CENTURIES AGO, PEOPLE didn’t have many options for how to keep their teeth clean. Some cultures used chewing sticks and early toothbrushes had bristles made of horse hair. These days, we have a wide range of options for what tools to use for cleaning our teeth. How are you to find the one that’s best for you? As your South San Francisco dentist, we’d like to offer a few tips to narrow things down.
How Stiff Are Those Bristles?
When we’re doing chores around the house, it can often take some elbow grease to do a good job of cleaning various surfaces, but leave that idea behind when it comes to brushing your teeth. Brushing too hard can do serious damage to the gum tissue. It’s actually a major cause of gum recession! The firmness of the toothbrush bristles plays a role in that too. That’s why we recommend avoiding firm-bristled toothbrushes in favor of ones with soft bristles.
Are Charcoal Brushes Any Better?
Charcoal toothbrushes are trendy these days and marketed as ways to whiten teeth, freshen breath, and remove bacteria in ways that standard toothbrushes can’t. But there are few if any quality clinical studies to support those claims. Charcoal is a very abrasive material and can wear down your natural enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity. For this same reason, you should not use these brushes if you have veneers, bonding, or crowns. Until the long-term effects of charcoal brushes are studied, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of charcoal brushes.
Are Bamboo Toothbrushes Better for the Environment?
Plastic waste is a major issue and any way we can reduce our personal plastic use as a population can be impactful. Although bamboo is a fast growing natural material and can biodegrade in the environment, the large-scale farming of bamboo and it's transport from long distances may actually outweigh those environmental benefits.
Additionally, the bristles on bamboo toothbrushes are still made from nylon plastics. Since these are the same bristles as regular plastic toothbrushes, we can assume they are just as effective. It is wonderful that we are becoming more conscious about our plastic use and the disposable way we treat all of our every day items not just toothbrushes. If switching to bamboo toothbrushes is part of your larger mindset to reduce plastic waste in all aspects of your life, then we wouldn't argue with that.
Stick With Manual or Spring for Electric?
Manual brushes are more affordable and can be packed for travel easily, but electric toothbrushes also have advantages for those with limited dexterity. Due to the high speed that electric brushes either vibrate or oscillate in, they usually clean out more plaque from hard-to-reach places. They also make it easier to brush gently and last the two full minutes recommended for brushing teeth. Good electric toothbrushes can eliminate up to 21% more plaque than a manual toothbrush and even reduce the risk of gingivitis by 11%!
Okay, but What Kind of Electric Toothbrush?
If an electric toothbrush sounds like something worth trying, there are still a lot to choose from. The two main varieties are oscillating and sonic brushes. Oscillating brushes spin rapidly, while sonic brushes vibrate side to side. They both work great! If you’d like our recommendation, we carry a line of electric toothbrushes in our office available for purchase. We are also able to offer them to you for less than retail, because of our partnership with companies.
Make Sure to Take Good Care Of It!
Once you have your ideal toothbrush, it’s also important to store it properly and replace it (or the head, if it’s electric) regularly. We would discourage using toothbrush cases except when you need them for traveling, because the best way to store a toothbrush is upright where it can dry out between uses. If it stays damp, it becomes a breeding ground for germs! Then make sure to replace it every few months, especially if the bristles become frayed or bent!
It’s Not Just About the Tool, but How you Use It
Having the best toothbrush for you is one part of the equation, and taking good care of it is another, but the most important thing is to maintain a good routine by brushing twice a day for two full minutes. Even the fanciest toothbrush can only prevent tooth decay effectively when it’s being put to good use. Your toothbrush should also just be one tool in your tool box to fight tooth decay. Don't forget to include dental floss, and fluoride mouthwash, to your daily routine.
Even the best toothbrushes and techniques can only go so far when it comes to oral care. Tartar, also called dental calculus, is a yellow or brown colored deposit that forms when plaque hardens on your teeth. Because tartar buildup on teeth is strongly bonded to the tooth enamel, it can only be removed by a dental professional. This porous hard material becomes a home for bacteria and can cause bad breath, gingivitis, gum recession and gum disease.
If it's been more than six months since your last check-up and cleaning or if you have any oral health concerns, schedule your next visit today.