We find ourselves in a glorious age for great diversity of tools to maintain your oral hygiene. The most important of these is, of course, our toothbrush. The price range for toothbrushes these days is rather large, starting with your basic, no-frills manual toothbrush for a couple bucks going all the way up to the most expensive of electric/sonic toothbrushes which can cost you $200. Today we are going to be looking at the various types of toothbrushes available in today’s market, discussing some pros and cons, and giving Dr. Mayo’s overall recommendations.
One rule that applies to all toothbrushes, cheap or expensive, is that you need soft bristles. The reason for this is fairly simple: your gumline. In fact, soft tissue is going to be a big motivating factor in a lot of the analysis I go through today. You see, there is a constant tradeoff that must be considered when brushing your teeth: you want to clean your gumline without damaging it (which can leading to receding gums). The best way to protect them, from a purely “hardware” standpoint, is to only buy toothbrushes with soft bristles–the more firm the bristles, the greater the likelihood that you will damage your gums and teeth. Receding tissue is associated with a myriad of problems, but that’s for a whole other article.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be discussing four main archetypes of toothbrushes: manual, electric, sonic, and ionic. So let’s start with the age old manual toothbrushes and go from there.
Doc’s Ranking: 3rd place
Let’s be honest, there is only so much you can do to a manual toothbrush to aid in its effectiveness. In this realm, technique is king (well, technique is important for all brushes, but especially with manual toothbrushes). You will want to carefully brush all exposed surfaces on each of your teeth with your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your gums. Here is a helpful graphic, put together by the American Dental Hygienist Association, which describes proper brushing technique:
ADHA: Proper Brushing Technique (new window)
Don’t get me wrong, a manual toothbrush is all you need (brush-wise, we can’t forget floss, can we?) to keep your teeth healthy and happy. But, you can’t expect to just zone out and move the brush around in your mouth and get the results you’re looking for. With manual toothbrushes, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” most certainly applies. You want to be sure to cover all exposed surfaces on each of your teeth, and you want to make sure you do that well.
Doc’s Ranking: 1st place (tied)
These are toothbrushes you will commonly see from companies like Oral B. They rely on mechanical movement of the head/bristles in order to aid in the cleaning process. Optimally, you will use proper technique with your electric toothbrush and the clean you get will be much better when compared to a manual toothbrush. However, one common psychological effect of using that shiny new electric toothbrush is that you may focus less on proper technique and rely more on the mechanical function to do the cleaning. Even so, these electric toothbrushes are still likely to provide a better cleaning than a manual toothbrush. It is, again, important to stress that overzealous use of brushes on the gumline can lead to recession.
Doc’s Ranking: 4th
Sonic toothbrushes have taken the dental world by storm. Widely hailed as the greatest thing in dentistry since the proverbial “sliced bread,” these brushes have been gaining in popularity. This surge in popularity has led to increasing options and a larger range of pricing (generally between $40 and $200), not to mention increased visibility.
Dr. Mayo is not overwhelmed by the performance of sonic toothbrushes.
It is his professional belief that sonic toothbrushes can do more harm than good. Much like a brush with more firm bristles, a sonic toothbrush can be too much for the overzealous brusher’s tissues. Recession of the gumline is not uncommon because overbrushing is easy. Yes, the ultrasonic movement of the bristles can easily rip plaque right off the teeth, and sonic toothbrushes can provide benefits by reducing gum bleeding and reducing mouth odor. These benefits can be overstated and ignore the possibility of causing the gumline to recede.
Doc’s Ranking: 1st (tied)
Ionic toothbrushes are relatively lesser-known, so if you are aware of these brushes, kudos to you! If you are not aware, worry not, I will tell you all you need to know about them here!
Ionic toothbrushes work much like a manual toothbrush, using no moving parts, no vibration, no bells and whistles to make you feel special. But would you rather have something that makes you feel fancy, or something that works? These toothbrushes work by producing an electric charge on the surface of the teeth that repels plaque–even in those hard to reach areas. While it may sound like some Hollywood hocus pocus, it really does work and leaves your teeth feeling clean and smooth all day long. Being that there are no moving parts like the electric and sonic toothbrushes, technique comes more to the forefront when evaluating the efficacy of the ionic toothbrush. Yes, you may need to focus a little more to make sure you get a good clean (unless you’ve developed the muscle memory that comes with practicing good cleaning), but the ionic action is truly remarkable.
Dr. Mayo recommends Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush, which can currently be purchased from Amazon.com for about $20. At that price point, even if you’re not sure how you’ll like it, how can you not give it a try? No, we don’t get a kickback or any other compensation for recommending Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush, we just know it works and, like any recommendation you receive from Dr. Mayo, profit is not a motivating factor, we just want to provide you with the best possible tools to accomplish your oral hygiene goals.
What do you think? Have you tried these brushes and what did you think when you changed from one to another? Leave notes or questions in the comments!