Skip to Content

What Makes a Toothbrush Worth More?

Patient and dentist looking at dental x-ray result

If you’ve visited a Big Box store recently, you’ve seen the vast array of toothbrushes they carry. Some are motorized, others play a tune for the duration that you should brush, and still, others have “non-slip grips”. I want to redirect you back to the bristles. Since we rely on the tips of the bristles to fit in tight places between teeth and, albeit slightly, under the gums, one should focus on a brush that has “rounded” or “tapered” bristles that fit in these tight spots. Their packaging often has a picture that demonstrates this advantage. But please recognize that these tapered bristles will NOT reach all the areas between your teeth and under the gumline. That requires dental floss. We all wish that it didn’t!

In my opinion, the industry uses “soft bristles” to describe almost everything, but the range in softness varies. With normal use, twice daily, a soft-bristled toothbrush lasts 3-4 months before the bristles begin to lose their original shape. I’ve had patients comment that a soft-bristled brush doesn’t make their teeth “feel” clean. It is usually because they are used to “scrubbing” in several directions with more pressure than necessary. These folks are asked to brush up and down, with their non-dominant hand, and leave the gentle “scrubbing” for chewing surfaces. They are forced to “think” about technique when using their non-dominant hand, and that often breaks “bad” habits, the result of brushing while on “auto-pilot”.

However, if a toothbrush manufacturer brags about their hard bristles, use it only on the grout of your tile.

A super-large brush head doesn’t mean that it cleans better because it has more surface area. The top half of the brush head has to fit behind the last teeth in all four quadrants when your mouth is halfway closed. Put yours to this test.

Finally, look at the design of the handle. There are now a couple of brushes on the market that have an ergonomic handle. When your thumb and side of your index finger grip the indented and sometimes textured, section of the handle, the head of the toothbrush head tilts to a 45-degree angle. This is the optimum angle for positioning bristles under the gumline and between teeth. That’s where you should focus your attention. But be gentle, always brushing up and down rather than back and forth on the sides of your teeth.