Everyday I have the question from my patients about which toothbrush or toothpaste they should use to have a healthy mouth. My answer isn’t usually as polished and glitzy as the commercials you see everyday selling these products. My answer is “Whatever you like to use is the best one for you (as long as it is a soft-bristle toothbrush and a minimally abrasive fluoride toothpaste).”
The reason that my answer is that simple is that basically all toothbrushes are the same. Yes, some of them spin, some vibrate, some will even play “Rock and Roll All Night” by Kiss right in your mouth through vibrations in your skull! But they all basically mechanically scrub off the sticky film of bacterial plaque that forms on our teeth all day long. If you look for the American Dental Association seal of approval that will assure you that the toothbrush has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective.
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
As for toothpaste, they all basically boil down to fluoride (this is important to help keep your teeth strong and resistant to cavities), some sort of soap-like chemical that makes them bubble & foam, flavorings, colorings, abrasives (hopefully very mild) and then some other stuff to make them “new & improved” from every other one on the shelf.
Fluoride toothpastes must meet the ADA’s requirements for safety and effectiveness in reducing tooth decay. The manufacturer must provide:
- Clinical studies in humans
- Laboratory studies to determine the amount of available fluoride, the amount of fluoride released in one minute, and the amount of fluoride absorption in normal and weakened tooth enamel. These tests are also conducted in the ADA’s laboratory.
There are some toothpastes that contain baking soda as it is known for removing odors from your refrigerator, so it should do the same in your mouth. Baking soda is somewhat abrasive so using it plain everyday can cause some enamel wear over a long period of time. It is helpful in reducing the acids caused by oral bacteria so it may help in decreasing cavities as well.
Some toothpastes say they are “whitening.” This is a bit misleading. They may contain some peroxide, which is used in dental bleaching, but they are in such small amounts that they don’t actually whiten. These toothpastes can however be used as an adjunct to maintain a smile that has been previously bleached.
Many toothpastes are produced for use on “sensitive teeth.” Now there are many things that can cause sensitive teeth. Sensitivity can be caused by a cavity, a cracked or broken tooth, a tooth or restoration that is hitting too high, or even nerve damage. The chemical potassium nitrate (that is in toothpaste for sensitive teeth) only decreases sensitivity caused by exposed root surfaces along the gumline. The potassium nitrate molecules occlude or block up little holes or pores in the enamel-free root surfaces of teeth thus decreasing the sensitivity caused by hot or cold temperatures.
With all this in mind, pick a toothbrush that feels comfortable in your hand and is small enough to fit in between your cheek and outside your last upper back tooth. Also make sure that the bristles are soft so as not to do damage to your teeth. Pick a toothpaste that makes your mouth feel good afterward and that you like the taste. Make sure the toothpaste has fluoride to keep your teeth strong. And finally make sure that they both have the American Dental Association seal of approval so that you know they are safe and effective. Now finally even if you find the ultimate toothbrush and paste, it won’t matter unless you use them at least twice daily and use them properly. If you don’t know how to use them properly, come visit me at my office @ 509 West College Street in Murfreesboro, TN.