Hard vs. Soft Toothbrush

We get this question very frequently, and the answer is very simple and straightforward: SOFT!  There is never any good reason to use a hard toothbrush.  Our dentists and dental hygienists will always stress to you the importance of using a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Why Do They Make Hard Toothbrushes?

Blue and white toothbrush with white/gray toothpaste on its bristles
Plaque is soft and easily removable from the tooth surface.

If dentists do not recommend hard toothbrushes, why do manufacturers even make them?  That is a great question that dentists around the world have only a cynical answer to: because people buy them.  You could similarly ask, “Why do manufacturers make cigarettes?”, and the answer is the same: because people buy them.  Just because something is available does not mean it is good for you!

The reason we hear from our patients who tell us that they prefer a harder toothbrush is that they feel like it cleans the teeth more effectively.  There is a belief that the harder bristles remove more plaque than softer bristles.  Unfortunately, that belief is unfounded.  Plaque is soft and easily removable from the tooth surface.  In fact, the removal of plaque from the tooth surface depends more on the technique of brushing than the bristles of the toothbrush.

What Damage do Hard Toothbrushes Cause?

three yellow teeth with the left tooth having gums that are disappearing upwards compared to the other two teeth on the right
Gums are delicate and can recede in response to abrasions.

There are two problems hard toothbrush bristles can cause in the mouth.

The first is abrasion of the tooth surface.  Abrasion is the gradual wearing away of enamel and/or dentin (the core tooth structure just beneath the enamel and covering the roots).  Abrasion is more likely to happen on exposed root surfaces, so patients with gum recession are at especially high risk.  Any and all loss of tooth structure is bad.

The second risk is for irritation and damage to the gum tissue.  Hard-bristled toothbrushes are more likely to harm the gums at the edge of the teeth.  Their stiff texture can scratch and abrade the gums, just like the hard tooth structure.  The gums are much more delicate, though, and they can recede in response to this type of injury.

If I Prefer a Hard Toothbrush, What is the Best Alternative?

electric toothbrush brushing a man's teeth
If you feel a turned-off electric toothbrush’s bristles, you will find the bristles to be surprisingly soft!

We have found that our patients who prefer hard toothbrushes do so because they want the “cleanest” feel for their teeth.  They do not believe they can accomplish this with a soft-bristled toothbrush.  The best step you can take in this situation is switching to an electric toothbrush!

Electric toothbrushes have a higher effectiveness at plaque removal and improve the health of the gums.  Electric toothbrushes, like Phillips Sonicare or Oral B Sonic Complete, leave the teeth feeling clean and shiny due to the fast-action motion of the bristles.  Interestingly, if you feel the bristles when the toothbrush is not in motion, you will find that they are surprisingly soft!  The movement of the bristles is what provides the effectiveness of plaque removal.

You can create the smoothest, shiniest feeling of teeth by using an electric toothbrush with a whitening toothpaste.  The motion of the toothbrush bristles combined with the mild abrasiveness of the toothpaste will remove plaque and polish the teeth well!  There is a slight risk for abrasion on exposed root surfaces with this technique, so you should always check with your dentist and dental hygienist first!

How Can I Keep my Teeth Feeling Clean between Dental Visits?

The very best home care routine includes these three steps:

#1 – Brushing Twice Daily

Brushing your teeth twice every day, once after breakfast as you start your day and once before bed, is essential to plaque removal.  The best techniques involve using an electric toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association.  As you brush, make sure the gentle bristles meet the gums at the edge of the tooth, as that is where most plaque builds up.

#2 – Flossing Every Night

Brushing does not reach the plaque that collects between the teeth.  Only flossing can remove the plaque there.  You must commit to flossing every single night before bed if you truly want to keep your teeth as clean as possible!  Ask one of our awesome hygienists to give you tips on the best techniques for your specific teeth.

#3 – Using a Recommended Mouthwash

Mouthwashes serve several great purposes in your oral hygiene routine.  For some, they fight the bacteria that cause plaque.  For others, they strengthen enamel to resist cavities.  Other people need assistance managing a dry mouth.  Because there is such a vast array of mouthwash available today, it is best to ask your dentist and dental hygienist for a specific recommendation, and then follow it!

More Questions about Your Oral Hygiene Regimen at Home?

Call today to schedule a visit with our dentists and dental hygienists.  We can assess your specific needs and give you personalized recommendations for the best home care regimen!