Associates of Dental Arts
Dr. Gregory Kivett

Want To Save Money at the Dentist?...Brush Your Teeth!

Going to the dentist for regular cleanings will help prevent periodontal disease (aka gum disease), remove plaque buildup and help avoid cavities. However, the most important tool in fighting oral disease is the humble toothbrush. Brushing your teeth can help save you thousands of dollars in expensive restorative dental care. However, if you use the wrong toothbrush, you can do more harm than good. Read on to learn more about the toothbrush and the best way to make sure you are keeping your teeth clean.

History of the Toothbrush

Around 3500 hundred BC, ancient Babylonians and Egyptians used “toothbrushes” that were nothing more than frayed twigs to help clean their teeth and avoid cavities. Around the 15th century, the Chinese began to use the hair from on the back of a pig as bristles. The Europeans began using bristles soon after but usually used horse hair for their toothbrushes. People had to keep cleaning their teeth with animal hair until 1938 when nylon bristles were invented. By the 1950’s new technology created softer nylon bristles and people finally started ditching their animal hair toothbrushes for the modern ones we know today.

Manual vs Electric

While the electric toothbrush has been around since the 1960, the modern rechargeable electric toothbrush is the best way to clean your teeth according to a number of scientific studies. Also, a survey done by the American Dental Association (ADA) of people asked to switch from a manual to electric toothbrush showed an 80 percent satisfaction rating where people self-reported an increase in oral cleanliness after switching to an electric toothbrush. You can get your teeth clean with a manual toothbrush and the ADA does not recommend electric over manual ones, but if you want maximum oral cleanliness you should consider switching to an electric toothbrush.

Soft and Medium and Hard Bristles, Oh My!

The type of bristle you use on your toothbrush might be the most important part of choosing a toothbrush. The ADA and most (if not all) dentist recommend soft bristles. The reason is because medium and hard bristles can damage your gums and tooth enamel. Some people, such a smokers, prefer harder bristles because they get a better cleaning and remove more stains. However, the reason harder bristles remove more stains is because they are removing the tooth enamel! Also, harder bristles will irritate your gums and can cause laceration, bleeding, receding gums and sensitivity. This is why it is important to only use soft or very soft toothbrushes. If you have periodontal disease you may need to use very soft bristles. Harder bristles may be used in certain circumstances as recommended by your dentist or used to clean dentures.

The Best Toothbrush Design

Anyone that has gone down the toothbrush aisle at the store can tell you, there are a lot of options. With all these choices, which toothbrush is the best for you? The best answer is it is not worth worrying about. If you want to make sure that your toothbrush is safe to use, you should only use toothbrushes with the ADA seal of approval. This seal ensures your toothbrush does not have any dangerous design flaws like sharp bristles or bristles that can fall out. While various designs have been shown to be mildly more effective, the most important thing, according to the ADA, is to make sure you are using the proper technique.

Tips for Brushing Your Teeth

The ADA recommends the following method for brushing your teeth:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your brush should fit your mouth allowing you to reach all areas easily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Make sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
  • Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
  • Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
  • Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.
  • Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and keep your breath fresh.

If your dentist has recommended a different technique you are okay. There are different techniques but none have been shown to be better than any other. No matter the technique you use, make sure to not brush too vigorously so you protect your gums. You also need to make sure you get all of the surfaces of your teeth, especially the part where the gum and teeth meet. It should take about two minutes to brush your teeth. Many people think they are brushing for two minutes but they actually are not. A timer is the best way to make sure you are treating your teeth right. For kids, there are toothbrushes that light up and play music for two minutes. Don’t forget to floss as well!

Go Forth and Brush Those Teeth!

Tooth brushing has come a long way since the sticks of our ancient ancestors. Today you have a myriad of toothbrush options to choose from. The most important thing to remember is to protect your teeth enamel and gums by only using soft bristles and not brushing too forcefully. An electric toothbrush is the best option, but any soft bristled toothbrush with a good technique will do the trick if you go to your dentist for regular cleanings.

Electric toothbrush vs manual toothbrush

History of the toothbrush

Toothbrush Design

Dental Brushing Techniques Study

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