Toothbrushes: Which One is Best For You

My last blog talks about how often one should brush his or her teeth. This time I would like totalk about what kind of toothbrushes do a better job in removing plaque and reducing gum inflammation.

There are two kinds of brushes in general, one is manual and the other is electrical. Manual toothbrushes come in different sizes of brush head, bristle shape and stiffness of the bristles. In general, the sizes are based on your age, which correspond to the size of your teeth and mouth. Obviously, the younger the person, the smaller the brush head. In general, the length of the brush head (bristles) should be more or less the total width of the four lower incisors – such that the bristles can fit nicely while touching the complete surface areas of the incisors. Almost all dentists and hygienists recommend soft to ultra-soft toothbrushes for brushing teeth and massaging gums.

Then there are also other shapes available – like end-tuft brush, sulcabrush, proxabrush etc. They are mainly for patients/persons with large spaces or gaps between teeth (black triangles) or with receded gums or severe bone loss (due to severe gum disease). Those special shaped toothbrushes are very helpful tools, in addition to regular toothbrushes, in removing food and plaque from certain areas. They are usually used in conjunction with regular brushing.

For the electrical toothbrushes, there are two major types – a sonic electric toothbrush (Sonicare) and an oscillating/rotating electric brush (Braun Oral-B). Both are proven superior to annual brushing in their reduction of the inflammation index of the gums.

Between the two different mechanisms of electric toothbrushes, there were some studies done comparing their efficacies in removing supragingival plaque, reducing gingival inflammation, and reducing probing pocket depth (indicating the severity of gum disease). Overall, the studies demonstrate that long-term use of these two electric toothbrushes improves periodontal health in adult periodontitis patients, and that the Sonicare brush has an edge over the Braun brush in reducing gingival inflammation and probing depth.

Since the non-powered manual toothbrushes are powered by your hand/wrist, people with poor hand dexterity or neurological issues would have problems brushing their teeth thoroughly. The benefits of manual hand/wrist powered toothbrushes are the low cost of the brushes and the ability to have feedback (feel) of the brushing. The disadvantages are the constant circular and brushing motions executed by the hands, the poorer efficiency as compared to the electrical toothbrushes and the toothbrushes only can clean what the bristles can touch. Some people may actually cause damage to their teeth and gums (toothbrush attrition at the gum lines and gum recession) by brushing too hard and rough with their manual toothbrushes.

Despite the better efficacy of the Sonic toothbrushes, there are people who don’t like the feel of it – it may be ticklish and there is a lack of feedback on their brushing. There are patients who prefer the Oral-B because of the many features that are available with the newest models – like the direct feedback of how heavy you are brushing your teeth, the display on your cellphone of where the brush is in the mouth so that you can ensure you are hitting all areas, the timing of the brushing and a daily reminder for you to brush your teeth.

The disadvantages of both types of electric toothbrushes are the cost to purchase the sets and to replace the brush heads periodically. Most dentists and hygienists do recommend replacing any toothbrushes (manual and electric) every two to three months. Each replacement brush head would equal to a year’s supply of manual toothbrushes. So the cost to maintain healthy
teeth and a healthy mouth by using a electric toothbrush can be high.

Which toothbrush is suitable for you? It really depends on you and your preference. If you don’t have floss, a sonic toothbrush will certainly serve you better than a regular toothbrush. But if you do brush diligently and floss regularly, then a manual toothbrush will maintain enough cleanliness to keep the mouth healthy. An Oral-B oscillating/rotating electric toothbrush will likely be fitting between the two. Then there are the factors like the need of feedback, the likes of
technology, the perceptions and the costs etc. that play a role in personal preference.

There also some patients who alternate between manual and electric toothbrushes. Whichever one you choose, know that Affinity Dental Care will be there for you every step of the way. Until next time, keep brushing and smiling!

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If you would like to book an appointment or have questions about toothbrushes, please call Dr Wong at Affinity Dental Care by giving us a call at (289)-861-5111.