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Choosing your Toothbrush     Date added: 09-02-2011

Caring for your mouth and teeth involves two very distinct emotions – Fear and Vanity – this makes choosing your toothbrush rather more emotional than you would think and also produces a strong desire to get the correct brush. All of us would prefer to remain pain free and fear is as good a reason as any to motivate us to maintain mouth care as clean teeth are almost certainly healthy pain free teeth. These teeth are also the best looking and as an added bonus those teeth will also be using the same bone that keeps our faces in a youthful shape, thus preventing the onset of premature facial lines, cheaper than a face lift and far more effective! Added up all of these things mean that taking time to make sure that you are using the right toothbrush will not only make you feel good but also look good!

There is good evidence that the ancient Egyptians used various ways to clean their mouths and that evidence follows through to all subsequent civilisations. However our favourite tool to carry out this care is the toothbrush which is in fact a relatively new implement. During the 100 years or so that toothbrushes have became more common choosing one has become ever more difficult.  Initially it was easy as there was in all probability only one to choose from. Not so now in 2011, it is a minefield of conflicting claims, counter claims and apparent imperatives. Standing in the supermarket dental aisle you could be forgiven for thinking that these implements are not humble toothbrushes but items of scientific revolution.  There are so many to choose from all of which will have some special property to enhance your smile but which of these properties do you need or want? Here are some tips to help you in your choice.

Firstly mouths on the whole are small places and so your brush must have a small brush head to enable access. Some of the plaque that you are trying to remove is located on the flat areas of the tooth surface and some of this plaque will be removed by the friction of normal everyday life, so the areas that you want the toothbrush to be really effective in are often very small and well protected by the surrounding shapes of the mouth. This means that the smaller the toothbrush the greater is your liklehood of an effective clean. The longer the toothbrush head the less likely it will be that you will be able to clean all of the teeth sufficiently well to maintain gum and tooth health.  So keep the brush small.

The next vital feature that your toothbrush must have is bristles that can clean without causing damage. The bristles need to be able to mould themselves to the shapes that are presented to it.  Everyone is unique in the size, arrangement, and accessibility of the teeth in their mouth. “Bristles” must be super pliable, they must bend easily and maintain that ability to bend over many occasions. It seems that our choice of bristle texture is emotionally led rather than  reason based and because of those emotions we feel that it is  important to buy the brush that we think is “man enough for the job” and consequently almost everyone chooses a brush that is to firm. It is important to remember than that a good “scrub” with a medium / firm bristle will usually over time produce disfigured and over sensitive teeth. Over sensitive teeth are usually longer then they should be as to much of the crown has become exposed.  It is also worth noting that medium / firm bristles do not adapt closely to the tooth shape and therefore cannot remove plaque / stain   as effectively from the teeth.   So for maximum effectiveness and to prevent damage your small head toothbrush  also needs to be soft.

Smaller and softer is what power brushes tend to be which, for some people answers the question which is best power or manual. However I would point out that there are some excellent manual brushes on the market that are both small and soft. Examples of these are sadly often missing form supermarket shelves. The only reason for this is that a supermarket retailer exists to make a profits for the chain and not to care for your teeth, so obviously the brushes they prefer to stock will maximise those profits and their suitability to do the job that they are being sold for is secondary.

Examples of good brushes that are generally recommended by the profession are ; -
Sensodyne Search 3.5 - a small brush head but maybe a little on the firm side but used carefully this has been good brush for many years.

Sensodyne Total Care - has a well shaped brushhead with slightly softer bristles. It is a slightly more modern version of the 3.5

TePe Select - this range of toothbrushes is excellent in very many respects. They come is a range of medium/ soft/ and extra soft together with a Special Care bristle which is for post surgery  and for those suffering from Dry Mouth Syndrome, all of these come in two brush head sizes. The select is the larger while the compact is smaller and both sizes feature a tapered head that increases the access towards the posterior of the mouth.  The soft in a compact size is my recommendation.
Like the two brushes featured above you may find them in the chemist but are more likely to find them at you local dentist or quite easily online. These brushes are also available in a wide range of colours so coordinating your bathroom colours is usually possible!!

Curaprox 5460 - finally this brush is only available through the profession or online. The number refers to the bristles which are top quality densely packed and made of Tynex which maintains it ability to bend over long periods. If feels very soft but because of the number of the tufts it is very efficient and comfortable in use.

If you have used a manual brush for some time it is worth doing the fingernail test to make sure that you are not causing damage to your teeth and gums. You do this by putting your fingernail on to the tooth at a right angle at the position where the tooth meets the gum. Can you find a groove? If you can then the groove is man made and is normally caused by tooth brush abrasion. Finding a groove like this suggests that it is a very good time to swap to a power brush as the brush heads are much smaller and because of the way that power brushes operate they are less likely to cause damage.

Caring for your mouth is one of the best investments that can be made in healthcare terms so it makes sense to get the maintenance tools right. If you have any questions about your choice of brush I am in the practice on Wednesday mornings and will happily answer any queries that you may have.
Choosing a power brush is something that I will discuss next month.