Choosing a toothbrush seems simple enough, right? But when faced with a seemingly endless array on the shelves, it can quickly turn daunting. It’s an actual cognitive phenomenon that psychologists call overchoice or the paradox of choice — where having too many options makes it more difficult to select just one. It’s possible to overcome this quirk of the human brain, however, when armed with a little bit of knowledge about what your toothbrush needs to do — and how it does it.
Toothbrushes at a Glance
At their most basic, toothbrushes serve as a way to manually remove leftover food and debris from your mouth. Humans throughout time have used various objects to accomplish this goal — from frayed branches to fibrous foods and everything in between. That’s because food particles, if left behind, feed the natural bacteria present in your mouth and can help contribute to the buildup of biofilm and tartar — two major components in tooth decay. Toothbrushes can also help remove plaque, the precursor to the hardened tartar, and help remove biofilm and other biological “sludge” from your teeth, gums and tongue.
Anatomy plays a part: your teeth aren’t just composed of the surfaces you see when you smile. All of the things that can lead to damage can lurk on the backs of teeth, between teeth and up under your gumline. The bristles of your brush help reach some of these surfaces — in conjunction with flossing and rinsing.
Modern toothbrushes come in a variety of hardnesses. This refers to how strong the bristles are. A hard toothbrush has dense, tough bristles. Softer toothbrushes have more pliable bristles. The harder the toothbrush, the less force is needed to scrub your teeth and gums clean.
Most people already brush their teeth harder than they need to. Unless otherwise directed by your dentist, stick with soft-bristled brushes to cut down on needless wear and tear to enamel and reduce the chance of cutting your gums.
Some toothbrushes are made of specialty materials. Charcoal-coated brushes, for example, purport to help whiten teeth and freshen breath. Although charcoal can make good on these claims, it often does more harm than good — it’s harsh on teeth and gums and can erode enamel and cause damage.
Use a critical eye when evaluating manufacturer claims. Antibacterial coatings, for example, can reduce the amount of good bacteria in your mouth that help contribute to a healthy microbiome. Eco-friendly brushes made of recycled material or bamboo fibers can cut down on carbon emissions, but they may not be the best choice for keeping your smile in top shape. Look for the American Dental Association seal of approval on your brushes to be sure you’re making a great choice.
You may hear friends raving about their electric toothbrush and how much better it makes their mouth feel, but the nitty gritty truth is that manual and electric toothbrushes are equally effective when used consistently and properly.
That said, electric toothbrushes may make regular, consistent brushing easier if you have mobility issues, arthritis or other health concerns that make it hard to use a proper brushing technique. You may find you prefer an electric toothbrush with a timer to ensure you’re brushing for a full two minutes each time. So, while there’s no need to shell out for an electric toothbrush to get an advantage over manual brushes, it’s totally worth it if it means you’ll brush regularly, consistently and with less discomfort or worry.
Ask a Dentist
Everyone’s oral health is different, which is why it’s so important to get a twice-yearly cleaning and checkup. During this time, you can discuss brush selection with your dentist and get a recommendation on which type of brush might work best for you — as well as any toothpastes or rinses you might need to keep your teeth, gums and tongue looking and feeling their best.
The office of Drs. Krieger and Hur believes the only silly question is the one that goes unasked, and we’re happy to discuss your brushing needs. To make an appointment, give our office a call at (201) 560-0606. Because we know life gets busy, you can also click here to email us to secure your spot on our schedule. Whether you’re using a tried-and-true manual toothbrush or a fancy new electric spin brush, we want to hear about it — and can’t wait to see your smile in our office.