Types of Toothbrushes


Different-types-of-toothbrushYour humble toothbrush may seem like a tedious and routine purchase but the difference between a brush that effectively cleans your teeth and one that doesn’t could quickly add up into dental visits and costly treatments.

There are literally hundreds of toothbrushes on the market – big ones, little ones, eco ones, electric ones, smart ones – even ones for dogs! Navigating your way through all the different options can be a daunting task, but we’re here to help you decide which toothbrush to buy.

Don’t forget that you should visit your dentist regularly and that they can offer you advice on what features you might find helpful.

Manual Toothbrushes

This is the type of toothbrush that everyone thinks of when they hear the word. They come in a range of sizes, bristle types and arrangements, and handle shapes so there should be one out there that is a perfect match to your specific needs. Manual toothbrushes are widely available and can be found in most supermarkets, chemists and online stores and can cost less than £1!  For detailed product information check out our guide to manual toothbrushes.  

Manual toothbrush heads can be square-ended or rounded and may be covered in rubber or silicone which may be textured to aid in cleaning the inside of your cheeks and tongue.

Handles are also sometimes coated in rubbery materials to aid grip. They can also be angled to help with reaching the back teeth and may be flexible so you cannot brush too vigorously and damage your enamel.  Harder and longer brushing exposes the more delicate dentine underneath the enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to decay, say researchers at the University of Newcastle.

Bristles can be made of nylon or natural fibres such as bamboo and are categorised according to softness, with “extra soft”, “soft” and “medium” being the most common types. Brushes with “hard” bristles are less common as they can weaken the tooth surface if used extensively. Bristles may be straight or angled to assist with brushing between teeth. Some brushes offer a selection of different bristle heights to ensure all nooks and crannies are accessible.

Rubber or silicone “bristles”, such as those sported by the Colgate 360º Whole Mouth brush,  may also be present to help polish away staining and get your pearly whites pearly white.

If you want to use a manual brush as a step towards being more environmentally minded then consult our guide to eco brushes.  

Electric Toothbrushes

By moving a small head at a constant speed electric, or power,  toothbrushes can improve plaque removal, and some people find them easier to manage as they do not need to coordinate moving the brush around the mouth.

Our full guide to electric toothbrushes goes in-depth and compares different brands. Apart from cost, brushes vary depending on the type of head action they have, battery life and physical size.

Most electric toothbrushes are rechargeable from a unit that plugs into the shaver socket in your bathroom. Some come with multiple colour-coded heads so the whole family can use the same power unit.

Cheaper models have rotating heads, while more expensive models may offer a cross-action motion or have different modes depending on the needs of the user. Sonic technology uses inaudible sound waves to loosen and remove more plaque.

Many toothbrushes offer pressure sensors to ensure you do not accidentally damage your teeth or gums. Another common feature is a timer, which may alert you throughout the session to remind you to move the brush to other parts of your mouth; this can be a particularly useful feature for children’s toothbrushes,  or for tired adults!

Some electric toothbrushes also offer smart features (more on that further down).


Battery Operated Toothbrushes

These are very similar in appearance to electric toothbrushes, however, they are typically powered by AA batteries. Usually, they only offer very basic features but they can be a good choice for travelling and camping, where you may not have an appropriate power supply as the batteries are easy to replace when worn out and. Children may also find a battery toothbrush easier to handle than a rechargeable one as they can be smaller and lighter. Read our full guide to find out more.  

Smart Toothbrushes

Looking in the mirror is one way to see if you’ve cleaned your teeth properly – but the other is to invest in a smart toothbrush which monitors your brushing habits and reports back to an app. Over time you can get a good idea of which bits of your mouth need closer attention to get them clean. Have a look at these apps, and you’ll be amazed at the level of detail you can learn about your smile! Market leaders Oral B and Philips have developed amazing smart technology. 

Travel Toothbrushes

With hand-luggage-only travelling and restrictions on what you can take, seasoned travellers may wish to consult our guide to travel toothbrushes.  We talk you through the choices from manual toothbrushes that fold into integrated head covers, to whether or not you need an adapter for your power brush.  

Which Toothbrush to Buy?

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. The guides on this website will provide you with all the information you need to make an informed choice and, hopefully, find your perfect toothbrush.

Toothbrush TypePro'sCon's
Manual Toothbrush* Cheap
* Widely available
* Can be used anywhere
* Needs manual dexterity to move brush in mouth
* May not remove all the plaque in mouth
* No help with toothbrushing technique
Electric Toothbrush* May be easier to manipulate
* Can remove more plaque than a manual brush
* Different modes for different types of cleaning
* Need to be recharged
* Heavier than a manual brush
* Families need to switch heads for each member
* May be hard to travel with
Battery Powered Toothbrush* Lighter than a rechargeable brush
* Good alternative to Electric toothbrush when travelling
* May remove more plaque than manual brushing
* Good for children as they often come in fun designs & with timers
* Batteries may go flat mid-session
* Not as many features as rechargeable brushes
* May be hard to travel with in hand luggage
Smart Toothbrush* Helps you to learn to clean your mouth better
* Offers similar features as a quality rechargeable brush
* Can be expensive
* Some models are only compatible with certain types of phone or tablet
* May be hard to travel with in hand luggage