Americans Invest Nearly 1,000 Hours Each Brushing Their Teeth over a Lifetime
Never before has there been such a dizzying array of toothbrushes on the market. Consumers are inundated with new designs, materials, attachments, and colors. How do you choose your toothbrush? Perhaps you have a steady fave bought out of habit, or maybe you’re always on the lookout for a sale, jumping from toothbrush to toothbrush when the price is right. You might spend extra money for style, considering the handle’s shape or color before any other attributes. All of these strategies will get you a toothbrush, but none gets you the best one for the job. Let’s brush up on some history for perspective.
The Toothbrush through Time
Toothbrush design and materials have come a long way and, fortunately, we now have a far better selection than our ancestors did. Early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5000 years.
Circa 3,000 BC: Ancient civilizations used a “chew stick,” a thin twig with a frayed end. The sticks were rubbed against the teeth to remove food.
500 (or so) Years Ago: Toothbrushes were crafted with bone, wood or ivory handles that held the stiff bristle hair of hogs, boars or other animals.
The 20th Century: The nylon-bristled toothbrush as we know it today was invented in 1938.
When to Buy a New Toothbrush
Buy a new toothbrush as soon as the bristles begin to look worn or frayed (usually every three months). A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
Always replace your toothbrush after an illness. Germs can linger and make you sick again.
If you can’t remember the last time you changed your toothbrush, it’s probably time for a new one.
Components of a Toothbrush
Bristles: Soft is Safe
Most dentists agree on using a toothbrush with soft bristles. Go gently, too. You may have a penchant for scrubbing your teeth with a stiff-bristle toothbrush; however, this habit can damage teeth and gums. A survey of 700 dentists found that brushing teeth too hard was a leading cause of sensitive teeth.
Hard bristles may cause:
Gum tissue to pull back from teeth, which can expose the tooth root and lead to increased sensitivity to heat, cold or certain foods and drinks.
Damage to enamel on teeth, which can leave them exposed to cavity-causing plaque.
Head: Size Matters
Consider the toothbrush’s head shape when selecting your tool of choice. Some toothbrush shapes will suit some mouths better than others.
Make sure the head allows your toothbrush bristles to comfortably reach your back molars, as some brush heads may be too large or wide.
Brush in front of the mirror to make sure you cover every tooth. If it doesn’t, swap your toothbrush for one that does.
Handle: Get a Grip
The handle of the brush should be long enough to hold comfortably. It should neither be too thick nor too thin to hold.
Some toothbrushes today have wide handles. This helps you control the toothbrush better. So, choose a toothbrush with a handle that is long enough and wide enough for you to use.
A lightweight, plastic handle is very comfortable to use. It helps you to easily maneuver and clean from all directions.
Don’t Buy Dollar-Store Toothbrushes
Five no-name toothbrushes in a package may seem like a steal at a handful of pennies each, but consider the risks. Seeing as you put a toothbrush in your mouth two or more times per day, it’s worth going with a reputable manufacturer.
Leave the Cheap Ones on the Shelf:
The product could be from a manufacturer who doesn’t care about safety or efficacy.
The toothbrushes could be made of inferior or unsafe materials.
They’re better suited for cleaning grout than oral hygiene.
Get the Right-Size Toothbrush for Children
Babies need baby toothbrushes because of their tiny mouths, so it also stands to reason that small children need toothbrushes with smaller heads than adult versions.
Tips for a Toddler Toothbrush:
Instead of promising a small toy or sugary treat to reward good behavior at the supermarket or drugstore, let kids choose a new toothbrush with fun colors and graphics from the oral hygiene aisle.
Don’t forget to replace a child’s toothbrushes every three months when you replace your own, or possibly more often if they are hard on their brushes.
The ADA Way
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you buy the one that you will use and one that displays the ADA Seal of Acceptance. A company earns the ADA Seal for its product by producing scientific evidence that the product is safe and effective. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates the evidence according to objective guidelines for toothbrushes.
To Qualify for the Seal of Acceptance, the Company Must Show That:
All of the toothbrush components are safe for use in the mouth.
Bristles are free of sharp or jagged edges and endpoints.
The handle material is manufacturer-tested to show durability under normal use.
The bristles won’t fall out with normal use.
The toothbrush can be used without supervision by the average adult to provide a significant decrease in mild gum disease and plaque.
Toothbrush Selection Bottom Line
At the end of the day, the best toothbrush is the one you’ll actually use. That means the toothbrush handle should fit comfortably in your hand and the toothbrush head should feel comfortable in your mouth and be able to reach every tooth surface. Look for the ADA Seal, your assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness.
Sources: The American Dental Association (ADA), Best Health Magazine, Dentalsolutionscreatingsmiles.com
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