Toothbrushes have been around for a long time. In fact, archeologists have observed that chew sticks – slender wooden sticks with frayed ends – were used 5,000 years ago! Cast members on the hit reality TV show “Survivor” used similar primitive “toothbrushes” to keep their teeth clean this past season while living away from civilization. I don’t particularly recommend chew sticks in normal situations since we have cheap, readily available and more effective alternatives, but I suppose that if I lived in a primitive environment I would be making and using chew sticks also.
Our Southfield Dentist office (Dr. Mark Langberg, DDS, MAGD) recommends both manual and powered toothbrushes to keep oral health at its best. The right one is the one that you’ll use! With regular brushing – and when combined with flossing, fluoride rinses and regular dental checkups – teeth and gums will stay healthy for a lifetime.
The nylon-bristled brush has been around for about 75 years. It is available in “hard,” “medium” or “soft” bristles and a variety of contours for the handle and bristle head. I recommend that consumers stay clear of hard toothbrushes and look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal when purchasing a brush. This will verify that its design is safe and effective when used properly.
A powered brush can help children form good dental habits. Let’s face it; swirling spin brushes are fun to use! Supervision is a must until the child can safely and thoroughly clean all his or her teeth, not just the front ones. A timer with a buzzer will ensure that children don’t rush through this task. A chart and stickers will help children track their daily dental habits. Shoot for a minimum of two brushings a day. These children’s spin brushes are typically battery operated and inexpensive. More sophisticated, rechargeable electric toothbrushes often easier for older people with arthritis and dexterity issues so I almost always recommend them for our elderly patients. My favorite is the Sonicare by Philips. Like most electric brushes they are designed with a pre-programmed two-minute session.
I recommend soft-bristled brushes. Hard bristles and vigorous brushing can damage enamel and are unnecessary for removing bacterial plaque. The size and shape of the brush should fit each individual’s mouth. There are tiny baby brushes for infants and other graduated sizes that allow a deeper reach into the mouth. A round-edged brush is less apt to injure soft tissue than a squared off brush. Brushing mishaps can become ulcerated and painful. Brushes with rubberized grips minimize slippage and inadvertent jabs.
Replace manual toothbrushes as soon as you see that the bristles are no longer standing up perfectly straight. Once they are slightly bent they are significantly less effective. This may be as soon as monthly! I typically tell patients to buy cheaper brushes that they are comfortable changing more often vs. an expensive brush that practically becomes a family heirloom before it is thrown out. And don’t forget to replace electric brush heads every three months or sooner. Color coding helps family members use the appropriate brush. Store brushes upright and away from each other to prevent cross contamination. You can disinfect with antimicrobial mouthwash, dilute hydrogen peroxide, or simply let them dry out thoroughly between uses.
To schedule a dental checkup, call me at my office (Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD), at 248-356-8790. You’ll leave with cleaner teeth …and a new brush too!
That’s all for today, so until next time,
Mark W. Langberg DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034