Soft or hard hair? Large, medium or small heads? Long or short? Three specialists explain how to choose the right toothbrush to care for and clean your mouth.
Nearly fifteen years ago, the Ministry of Health declared that only half of Chileans brushed their teeth correctly. In this same report it was mentioned that 90% of the population suffered from periodontal disease, which affects the gums and can lead to tooth loss if not treated in time.
Why is this problem so common in the country? Due to a poor diet – lots of sugars and processed foods that damage our mouth, and few nutrients that protect it – smoking, diabetes, stress, certain medications and, of course, poor oral hygiene. But if you take steps now, like washing properly and several times a day, your future self will surely thank you.
“The most common oral diseases, such as cavities and periodontal disease, are considered chronic, because once we suffer from cavities, we suffer from this disease for the rest of our lives,” explains Paula van Treek Pérez , dental surgeon and academic. Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Chile. Although many believe it, “a filling or restoration does not cure the disease.”
“The goal is therefore to be able to control the disease,” adds his colleague Rafael Contador Cotroneo, who, with van Treek, is a member of the department of restorative dentistry at this university. Keeping it under control, they say, is achieved mainly through “adequate hygiene, preventive measures, such as the use of fluoridated paste and regular attendance at check-ups at the dentist”, they say.
For the first point, the main thing is two things: hygienic discipline, which allows us to clean our mouth well and daily, and a good toothbrush which cleans us and does not harm us. Concerning discipline we can only give you encouragement and moral support; Regarding the brush, we have a lot of specialist advice so that you can choose the one that suits you best.
1. Soft bristles
In stores and pharmacies we see that toothbrushes, among others, are differentiated by their bristles: some say they are hard, others “medium” and others soft. How does each affect my cleaning? Is it a question of taste or effectiveness?
“In general, to properly remove biofilm (this is what dental plaque is called) and to avoid damage to oral tissues, such as gums or mucous membranes, it is recommended to use filament brushes flexible”, explains Iván Pinilla, dental surgeon. , oral rehabilitator and head of specialties at RedSalud.
The fact that the bristles are soft means they are less rigid and more flexible, “therefore able to clean much better than hard bristles, because they adapt to all surfaces and irregularities,” adds Contador. “It’s like if you want to clean the dust off a piece of furniture and you have to choose a duster or a rake. This is the difference between a soft brush and a hard brush.
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2. What’s wrong with tough guys?
The inside of the mouth is a fragile and sensitive area, which requires constant but also delicate cleaning. It’s not clear why they exist, but hard filament brushes are less effective at removing dental biofilm – they don’t reach every corner – and they can also damage gums.
Contador and Van Treek emphasize this, and their call is to avoid this type of brushes, which are even capable of “wearing out the teeth themselves”. A stiff brush doesn’t make you tougher.
3. The right size
All three dentists suggested preferring medium or small heads and trying to avoid large ones. Because? “A shorter head allows us to better clean every corner of our mouth and teeth, reaching areas we couldn’t reach otherwise,” says Pinilla. For people with motor difficulties, it is preferable to opt, if possible, for electric toothbrushes.
“The size of the brush head must be adapted to the patient’s mouth,” adds Van Treek. “The important thing is that it accesses all areas, even those that are difficult to access, in addition to having soft and rounded filaments.”
Oral-B Expert Soft Brush
4. A higher price does not mean better cleanliness
“Price and brand don’t always indicate that the brush is better,” says van Treek. “There are inexpensive brushes that meet all the requirements we mentioned: soft bristles and a medium to small head size. » Likewise, there are more expensive and sophisticated models which will not necessarily make a difference in our hygiene.
More important than the brand or the value is the way and frequency with which we brush: if we follow the instructions for good cleaning – like the ones we give here – and do it after each important meal of the day, the cost the brush will take a back seat.
5. How often to change it
The general advice is to replace the brush every 3 or 4 months of use, “because the bristles become bent and dirty, losing their effectiveness,” says Contreras. “This damage and wear of the filaments is what limits brushing effectiveness.”
But this time is an estimate: if you brush your teeth very frequently, you may need to change them sooner for new ones. How to know? If you see the outer filaments sticking out from the brush head (basically, if it looks nervous like it just woke up from a night out), then it’s time to do it.
“The speed at which the brush becomes damaged or worn out will vary depending on the hardness, quality and distribution of its filaments, the type of paste used but also the technique and force that the person applies when brushing,” he adds.
has. Accompany brushing with silk
Even if you do it right, brushing your teeth is not the only oral hygiene process. “This should always be accompanied by the use of dental floss or other elements of interproximal hygiene, at least once a day,” recommend the specialists.
b. How to store and transport the brush
“The brush is a place where bacteria can easily accumulate, so we must always clean it after use, removing the remains of food and pasta,” explains Contador. For this too, it must be “stored vertically in a ventilated and dry place”.
Are the caps that often come with these brushes practical to always use? “They’re just to protect it in case we have to transport it,” adds Van Treek. In other words, as long as you’re in your bathroom, this won’t be necessary.
vs. The technique
Although we have already talked about this in other previous articles, it is important to repeat. Pinilla describes that it is necessary to “brush both the inside and the outside of the teeth, making sure to “sweep” all surfaces and areas in an orderly manner, without forgetting any area and always ending with brushing the language.
If you don’t follow these instructions, “food debris will accumulate, which will feed bacteria in the mouth and stimulate the formation of cavities.”
d. When you eat acidic foods
When you eat ceviche, drink lemonade or a salad with lots of lemon and brush your teeth immediately afterwards, you risk experiencing one of the most horrible flavors in your mouth. What kind of chemical error is this?
What happens is that when you eat acidic foods, “the pH of the oral cavity drops,” explains Pinilla, and when the toothpaste comes in, this shock occurs. What he suggests doing is “rinsing with water, to neutralize the pH, and maybe delaying brushing for about 30 minutes, but never stopping brushing.”
And. Do not put water on the brush before washing it
It’s a habit that many people have become ingrained in, and which some justify with certain advantages – “more suds comes out”, they say, or “it cleans me better” – but these are only urban myths without no basis: wetting the Brush with the paste before washing is of no use.
“It is not advisable to rub the brush before brushing,” explains Iván Pinilla. “This should only be done once washing is finished and before rinsing,” specifies the Red Salud specialist.
F. Toothpaste and rinses complement but never replace brushing
“Toothpastes and mouthwashes, better known as mouthwashes, are a supplement and have a specific action, such as preventing carious lesions, reducing gum inflammation or treating hypersensitivity,” explains van Treek . But they in no way replace brushing, which can even be done without toothpaste while remaining useful.
Right now, the state of your oral health depends on how thorough you are. Perhaps in the future, as announced a year ago, a swarm of microrobots or iron oxide nanoparticles will be able to replace brushes to clean dental plaque. In the meantime, all that remains is to brush with discipline. And with a good soft brush.
*Product prices in this article are current as of September 27, 2023. Values and availability are subject to change.
I am David Jack and I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years. As an experienced journalist, I specialize in covering sports news with a focus on golf. My articles have been published by some of the most respected publications in the world including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.