Have you ever finished scrubbing away at your teeth and wondered if you’ve done more harm than good? If your mouth is feeling a little tender post-cleaning, your medium or hard toothbrush might be to blame.
We spoke with the dental pros about the benefits of soft-bristled brushes, plus their recommendations for the best soft toothbrushes on the market today.
The best soft toothbrushes at a glance
- Best soft-bristle electric toothbrush: Oral-B, Series 9 Electric Toothbrush, $300
- Best budget: Colgate, Hum Smart Rhythm, $25
- Best manual toothbrush: Nimbus, Extra-Soft Toothbrush Pack, $19
- Best splurge: Philips Sonicare, Prestige Rechargeable ElectricToothbrush, $380
- Best rotary toothbrush: Rotadent, ProCare Rotary Toothbrush, $105
- Best Bluetooth-connected: Oral-B, Genius 7000 Smart Series Toothbrush, $218
- Best for sensitive gums: Lingito, Nano Toothbrush (Pack of 4), $9
- Best eco-friendly: Nudoku, Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush Pack, $9
- Best for travel: Patelai, Travel Toothbrush Pack, $7
- Best for small spaces: Mode, Electric Toothbrush, $148
- Best for kids: Nimby, Toothbrush Pack, $16
- Best with tongue scraper: CariPro, Electric Toothbrush, $119
What defines toothbrush softness?
The modern-day toothbrush has evolved significantly—and we’re not just talking about the leap from manual to electric toothbrushes. In fact, before the 1940s, it was rare to find a toothbrush that wasn’t made from real boar’s hair. (Yikes...) In 1938, tech-based giant Dupont de Nemours created the very first synthetic toothbrush made from nylon, which resembles what many of us use today.
In modern times, toothbrush bristles are still made out of synthetic nylon but are broken down further into a few main classes based on texture: extra soft, soft, medium, and hard.
“A hard-bristled brush has very dense bristles, which is a more aggressive scrubber, while a soft-bristled brush will have less densely packed bristles, which allows for the bristles to flexibly bend around the teeth and gums gently,” explains Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist, Anita Rajpal, DDS.
Are soft toothbrushes better for you?
Soft-bristled toothbrushes are often preferred, mainly because they’re more gentle on the gums and don’t harm tooth enamel. They’re especially beneficial for people with delicate gums or enamel, notes Dr. Rajpal. “While hard-bristled brushes are effective at removing plaque and food debris, they are often too abrasive on the enamel and gum tissue, and can cause erosion and recession,” she warns.
With a soft-bristled toothbrush, you get the benefit of a quality clean when the right brushing technique is performed, without the possible negative consequences of gum damage or enamel wear. “The medium and hard toothbrushes do have their own uses but are best saved for brushing dentures, flippers, or Invisalign clear aligners,” says Marina Gonchar, DMD, orthodontist and founder of Skin to Smile in Morristown, New Jersey.
Shop these dentist-approved picks for a soft toothbrush that'll definitely leave you smiling.
12 of the best soft toothbrushes, according to experts
Type: Electric, round brush
Out of all the dentists we interviewed for this story, the Oral-B iO Series 9 was constantly recommended over and over again—and it’s easy to see why. Sure, it’s pricey, but it just may be the only toothbrush that you ever need (seriously.)
Not only does this brush provide top-of-the-line power, but it also has an app to provide feedback on your brush skills, plus a built-in pressure sensor that warns you if you’re brushing too hard, helping you minimize the chances of damaging your gums, explains Jared Helfant, DDS, clinical director at Dental Team of Florida. “With a built-in timer and a sleek metal silhouette, this brush rotates side to side instead of vibrating making it much quieter than other toothbrushes,” he adds.
Comes with: 3 replacement heads, travel case, magnetic charging dock
- Several color options available
Type: Electric, straight brush
Our editorial team loves Colgate’s Hum Smart Rhythm toothbrush—so much so that we have an entire review dedicated to it. It’s a soft, affordable, electric option that won’t drain your wallet. Featuring floss-tip bristles, the head gets gunk out without cutting up your gums or harming soft tissue. It provides 30,000 sonic vibrations per minute and even syncs with an app so you can get real-time feedback on how you’re brushing. Plus, there’s a built-in timer that tells you when to stop or switch positions.
Comes with: Smart Rhythm app
- 3 colors available
- Affordable electric option
- Battery operated
- Case and replacement heads sold separately
If you prefer a manual toothbrush, Tina Saw, DDS, dentist at Elevated Smiles in Carlsbad, California, recommends this brand, which sells a high-quality pack of five soft-bristle toothbrushes for less than $20. They’re about as soft as they come and use multiple heights of bristles to help you brush hard-to-reach areas and efficiently remove plaque. The brush head is a little larger than most, but Nimbus also makes a more compact version of this brush that’s great for travel.
- Soft, tapered bristles help reach tough corners
- Budget-friendly pick
- Brush head may be too large for smaller mouths
Type: Electric, straight brush
Albeit pricey, this is the highest-end model that Phillips sells for their line of electric toothbrushes—and its fancy. It even comes with a leather travel case that doubles as a charging dock. “It is a smart brush, and will offer coaching and guidance through an app that connects via Bluetooth,” says Dr. Helfant. “It has a Sense IQ feature, which constantly monitors your brushing and changes the intensity if you’re brushing too hard- rather than just warning you.” The colors are luxe, too. Choose from a metallic champagne or midnight gray.
Comes with: One brush head, leather travel case, charging dock
- Tricked-out with high-tech features
- Travel case doubles as a second charging station
- Several color options
- Priciest pick on this list
Type: Electric, rotary
A rotary toothbrush is simply defined by its round shape. Like the tools used in your annual dental cleaning, this brush moves around in a circular motion to help remove plaque and debris and can come in soft or hard bristles. Mahnaz Rashti, DDS, Beverly Hills-based periodontist, recommends this rotary toothbrush to all her patients. “Throughout all my years as a periodontist, this brush has shown the best results among all my patients,” she says. “It is rather inexpensive compared to the other electric toothbrushes on the market, but quite honestly, it outperforms them all.”
Comes with: 2 brush heads, charging base
- Dentist-recommended pick
- Lower-priced electric option
- No travel case
- No color options
Type: Electric, round brush
Another Oral-B electric toothbrush had to make the list all thanks to its impressive technology and quality brushing precision. “This brush gives more power then a lot of the electric toothbrushes on the market,” says Dr. Helfant. As with the iO Series, this model also has an app that can track your brushing habits over time and provide you with helpful oral care tips. It also has six brushing modes (including Sensitive mode for extra-gentle brushing) and a timer. Another plus: It’s compatible with every brush head that Oral-B makes, so if your roommate or significant other shares the same overall brand, you can split the cost of replacement heads.
Comes with: Charging station, travel case, 3 brush heads
- 6 Bluetooth-operated modes, including Sensitive mode
- Comes with 2 replacement heads
- Larger profile
These ultra-soft toothbrushes are designed in an ergonomic fashion so that they are super gentle on the gums while still providing adequate dental hygiene. They have more than 1,000 bristles each, which provides that deep cleanse without you having to scrub too hard. They’re safe for dentures and ideal for people with ultra-sensitive gums. Just note that because the bristles are dense, they’re a little tougher to rinse out after brushing.
- Highly rated by people with sensitive gums and teeth
- Safe for dentures and braces
- Dense bristles don’t drain as well
- No color options
Made entirely from bamboo, these biodegradable toothbrushes are 100 percent natural and leave the tiniest carbon footprint when compared to regular toothbrushes. They are made from high-quality nylon and formulated without harmful chemicals like BPA. You can recycle or compost them when you’re done and feel assured that you’re not only cleaning your teeth, but doing your fair share for the environment.
- Biodegradable bamboo
- Recyclable and biodegradable packaging
- Choose from black and white or multicolored packs
- Customers say they don’t last very long
This pack of travel toothbrushes features portable brushes with soft heads. They fold up really small, making them ideal for travel and suitable for both adult- and kid-sized mouths. The bottom of each toothbrush has two ventilated holes that can let water out and prevent moisture and bacteria buildup. Plus, they’re easy on the wallet and are available in packs of four, eight, and 16.
- Hygienic, built-in cover for travel
- Suitable for adults and kids
- Not very durable
The Mode Electric Toothbrush is another pick we’ve raved about before. It’s a wireless electric toothbrush that will save apartment dwellers and bathroom sharers precious counter space. The Mode uses a magnetic dock that plugs directly into outlets, keeping wires off your sink or countertop and out of the way. It’s so convenient, and is also so soft, made with tapered bristles that get in every nook and cranny without roughing up your mouth. Buy it once for $148, or subscribe for $130 and get a new head delivered to your door every three months for just $10.
Comes with: 1 head, charging dock, brush head cover
- Lifetime warranty with subscription, 1-year warranty with one-time purchase
- Space-saving design
- Only one cleaning mode
Nimby from Nimbus Dental manufactures an excellent kids toothbrush, according to Dr. Gonchar. “The design is perfect for kids with a large, easy to grip handle and, most importantly, two-level microfine bristles on a small brush head to allow for the best plaque removal while ensuring gum and tooth protection,” she says. Plus, they’re available in a multi-colored pack of four.
- Easy-grip handle for smaller hands
- Soft bristles for gums and teeth
- Some customers say they’re better for older kids
Type: Electric, straight head
This is yet another brush our staff has put to the test. The CariPro Electric Toothbrush has five modes, 30-day battery life, and is one of the only electric brushes we’ve found that includes a tongue scraper on the back of the head. It’s also completely waterproof so, if you’re a serious multi-tasker, you can brush in the shower.
Comes with: 2 brush heads, wireless charging dock
- Full 2-year warranty
- Waterproof design
- Only one color option
- Doesn’t include a travel case
Things to consider before buying
Manual vs. electric
Soft-bristled toothbrushes come in both manual and electric designs. The first step is to decide whether you’re content brushing the old-fashioned way or if you prefer a high-tech toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are more expensive across the board than manual brushes, but there are some budget-conscious electric picks out there (like the Colgate Hum brush on our list!) if you’re willing to give it a try.
You’ll find both round brush heads and straight brush heads on this list, although the round brush heads are reserved for electric options. Whether round or straight brushes are better for you is a matter of personal preference, but some dentists suggest that round brushes cover more surface area while cleaning.
Investment over time
From $7 to over $300, toothbrushes come at an extremely wide range of prices. Consider how often you brush (at least twice a day, right?) and how long you’ll have the toothbrush. Some may prefer to stick to a low-cost manual option that’s easy to replace, while others may want to invest in a durable electric brush that will last years.
Frequently asked questions
Are soft toothbrushes better for you?
Soft toothbrushes are typically recommended by dentists as they’re gentler on our gums and enamel, while still providing a thorough cleaning. Medium and hard brushes are better suited for cleaning Invisalign trays or retainers.
What brand is the softest toothbrush?
There are several brands that offer super-soft brushes, but the softest on our list is the Nano toothbrush from Lingito. It has thousands of bristles for a mega-soft feel and is extremely gentle on gums, dentures, and enamel.
Is a soft toothbrush better than extra soft?
It doesn’t matter whether you opt for a soft or extra-soft toothbrush, as long as you’re getting a solid cleaning. One consideration: extra-soft brushes may be better suited for people with gum issues, but they can also deteriorate more quickly.
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