Though we use them two or three times a day, we tend to pay little mind to our toothbrushes. But why? These mighty little miracle workers tackle all the gross stuff that lingers throughout the day, primarily the pesky bacteria that wreaks havoc in our mouths and bodies. Without a good toothbrush, this bacteria would be allowed to hang around, causing cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, bad breath and, as scientists are now exploring, even cardiovascular disease.
While a good toothbrush isn’t the end-all, be-all of oral health — regular flossing, professional cleanings and other measures must also be taken — it is a huge part of a healthy hygiene routine. Not only will a good routine banish all the bad stuff that causes painful, unpleasant dental issues, but it will also help make you feel even more confident by creating a gorgeous, radiant smile and controlling bad breath. Proper brushing even sets the stage for better whitening, so it’s an all-around great thing for your overall health and wellness.
Brushing your teeth is the most fundamental task within your dental hygiene regimen. You do it multiple times a day, whether at home or away, often without even thinking about it at all. You do it half asleep in the morning and when you’re dozing off at night. For this reason, many of us pay little mind to the nitty-gritties of brushing, but this guide is here to change that by taking a deep dive into all things toothbrush-related!
Different Types of Toothbrushes
Your toothbrush gets rid of bacteria and food particles through a number of methods, including chemical removal (through your toothpaste), manual removal (scrubbing and removing any bacteria with a brushing movement) and other methods, such as blue light removal. The type of toothbrush you buy will determine which of these methods is used to kill the bacteria in your mouth.
There are two primary categories of toothbrushes, manual and powered, both of which offer distinct benefits. Regardless of if you go the manual route or the powered route, you want to make sure you’re using a soft-bristled brush that fits in your mouth and allows you to reach those tight spots easily. Here’s some more information on these two most common kinds of toothbrushes.
- Manual — Manual toothbrushes are the standard toothbrushes you probably used forever until powered ones became the norm. These toothbrushes rely on a combination of toothpaste and manual bacteria remover to clean the surfaces of your teeth and in between them. Manual toothbrushes are great to have on hand as a backup, when traveling or for use at work or away from home.
- Powered — Powered toothbrushes, also called electric toothbrushes, use a rechargeable battery to create rapid, automatic brushing movements to clean the surfaces of the teeth. These movements include quick back-and-forth oscillations and rotations to thoroughly remove any bacteria or plaque as well as to stimulate and massage the gums. Standard electric toothbrushes generally look just like manual toothbrushes but feature an on-off button and a port for charging. Some feature timers to ensure that you brush long enough. There are a couple more types of toothbrushes to consider in this category:
- Hands-Free — This innovative toothbrush type allows you to brush and whiten your teeth while you’re working, lounging or doing other things around the house. If you’re looking for a great way to make your routine more efficient, a powered hands-free toothbrush is a smart choice because it lets you brush while you get ready in the morning.
- Blue Light — Blue light toothbrushes, like our patented Sonic Blue Smart Brush, use bacteria-killing blue light wave technology to keep your mouth extra-clean. It combines multiple different modes of bacteria removal to prevent cavities, gingivitis, bad breath and more common oral health problems. Studies show that oral care and heart disease are directly linked. Therefore, it is extremely important to stick to a healthy oral care regimen that can help boost your immune system, and using a blue light toothbrush can help you do just that. These toothbrushes also help enhance whitening, so they are great for using with your favorite whitening products.
- Ionic — Ionic toothbrushes use yet another method to remove bacteria and plaque: ions. These toothbrushes feature a thin metal plate around the handle and a titanium rod that runs through the toothbrush. When the handle gets wet, a closed circuit is formed and ions are transferred from the metal components to your teeth. More studies on ionic toothbrushes are needed to determine if this method is as effective as others, but there is some evidence to suggest it is a safe, healthy option.
What Kind of Toothbrush Should You Buy?
Use an electric toothbrush the majority of the time, but have a manual toothbrush or two available for vacation, the office or as a backup when your powered toothbrush is charging.
So, which should you buy? The simple answer is one of each. But it’s probably a good idea to make your electric toothbrush your daily driver. Why? While both kinds of toothbrushes are effective at removing plaque, there’s evidence to suggest that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual ones. In fact, studies show that powered toothbrushes can reduce plaque by up to 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent.
But there are many scenarios where using an electric toothbrush simply doesn’t make sense. Manual toothbrushes come in handy as your backup when your powered one is charging. If you don’t have a travel-sized electric toothbrush (we recommend getting one, by the way), a regular old toothbrush is more convenient because it’s more compact and doesn’t require a bulky charging cable or port.
Electric toothbrushes are also the best choice for people with limited mobility, including those who have carpal tunnel and arthritis, because they do all the hard work for you with vibrations and oscillations, giving your joints and muscles a break. Electric styles also bring benefits for those with braces and other orthodontic appliances because they are able to clean deeper and more thoroughly around small parts.
The main downfall of electric toothbrushes is that — unlike manual ones, which you might get for free at the dentist — they can be expensive. However, your powered toothbrush base should last you for years or more, so you can look at it as an investment. You will occasionally have to upgrade with replacement toothbrush heads, but most electric toothbrushes come with one or two replacement heads to keep them in the game for a year or more.
How Often Should You Change Your Toothbrush?
And now for the million dollar question: How long can you use the same toothbrush? The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends swapping out your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner, depending on how much wear and tear your toothbrush has seen. To determine if it’s time to break out the replacement toothbrush heads or swap out the whole thing altogether, observe the bristles on your toothbrush. If they’re uneven, matted or fraying, it’s time to replace the head.
If you have an electric toothbrush, you don’t need to swap out the entire device each time you need a new brush head. This fact actually makes powered toothbrushes a bit more eco-friendly since, rather than tossing out and replacing the entire thing, you’re reusing the majority of the brush and replacing only a small part of it.
Do You Need to Clean Your Toothbrush?
Obviously, our toothbrushes come into contact with a whole lot of gross stuff from within our mouths. We don’t want to gross you out, but there is evidence to suggest that the toothbrush is one of the biggest bacteria harborers in the bathroom, playing host to more than 100 million bacteria, including E. coli and staphylococci. With that said, your toothbrush is extremely unlikely to make you sick, and this bacteria can be minimized by routinely cleaning and properly storing your toothbrush.
On top of the bacteria, toothbrushes live in moist environments and can become magnets for mold, mildew and corrosion. As a result, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of routinely cleaning your toothbrush. The best method for keeping your toothbrush clean is to rinse it after each use to remove excess paste and then thoroughly dry it out between uses. Leave your toothbrush to air dry on the countertop in a cool, dry area to avoid mildew.
Developing (and Keeping) a Good Oral Health Routine
Your toothbrush is an extremely important part of your oral health routine, but it isn’t the only thing that keeps plaque and bacteria at bay. In fact, you could have the fanciest toothbrush in the world and, without the proper technique, it would be essentially useless. Think about the way you use your toothbrush and whether or not you’re using it to its fullest. Be sure to follow these toothbrushing guidelines to keep your strategy in good shape.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes using a soft-bristled brush.
- When brushing, make sure to focus on all surfaces of the teeth, including the outer teeth, the inner teeth and the top of the teeth.
- Brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums to help ensure that you remove any lingering bacteria from the gumline.
- Pay attention to the shape of your brush head. If it’s too wide or too bulky, it may be preventing you from tackling those hard-to-reach spots in the back.
- Don’t forget to brush your tongue! The tongue is home to a host of bacteria that causes bad breath and gross fuzzy tongue, so make sure you brush it along with the surfaces of your teeth and the gumline.
- Use a high-quality toothpaste that not only kills bacteria and gets rid of plaque, but also helps strengthen and fortify teeth to prevent cavities.
- Don’t skip dental cleanings. Nothing can replace your twice-a-year professional teeth cleaning, so be sure to always make it a priority. If you don’t have dental insurance, you may be able to find an affordable dentist or dental school in your area and pay out of pocket.
- Get a good travel toothbrush. So many of us slack on our dental hygiene while on vacation, using whatever cheap toothbrush we’ve tossed in our travel kit. Using a good travel toothbrush can help you stay on your routine even when you’re away from home.
More Than Just a Plaque Remover
A high-quality toothbrush does more than just remove bacteria and plaque to prevent decay and gum disease. Of course those are the most important reasons to up your brushing game, but they may not be the most motivating. Proper dental hygiene with effective tools can help prevent staining, yellowing and visible decay, which in turn can help encourage you to smile wide and show your big personality.
At the same time, proper brushing helps lay a good foundation for teeth whitening. When your teeth are spiffy and clean, your teeth whitening products are able to penetrate deeper and coat the teeth more evenly, leaving behind pearly whites you’ll be proud to flash. GO SMILE is your resource for all the best dental care products, including teeth whitening kits and solutions, to help you make the most of your naturally radiant smile.Shop Bacteria-Killing Toothbrushes