Your Toothbrush: Soft vs Hard Bristles

The best defense against periodontal (gum) disease and decay is brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day.

Brushing helps remove bacterial plaque which is a colorless film that sticks to your teeth at the gum line.

Toothbrushes come with various head sizes (compact, full, oval & tapered) and bristle types. Bristle types are usually described as firm, medium, soft, extra soft, sensitive and extra sensitive. Choosing the type of toothbrush to use is a personal preference.

The American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t make any specific recommendations however they give a seal of approval to brands that meet basic standards ensuring that you are buying a quality toothbrush without jagged edges which could irritate delicate gums. A toothbrush with bristles that are very close together and multi-tufted tend to clean teeth with more efficiency.

Soft or Hard Bristle?

Soft toothbrush: Individuals with sensitive teeth and gums may want to choose a soft bristled toothbrush with rounded edges. A soft toothbrush makes it easier to remove plaque below the gum line while being gentle on gums and teeth. The bristles of a soft toothbrush are flexible making it easy to brush in between the cracks and crevices. To make the toothbrush even softer, run it under warm before each use.

Hard toothbrush: Using a hard toothbrush and not brushing properly could cause gums to recede prematurely leading to gum irritation, loss of dentin and/or tooth sensitivity. When brushing, the idea is not to “scrub” your teeth but to use short, gentle strokes to gently brush each tooth.

Proper Brushing & Flossing Technique:

  • Brushing: A pea-size amount of non-abrasive toothpaste with fluoride is recommended. Using massage-like pressure, brush using small circular motions while gently stroking the outside surfaces of your teeth. Make several gentle back and forth strokes when cleaning upper, lower and front teeth. Use a brush head small enough to reach difficult areas such as the teeth at the back of your mouth and give special attention to the inside of your lower molars. Gently brush the surrounding gum tissue. Rinse your mouth vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing. If your brush bristles have bent over with time you may be pressing too hard.
  • Flossing: Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18” long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand. Gently guide floss between the teeth using a zig-zag motion. Slide the floss up and down against the tooth surface and under the gum line. Rinse your mouth vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles.

Proper Care of Your Toothbrush:

  • A toothbrush can carry bacteria and viruses so to avoid contamination don’t share or borrow a toothbrush with anyone.
  • Rinse your toothbrush after each use.
  • Store the toothbrush in a dry upright position that allows it to dry thoroughly. A moist environment encourages the growth of germs.
  • Worn out toothbrushes are less effective so the ADA recommends replacing your toothbrush every 3-4 months.

Dr. Romano recommends using a soft toothbrush and brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day.

If you’re unable brush, chewing sugarless gum is an excellent alternative. Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva which neutralizes the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in your mouth.

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