|Cartoon by Aishwarya Jayadeep|
Selecting a tooth brush is something that should be done with utmost care. Or else, a tooth brush that's supposed to help you retain that pretty smile of yours would do you more harm than you can imagine. My mom and my mother in law are the two people I have seen who take a serious interest in the maintenance of their pearly whites, but sadly their ignorance of this crucial aspect led to the deterioration of their gum's health. Both these ladies used to vouch on their hard-bristle tooth brushes for doing a better cleaning job than any other. What they ended up with are receded gums and tooth sensitivity because of exposed dentin. To make it more clear how it happens, please look at the figure. Usually, the exposed part (Crown) of the tooth is protected with enamel. But this protection is not there from the point the gum starts. So what happens when one uses hard-bristled toothbrush is that it pushes the gum back, thus exposing that part of the sensitive dentin. This would make it painful if you were to take hot or cold liquids. But more than the pain, once the dentin part is exposed, if you continue using the hard-bristled brushes, the brushing would erode the dentin itself (as these are not as resistant to abrasion as the enamel is). What this means is that you could even end up having fresh cavities.
Now the question is how to select a toothbrush that is best suited for you.
Tooth brushes have different bristle firmness ratings – soft, medium, and hard. This tells you how firm the bristles are and how much pressure they put on your teeth and gums when you brush. This can be very confusing when you select a toothbrush. Most people, like my mom and MIL , select toothbrushes with firmer bristles, believing they’ll do a better job of cleaning their pearly whites. Then these zealots would brush their teeth vigorously to clean it to a fault. As I mentioned earlier all of that brushing causes gum irritation and aggravates sensitive teeth. or even ends up making new cavities in some cases. So to select the right toothbrush that does the right work without causing more harm make sure that:
- Any toothbrush you choose have soft bristles. Soft toothbrush gets the job done without gum irritation or contributing to receding gums.
- Select a toothbrush head size that can easily fit into the mouth and can brush one to two teeth at a time (the general size is 1" long and ½" wide) with end-rounded bristles
- Powered toothbrushes are better choices than manual toothbrushes for anyone who needs assistance brushing teeth, including seniors, people with arthritis (or any condition that may limit mobility), anyone wearing braces or people with misaligned or uneven teeth surfaces that make a thorough cleaning more challenging. These would be a good choice for kids who has teeth that are a mix of baby teeth and adult teeth.
Now the next question is when to replace your tooth brush.
- Replace your toothbrush as soon as the bristles begin to look worn or frayed (usually every three months). A worn toothbrush does not do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
- Remember always to replace your toothbrush after an illness. Otherwise, your brush will be retaining the germs that caused the illness and you may fall sick again.
For children, most of the above holds good. And specifically select a brush that has:
- Soft bristles (for gentle cleaning)
- Very small heads (designed for baby teeth)
- Large handles (easier for children to grip)