The Perfect Toothbrush

You splurge on the best moisturizer to help your skin stay younger longer, you invest in a good pair of running shoes to protect your feet and to perform, and you spend hours keeping your hair color and style just so.  What about your smile?


The products and tools you purchase for your smile should matter as much to you as what you buy for your face or for your body.  Not only will smile products help you maintain the health of your smile or even help you improve it –they won’t cost even a fraction of what you spend on all that other stuff in your medicine cabinet.


The Toothbrush: Overview
Start with the toothbrush. As a rule, it’s a good idea to replace your toothbrush every 30 to 45 days.  If the bristles begin to fray in less than 45 days, ease up, you are brushing too aggressively.  This may seem wasteful, but it is not. Especially when you consider that most Americans replace their toothbrushes less than twice a year. Ponder this: Every time you brush, you’re moving plaque from inside and between your teeth.  That plaque is formed by bacteria, so the bacteria slide off your teeth and onto your toothbrush where they nest.


The icing on this unappetizing cake is that about 30-40% of all toothbrushes actually harbor E. Coli bacteria on them.  E. Coli bacteria can bring about gastrointestinal problems or infectious diseases.


So long as you rinse your toothbrush thoroughly and keep it in a spot where it can dry safely in open air, you won’t need to switch it more than every other month.


The Right Toothbrush

Electric: If dentists ruled the world, everyone would own an ultrasonic toothbrush.  It gives you a professional clean feeling, right in your own bathroom.  The plaque is brushed off the surface of the teeth with just the right amount of aggression, and the day’s extrinsic stains get brushed off as well.


Thirty-one percent of Americans have a rotating or oscillating toothbrush, but that doesn’t mean you need one.  It simply depends on how well you treat your teeth.  How well – and for how long – do you brush them?  If you know that you are a lazy brusher, then you need one.  Time yourself next time you brush.  If you clock in at less than a minute, you need one.


According to a study done in 1998 by the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, most people do in fact need one since the average American’s brushing time is 39 seconds! As a professional, this number shocks me.  If you are one of those people, the latest models have a beeper installed that goes off every thirty seconds to signal when it’s time to move on to the next quadrant of your mouth. Four quadrants in the mouth means you should brush for 2 minutes!


Manual: However, if you prefer to use a standard manual toothbrush, there are some characteristics you should look for when purchasing one:

  • Easy grip: It should have a handle that’s easy to grip and long enough so as not to make the action of brushing awkward.
  • Head space: It should have a marginally small head so it can easily reach every spot.
  • Soft touch: Its bristles should be soft with rounded and lie at a forty-five-degree angle to the teeth to allow you to easily and gently move it between gum and teeth in nonaggressive sideways motion.

Beware of Imports

Steer clear of the designer toothbrush.  Those fancy toothbrushes sold at high-end pharmacies might look sexy and chic posing sink side, but they’re not friendly to your teeth.  These European imports are made with bristles that are just too hard and abrading and could likely end up destroying your teeth’s enamel.  The future of manual toothbrushes lies with those that have replaceable heads.  This innovation allows users to hold onto the higher-quality brushes by changing only the heads when necessary. 


Softening Up

If your gum line is receding, if you have other gum sensitivity like oral ulcerations, or if you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you should use an ultra soft bristled toothbrush. 


Toothbrush Takeaways

  • Never share your toothbrush.  It’s like a bacteria swap meet.
  • Change yours at both the start and at the end of any illness, even if it’s something as innocuous as the common cold.
  • Air-dry it nightly. This might seem obvious, but believe it or not, some people toss theirs into the bottom of a dark drawer right after using it.  A wet toothbrush in a dark enclosed area is just begging for more bacteria to hop on board and colonize.
Added to Dentistry on Wed 03/24/2010