Selecting a toothbrush can be a quite challenging task when you consider the variations between them. With so many types of toothbrushes, choosing between manual and electric ones is difficult enough, let alone choosing between hundreds of different types of toothbrushes with very varying features. However, understanding your own situation and recognizing the distinctions between toothbrushes can be easier for you to narrow down the options for yourself.
The purpose of this article is to assist you in selecting the best toothbrush for your needs. We will examine the main types of toothbrushes and their characteristics. On top of that, we will look at what you should consider when choosing what’s best for you. So let’s get started.
What are the different types of toothbrushes?
Toothbrushes come in various types with different properties and functions. From materials to functionalities, it is possible to find toothbrushes produced for almost every special situation. Knowing how they work and what they do will help you choose the right toothbrush for you. Here are the different types of toothbrushes, ranging from manual, electric, and orthodontic to chewable options!
Electric toothbrushes are powered by electricity, and they can be either rechargeable or battery-powered. They perform the brushing process with automatic movements. Electric ones offer a much more effective brushing with much less effort compared to manual ones. There are many different types of electric toothbrushes. They can be classified according to their strength or have properties such as ultrasonic waves.
Ultrasonic toothbrushes are special electric toothbrushes. To understand how they work, you can consider ultrasonic devices used to break up kidney stones. So sonic toothbrushes work on a similar principle. While scrubbing as an electric toothbrush, it also aims to disperse dental plaque and tartar by sending sound waves beyond human hearing. In this way, plaque removal is much easier.
Miswak is an old dental cleaning tool. It is actually the branches of a tree known as Salvadora persica. It has been used for thousands of years due to its antibacterial and antioxidant properties and its structure suitable for brushing. It has an important place, especially in Islamic culture and therefore it is common in majority Muslim geographies.
Chewable toothbrushes, also known as fuzzy brushes, are similar to manual toothbrushes in effectiveness. They are made to be swallowed and chewed like gums. These are the toothbrushes that you can buy from vending machines in the toilets for coins and will save you during long travels. While brushing your teeth with their bristles, they also leave flavors and cleaners to dissolve in your mouth, killing bacteria and converging into a real brushing experience.
Disposable toothbrushes are inexpensive and practical toothbrushes. Sometimes they have ready-to-dissolve toothpaste and oral hygiene agents on them. They are discarded after one use. Chewing toothbrushes are examples of disposable toothbrushes. Such toothbrushes are not made for regular use anyway. However, they allow you to protect your dental health in challenging situations such as travel. In this respect, it can be said that they are quite effective.
Children’s toothbrushes are distinguished by their size and the material from which they are made. They are smaller for use by children and easier to use. Made of softer materials, chewable toothbrushes are gentle on teeth and other oral tissues, making them suitable for children and individuals with sensitivity.
Finger toothbrushes are polymer sheaths with soft bristles that fit over your finger. They are used for manual tooth brushing and are less effective than manual toothbrushes. However, they still remove plaque to a certain extent when used with toothpaste. They may not be able to reach certain places such as under the gumline or between teeth. Preferred versions for babies are also available.
Interdental toothbrushes have a long, thin head, unlike normal toothbrushes. There are bristles protruding in all directions on this thin cylindrical head. Thanks to this structure, interdental brushes enter the spaces between your teeth and easily clean the plaque and bacteria accumulated in this area, working like a mixture of toothbrushes and flossers. As you can see from the name, their main purpose is to clean between your teeth, not the tooth surfaces.
Unlike ordinary toothbrushes, end-of-tuft toothbrushes do not have a wide head. There is a small brush part where the handle ends. They are not as effective as ordinary toothbrushes in general dental cleaning. However, they are number one when it comes to cleaning specific areas and orthodontic appliances. They can provide an effective and detailed cleaning throughout the gumline. So, they may be ideal for you if you have gingival problems, or if you have braces.
The bodies and bristles of ordinary toothbrushes are usually made of various polymers and plastic. Generally, these cannot be said to be sustainable materials. By contrast, eco-friendly toothbrushes are made from recyclable plastics or sustainable herbal products. Bamboo is one of them. They meet all your expectations for a toothbrush in general.
Mouthpiece toothbrushes are electronic devices designed to brush all teeth surfaces simultaneously. Since it brushes all your teeth at once, it claims to reduce the brushing process to ten seconds. You place it in your mouth, run it, and wait. It cleans the areas it settles in with automatic vibrations. However, how effective they are is a matter of debate. There is some research showing that these toothbrushes have little effect and are not a substitute for a regular toothbrush.
Why are they different?
There are numerous features that distinguish the toothbrushes you can find on the market. Toothbrushes are not easy to classify as they can be mixed combinations of these features. So, it will be easier to collect the features that distinguish them under a few groups than trying to classify the toothbrushes themselves. So let’s begin to investigate:
- Their functions:
Toothbrushes serve different purposes, and not all toothbrushes are suitable for every situation. Orthodontic toothbrushes are designed for cleaning around braces, while end-tuft toothbrushes may be better for those with gum disease.
- Their energy sources:
This is the simplest distinction between them. For example, manual and chewable toothbrushes work by the mechanical transfer of energy, while electric toothbrushes use batteries or charging to operate.
- Their materials:
This is another matter of distinction. Eco-friendly ones are made with sustainable materials to minimize harm to the environment. Miswak is obtained from a small tree’s branches, while conventional toothbrushes are mostly made of non-eco-friendly polymers.
How can I know what is best for me?
If you have any special situation, you should choose toothbrushes made especially for this situation. For example, if you wear orthodontic appliances, you should buy an orthodontic toothbrush.
Other than that, the most general information we can give is that soft-bristled toothbrushes are generally better. Because soft bristles bend more without damaging the tooth enamel, they can reach more surfaces. Hard-bristled brushes, on the other hand, can have an abrasive effect on tooth enamel.
Nieri M, Giuntini V, Pagliaro U, Giani M, Franchi L, Franceschi D. Efficacy of a U-Shaped Automatic Electric Toothbrush in Dental Plaque Removal: A Cross-Over Randomized Controlled Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Jun 28;17(13):4649. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17134649. PMID: 32605239; PMCID: PMC7370079. Link
Hamza B, Tanner M, Körner P, Attin T, Wegehaupt FJ. Effect of toothbrush bristle stiffness and toothbrushing force on the abrasive dentine wear. Int J Dent Hyg. 2021 Nov;19(4):355-359. doi: 10.1111/idh.12536. Epub 2021 Jul 22. PMID: 34270163; PMCID: PMC8597153. Link
Singh G, Mehta DS, Chopra S, Khatri M. Comparison of sonic and ionic toothbrush in reduction in plaque and gingivitis. J Indian Soc Periodontol. 2011 Jul;15(3):210-4. doi: 10.4103/0972-124X.85662. PMID: 22028506; PMCID: PMC3200014. Link
Chandra S, Jain N, Garg R, Dhawan P, Tuli A, Kumar G. Ionic vs Manual Toothbrushes: Effect on Plaque and Oral Hygiene Status in Children. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2019 Sep-Oct;12(5):375-378. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10005-1675. PMID: 32440040; PMCID: PMC7229365. Link