You’ve probably noticed that toothbrushes have different bristle firmness ratings – soft, medium, and hard. This tells you how firm the bristles are and how much pressure they put on your teeth and gums when you brush. It also makes it more confusing when you select a toothbrush. Which is a better – a soft or hard toothbrush?
If you have sensitive teeth
According to a survey by the Academy of General Dentistry, one in three dentists report that brushing the teeth with too much force is the #1 cause of tooth sensitivity.
Many people think all that elbow grease using a hard or medium-bristled toothbrush gets the teeth cleaner, but in reality, it does more harm than good. Hard and medium-bristled toothbrushes alone can cause bleeding or receding gums and wear down the enamel to expose the dentin (that’s what causes sensitivity).
Rule of thumb when it comes to a soft vs. medium or hard toothbrush: soft is always best … and soft bristles are just as effective as cleaning the teeth.
Here are some guidelines from the American Dental Association:
- Any toothbrush you choose should have soft bristles. Hard bristles may cause gum tissue to pull back from teeth, which can expose the tooth root and lead to increased sensitivity to heat, cold or certain foods and drinks.
- Select a toothbrush head size that can easily fit into the mouth and can brush one to two teeth at a time (the general size is 1″ long and ½” wide).
- Powered toothbrushes don’t clean teeth any better than regular toothbrushes. However, if a powered toothbrush motivates you to clean your teeth more often and for the required length of time, it is worth the investment.
- Powered toothbrushes are better choices than manual toothbrushes for anyone who needs assistance brushing teeth, including people with arthritis (or any condition that may limit mobility), anyone wearing braces or people with misaligned or uneven teeth surfaces that make a thorough cleaning more challenging.
- Replace your toothbrush (or toothbrush head for a powered toothbrush) as soon as the bristles begin to look worn or frayed (usually every three months). A worn toothbrush does not do a good job of cleaning your teeth. Remember always to replace your toothbrush after an illness.
- If you’re still undecided about which toothbrush to use, consult your dentist for advice.
If you are shopping for a child, select a toothbrush with the following characteristics:
- Soft bristles (for gentle cleaning)
- Very small heads (designed for baby teeth)
- Large handles (easier for children to grip)
Here’s the bottom line when it comes to choosing a toothbrush: start with a soft or extra soft-bristled brush to protect your enamel and gums (here’s one we love), and then find a size and shape that’s comfortable for your mouth and allows you to reach all your teeth. Happy brushing!
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