Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Whether youíre old or young, rich or not so rich, everyone needs a toothbrush. The world of oral hygiene products is so huge, you often need to choose from hundreds of brushes, all with different features and gimmicks. We find out what you really need in a toothbrush to keep your teeth and gums clean and fresh.


The Basics

  • Manual vs. electric? Studies suggest people who use electric toothbrushes have less plaque over time. But is it because of the brush itself? Many dentists disagree and say the key to clean teeth is knowing how to brush correctly and doing it often and long enough.

  • Manual toothbrushes, though simpler, come with their share of features, including:

    • Angled head brushes promise to get to the hard to reach areas at the back of your mouth, where most people have extra plaque build-up.

    • Flex tip brushes claim to be able to reach the more inconvenient areas.

    • Cross action brushes have uneven bristles designed to get in between the teeth – another problem area for plaque build-up and food particles.

    • Large grip toothbrushes have longer and wider handles that are easier to hold onto.

  • We asked a number of dentists and here’s what they recommend for features in a regular (manual) toothbrush:

    • Look for soft or ultra soft bristles. Harder bristles can actually cause damage by causing gums recede or gouging tooth enamel.

    • Round-ended bristles are recommended because they cause less damage to the gums than angular-ended bristles.

    • Bristles should be made from synthetic materials rather than natural, which are porous and can absorb bacteria.

    • Look for a brush with a small head. Dentists say it is better for getting into the back of mouth where many people have a lot of plaque build-up. It’s also better for small mouths and children.

  • Electric toothbrushes use tufts of nylon bristles to stimulate gums and clean teeth. There are three types of technology to choose from.

    • Oscillating or rotary motion brushes work much like a wax polisher works on your car. As the bristles are pressed against teeth and gums, the rapid, constant movement removes plaque and food particles.

    • Sonic toothbrushes emit sound waves in addition to the rotating head and bristles. The sound waves create a vibration that helps to loosen plaque and food, the same technology your dentist uses to help remove plaque.

    • Ionic toothbrushes work by reversing the polarity of the teeth. Since teeth naturally have a negative ionic charge and food particles naturally have a positive ionic charge, opposite charges are attracted to each other causing food particles to stick to your teeth. Changing the tooth’s negative ionic charge to a positive charge repels the plaque and food particles away from the teeth.

  • If you choose to go with an electric brush, here’s a summary of our dentists’ thoughts on features to consider:

    • Look for a model with a timer of at least 2 minutes. Some models also have an indicator beep every 30 seconds to tell you to switch sides so all parts of your mouth get equal attention.

    • Batteries are the costly part: Most models have at least one week of brushing on a full charge. Some models have replaceable AA batteries and still others run on a non-replaceable lithium cell.

    • Check the price and style of brush heads before you buy. New ones can range in price from $1 to $15 and they range in size from small to large.

    • Look for a brush with a small head, synthetic and rounded bristles as described above for regular toothbrushes.

    • If you have the tendency to push too hard on your gums, consider a model with a sensor that automatically stops the high-speed pulsation if too much pressure is applied.

Other Considerations

  • If you have limited dexterity (e.g. broken wrist or arthritis), a power toothbrush may be a good choice. Similarly, children seem to enjoy the novelty of power toothbrushes, which motivate them to brush more often and for longer.

  • Whichever toothbrush you choose, the only way to good dental hygiene is through good brushing technique. Follow these steps:

    • Place the brush at a 45-degree angle and use gentle downward strokes.

    • Hold the brush with a pen-like grip to avoid using excessive force.

    • Brush outside the teeth, inside, your tongue and especially on chewing surfaces and between teeth.

    • Brush for a minimum of 2 minutes (try doing it for the length of a song on the radio), twice a day (especially after meals).

    • Floss daily and see your dentist regularly.

    • Change toothbrushes every three to four months, before bristles become frayed. And toss the toothbrush after an illness to avoid harmful bacteria that can be harboured in the bristles.

Be Aware

  • If you travel, an electric toothbrush may be a bit of a hassle since you’ll need to ensure you bring the right plug adaptor, or that you can get batteries if you need replacements. The good thing about electric toothbrushes is that they still work as a regular toothbrush, even if you’ve run out of power!


We each tried out two toothbrushes each, one on our top teeth and one on our bottom teeth, to see if one removed plaque better.


Brush Test

We used these toothbrushes for a week, along with the same brand of toothpaste, and made sure we brushed for 2 minutes. We went to the dentist to compare before and after:

  • The biggest change was the teeth brushed with the Braun, which did a much better job at removing plaque.

  • The Oral B Cross Action manual toothbrush also did a good job.


Since teeth are very important, you want to use the best tools to take care of them. We liked the Braun Oral B electric toothbrush, and the Oral B Cross Action manual toothbrush for their ability to remove plaque better than the others we tested.







top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter