4 Factors To Consider When Buying Your Next Toothbrush, According to a Dentist

Big purchases, like cars or couches, often require a concrete checklist. Things like form, function, budget, and color are details you likely deliberate over, but when you hit the overflowing oral aisle, toothbrush buying can seem just as complex. It's vital to follow brushing recommendations from the American Dental Association (ADA): Brush for two minutes twice a day with a toothbrush that has soft bristles because they minimize the risk of damaging your teeth and gums. But the sheer volume of toothbrush choices can have you wondering exactly what you need.

So how do you brush off all that added pressure? Your specific oral needs and your budget are the main things to consider when you're in the market for a new toothbrush, says Angelique Freking, DDS, dental director of Park Slope Dentistry Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

Experts In This Article
  • Angelique Freking, DDS, Angelique Freking, DDS, is the dental director of Park Slope Dentistry Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

On the heels of the holiday season—perhaps the months our mouths see the most sugar per capita—we asked for Dr. Freking's tips for finding the best toothbrush and some of the brands that excite her most.

What do you want in a toothbrush

If you're taking time to think about dental hygiene hardware, you probably care about your oral health. So, do some dental soul-searching and ask yourself: What do I want in a toothbrush? Tools for cleaning your teeth run the gamut, so you'll need to narrow in on what your specific needs are.

"I think the first thing I would ask is: Is there something particular that you're looking for? Are you looking within a certain budget? Do you have particular hopes for environmental impact? Those are probably the places I'd ask people to start," says Dr. Freking.  The good news is, you can likely find a toothbrush that accounts for all of your needs.

The fact of the matter is, according to the ADA, either a manual or powered toothbrush can be used to clean your teeth effectively. Therefore, you've got an important decision to make—and it's entirely based on preference.

Dr. Freking recommends an electric toothbrush. "Power brushes use either ultrasonic technology or pulsing, oscillating, rotating movement to more thoroughly disrupt bacterial plaque and biofilm on the teeth and near the gums when compared to a typical user of a manual brush," she says. "I tend to tell patients this helps to 'fool-proof' toothbrushing, as adequate brushing is quite difficult to achieve for most people with a manual brush alone."

Your path to peak dental hygiene will most likely depend on how much money you'd like to spend, too. Manual brushes require less money to start (Dr. Freking's favorite is the Oral B Cross Action ($8.97); however, an electric brush will cost more and require maintenance through its lifespan.

"Anecdotally, from a dentist's perspective, when a patient is using a really good electric brush, you can actually tell," says Dr. Freking. "They are a very long-lasting piece of equipment so, it's one of those things where if you're going to invest in something you want it to last."

Additionally, electric toothbrushes have features that many manual brushes don't—like brushing timers and reminders for brush head replacement—which can help encourage good hygiene. "It is possible to do a great job with a manual brush, but in my experience, most people need the extra help a power brush offers to do the best job they can at home," she says.

Pay attention to bristles

"Most dentists can't agree on anything but I think we all agree that we don't want a hard or a medium bristled brush, it tends to cause too much aggravation on the gingiva," explains Dr. Freking, adding that extra soft or soft bristles are critical if you're dealing with receding gums.

"If you're using a manual brush it is really important to look at the bristles of your brush and if it's starting to flare a little bit, it's time to replace them," Freking notes. We're all guilty of keeping a favorite brush in the cabinet just a little too long, so remember the ADA's guideline: brushes should be replaced every three to four months, or more often if the bristles are visibly matted or frayed.

Most manual toothbrushes have bristles made of nylon, so if you opt for something environmentally friendly, pay attention to materials.  "If you choose a bamboo brush with nylon bristles, you can actually compost the bamboo as long as you pull off the nylon bristles," says Dr. Freking.

Recently, silicone bristles —like those found on FOREO's new ISSA 3 toothbrush—have started to hit the market. Dr. Freking says that although there isn't a lot of long-term research on silicone bristles, they may harbor fewer bacteria over time and may be gentler.

"Soft and extra soft nylon bristles are tried and true, but patients who favor innovation or are motivated by the gentleness/less bacteria factor could explore silicone bristles," she says. But Dr. Freking typically advises patients who are interested in trying innovative oral care products to proceed with caution and carefully monitor their oral health as they use their new product.

"If patients notice an increase in bleeding, plaque, or other concerns [I advise them] to give me a call to troubleshoot or go back to what was working for them before," she adds.

Brushes with bells and whistles

If you make the leap to an electric brush, there are enough options to make your head spin in the same way. Dr. Freking, who is not a paid spokesperson for any of these brands, says her favorite electric brush is the Sonicare DiamondClean ($179.99).

"It has a timer on it and that's one of the big benefits. Really try to force yourself to brush for two minutes at a time," she says. "[The DiamondClean] forces you to be more thorough."

If you're looking for a lower price point, Dr. Freking says there are some "really fun" electric brushes on the market right now that her patients and staff are talking about. Her hygiene team really likes the Burst toothbrush and it's available in a bundle ($84.99) that includes a toothbrush, replacement heads, a refillable floss set, one pack of whitening strips, and fluoride toothpaste.

Dr. Freking says the Quip (starting at $50) is a good entry-level electric brush. Both Burst and Quip have refill subscriptions and esthetically pleasing elements. "They're fun to use and I don't think that should be discounted especially when it comes to oral hygiene," she says. "If something is fun to use, you're more prone to use it. They look nice and from a New Yorkers' perspective they don't take up a lot of space on your countertop."

Don't overcomplicate toothbrush buying

Toothbrush buying should be an easy endeavor, because no matter which brush you choose, your teeth will benefit from regular brushing (and flossing) the right way.

"There's not a special brush that only older people or people with braces [should use]," she says. And, absolutely feel free to stick with that manual brush, but only if your heart is really in it. "Stay with the manual brush," she adds, "as long as you are really good about how you're brushing your teeth."


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