bristles it has. There are several types of toothbrush bristles designed to meet different needs:

  • Hard, medium, or soft: Most dentists recommend soft-bristled toothbrushes, and extra-soft bristled toothbrushes for anyone who has sensitive teeth or gums, or is recovering from a dental procedure. Some people simply prefer soft bristles. But many people who don't have sensitive teeth or gums prefer firmer bristles because they believe them to be more effective for removing plaque and stains from the teeth, though that is not the case. Effective toothbrushing can be accomplished with soft and extra-soft bristles.

  • Shapes and sizes: Toothbrush technology has come a long way, and you can choose from toothbrushes with a variety of bristle types. For example, some toothbrushes bristles feature a cup shape for cleaning around teeth, a diagonal pattern of bristles to clean the sides of the teeth and along the gum line, or mix in a number of longer bristles that can help clean between the teeth. Brush heads also available in different sizes for different sizes mouths and brushing styles. Most Oral-B brushes feature Indicator® bristles that change color after a few months of use to remind you that it is time to replace your toothbrush.

If you aren't sure what style of toothbrush bristle is best for you, ask your dentist for suggestions. In the end, the best toothbrush is the one that feels most comfortable to you - so you'll use it every day.

Power toothbrush or manual toothbrush?

Wondering if that hi-tech power toothbrush on display at your dentist's office is really better than the regular ones? What about a power toothbrush that uses AA batteries? What's the difference between them all?

In addition to things like your brushing technique, how often you brush and the length of time you spend doing it, experts believe that the type of toothbrush you use will directly affect how well you remove plaque. In order to decide which type of power toothbrush is right for you, it's helpful to understand exactly what kinds are available to you and how they differ from one another.

Knowing the three types of power toothbrushes

The three types of power toothbrushes on the market are rechargeable electric (including sonic), regular manual and battery power.

Rechargeable electric toothbrush: A rechargeable electric toothbrush, also known as a "power toothbrush" is the kind you plug into the wall to recharge, keeping the handle and replacing the brush head every three months. Rechargeable electric toothbrushes differ among the kind of cleaning technology they use, such as oscillating-rotating (3D Cleaning Action) or sonic technology.

  • Regular manual toothbrush: In contrast, regular manual toothbrushes are the basic toothbrushes you're probably accustomed to with a plastic handle and various nylon bristle designs on the brush head. This is the most common type of toothbrush, and it doesn't require any power sources.
  • Battery power toothbrush: Those who want a dose of power but are weary of electric toothbrushes may like battery power toothbrushes. Like electric toothbrushes, battery power toothbrushes are sometimes simply called "power toothbrushes" due to their use of an AA battery. While similar in design to regular manual toothbrushes, battery power toothbrushes have just enough vibration to add some extra cleaning action.

Feeling the difference in plaque removal

According to a 2005 independent study, "Brushes that worked with a rotation oscillation action removed more plaque and reduced gingivitis more effectively than manual brushes in the short and long-term... No other powered brush designs were consistently superior..." Oral-B pioneered this oscillating-rotating power technology in 1991 and has incorporated it into its premium power toothbrush range ever since. Recently it has also incorporated this technology into entry tier (lower cost) options, like Oral-B Vitality.

Assessing technology and features

Rechargeable electric toothbrush: Generally rich in technology and features, electric toothbrushes provide the many oral health benefits. Some can even enable you to improve your brushing habits. Hi-tech features include:

  • Numerous brushing modes specialized for sensitive teeth, whitening benefits or gum-massaging action.
  • Pressure sensors to signal when you're brushing too hard.
  • Timers to help you keep track of how long you're brushing each quadrant of your mouth.
  • Digital reminders to replace your brush head.
  • Oscillating-rotating or sonic technology.
  • Multiple brush head compatibility so you can choose which kind of bristle design you prefer.

Most electric toothbrushes also come with features for added convenience, like a brush head or toothbrush holder, bathroom-counter storage units and travel toothbrush chargers.

Regular manual toothbrush: While ordinary toothbrushes don't nearly provide the benefits and features of rechargeable electric toothbrushes, the technology featured in their brush heads, bristles and handle designs can be quite advanced, for example:

  • crisscrossed, extra-long or multi-level bristles
  • polished or rounded bristle tips
  • textured bristles
  • cupped-bristle design for whitening benefits
  • ergonomically designed handles with special grips
  • tapered or angled brush head
  • gum stimulators
  • tongue cleaner pads

Battery power toothbrush: While similar in features to regular manual toothbrushes, these kinds of toothbrushes also vibrate to provide additional cleaning action. In addition to those of manual toothbrushes, features include:

  • built-in AA battery that can be replaced in some models
  • "On/Off" or "+/-" button located on the handle
  • bristles or split brush heads specially designed to pulsate along with the vibrations

Modifying brushing technique

Proper brushing technique varies when using different kinds of toothbrushes. Both regular manual toothbrushes and battery power toothbrushes require you to provide all or most of the brushing action, moving the brush back and forth along all sides of your teeth and gums. In contrast, rechargeable electric toothbrushes provide the cleaning action while you need only guide it along all surfaces. Once they get the hang of it, many people find this method of brushing easier.

Understanding power toothbrush value
Rechargeable electric toothbrushes tend to have a higher price value than battery power and regular manual toothbrushes, but you can find some for as low as $27 MSRP, like Oral-B® Vitality. Keep in mind that they offer more health benefits and features. Regular manual toothbrushes cost the least, and they are often sold in multi-packs as well as individually. Battery power toothbrushes are usually only a few dollars more than ordinary manual toothbrushes.

Trying out a power toothbrush
It's understandable to want to test out a rechargeable electric toothbrush before buying a hi-tech one for the first time. While your dental professional is the best person to ask for a recommendation, you may also consider some affordable, entry tier options like Oral-B® CrossAction® Power Max or Oral-B® Vitality. They're ideal for people who are curious about giving power a try but want a taste of what it's like first.

Try a sonic toothbrush for hi-tech tooth care

If you want to take teeth cleaning to the next level, consider a sonic toothbrush, such as Oral B's Pulsonic. Sonic toothbrushes clean teeth thoroughly and they have demonstrated effectiveness at removing stains from teeth.

The bristles on a sonic toothbrush vibrate extremely fast. The high frequency vibration provides a unique mouth feel, while the conventional brush head means no change in brushing technique.

The primary cleaning mechanism for a sonic toothbrush, or any electric toothbrush, is the contact of the bristles with the teeth. So you still have to brush - you can't just wave a sonic toothbrush in front of your mouth. But brushing with a sonic toothbrush can be very effective because the fast-moving bristles generate as many as 30,000 strokes per minute.

No matter what toothbrush you choose, it is important to brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day as part of your regular oral care routine.