We all know how important good dental hygiene is. Regular brushing helps protect against gum disease, bad breath, tooth decay, and ultimately protect against tooth loss in old age. Studies have also shown that poor gum health can result in infections entering your body, one of the most serious being endocarditis which is a bacterial infection of already diseased heart valves.
Self-help for good teeth
Your dentist or dental hygienist will always be the best-qualified person to discuss your dental hygiene routine, and if you have any concerns about your mouth or teeth, you should book a check-up as soon as you can.
There are plenty of steps you can take meanwhile to improve your oral health. Sweet foods, and especially drinks, are a particular culprit in tooth decay and should be limited or taken with other foods to dilute their effect.
Regular brushing – twice a day for at least two minutes – is also extremely important. Good toothpaste, containing fluoride, will help to neutralise bad bacteria but choosing the right toothbrush is vitally important as well. Don’t forget to change your manual toothbrush, or your toothbrush head regularly – no longer than every 3 months – to avoid bacterial build-up.
The importance of the toothbrush
It may not seem like a big deal but taking toothbrush advice is important. There is a huge market of different brands of manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes offering a huge range of features and all promising to keep your teeth pearly white. The best toothbrush in any particular instance will depend on your particular situation, so check with your dentist if there are any specific features you should be looking for when shopping.
The business end of a toothbrush consists of rows of, usually nylon bristles. These need to be firm enough to sweep away unseen bacteria yet soft enough that they don’t damage the enamel coating your teeth. Bristles are categorised from very soft through to very hard, although hard and very hard brushes are rarely sold for use on natural teeth.
A soft bristle is usually considered to have a thickness of around 0.15mm or around 1,000 times thicker than a human hair. Hard bristles may be as thick as 0.23m which restricts how freely they can bend against the tooth. Hard bristles have been shown to remove more plaque, but also to increase the risk of gum damage and most dentists recommend choosing a toothbrush labelled as having soft bristles.
Some toothbrushes have varying types of bristle set into the same head. Hard bristles in the middle help clean the teeth while softer ones at the outside protect gums. Angled bristles are designed to allow better cleaning between teeth or at the gum line. Different heights enable the brush to hug the contours of the tooth to remove more plaque. Colours are often used to distinguish different cleaning areas and can be used to indicate the amount of paste to be applied.
Nylon is the usual material used in the best toothbrushes UK. Some brushes include silicon, which may be bristle shaped or fin-shaped to scrape bacteria from the tooth surface. With increasing eco-awareness, some brushes offer environmentally friendly bristle types such as bamboo fibre, or natural rubber. It is even possible to track down toothbrushes made from traditional boar’s hair.
Although you only spend a few minutes holding your brush each day, it is essential to choose a brush which is comfortable for you to hold. Brushes often come with silicone or rubber pads to aid grip and may be moulded with finger-holds. If you have mobility issues, you may wish to choose a brush with a thicker diameter.
Longer length handles make it easier to reach the back teeth, but if they are too long you may find brushing your front teeth is more troublesome. Children’s toothbrushes are usually shorter than adult ones to take this into account.
Some toothbrushes come with rubber suckers to allow the brush to stand upright when not in use which can help keep the bristles clean. Electric toothbrush stands act as both a way of holding your toothbrush but also as a re-charging dock for many toothbrushes. Another modification that some handles have is a small amount of elasticity to avoid brushing too vigorously.
Not all toothbrushes come with a handle. Some are shaped to fit over a finger and can be helpful for brushing children’s teeth, especially when they are very small.
A traditional toothbrush has a rectangular head on a straight handle. To assist with moving the brush around in the mouth, other brushes mount the head at an angle or have an angle in the handle. Most are made from the same material as the handle, although some are coated in rubber or silicone to protect the mouth from bumps, or to offer tongue cleaning options.
Small heads are easier to move in your mouth than large ones, although large ones allow a greater variety of bristle types to be mounted. Electric toothbrushes usually have smaller heads than the manual counterpart. Here is some guidance on toothbrush head sizes for children:
|Age Range ||Typical brush head size|
Electric vs Manual
Electric brushes rotate the head at a constant rate greater than possible with a manual brush. This allows you to concentrate on ensuring all teeth are visited by the brush which can lead to better cleaning performance. Some have timers which vibrate differently after two or three minutes.
Some Smart toothbrush models include feedback such as detecting if you are pushing the brush against your teeth too firmly or leaving it in one place for too long, with the most advanced models linking into apps to provide information on your brushing habits.
What is the best toothbrush?
Toothbrushes vary immensely in price, from a few pence to several pounds. A more expensive brush is not guaranteed to be better for your teeth, but equally choosing a brush at the bottom end of the market may be a false economy if it sheds bristles or doesn’t keep its battery power and needs more frequent replacement.
Ultimately, the best toothbrush is the one you feel most comfortable using, so don’t be afraid to try different styles until you know which you prefer. Take a look at some reviews of some of the best toothbrushes we have tried – click here.