What Type of Toothbrush Bristles are Best

Charcoal Bristle Toothbrush

We’re supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes… which gives us a lot of time to listen to our favorite song, ponder our daily schedules, or think about what exactly we’re brushing with. When it comes to what type of bristles for a toothbrush, preferences will be based on your oral care habits and dentistry needs. Ultimately, comfort will play a role, too. Here are some things to consider next time you purchase a new toothbrush. 

Different Bristles for Different Needs

But first, what type of bristle hardness are there for toothbrushes? You may be familiar with both soft and hard bristles, but you can also usually find extra-soft and medium-soft bristles. Sometimes, hard-bristled toothbrushes might be referred to as ‘firm’ bristles. 

Does a harder bristle result in a more thorough clean? Yes and no. While harder bristles may be more similar to what our ancestors used to brush their teeth—twigs and animal hair—there’s a reason we’ve expanded the toothbrush lineup to include softer bristle types. 

Soft-Bristled Toothbrushes

So, are hard bristle toothbrushes bad? ‘Bad’ might be a bit harsh, but firm bristles might be a bit harsh, too. In fact, most dental professionals recommend toothbrushes with softer bristles, especially for those who have signs of erosion or sensitive teeth. Children can also benefit from soft bristles, too 

If you tend to get carried away and brush your teeth a bit vigorously, a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush could wear away your enamel, damage your root surface, or even compromise your gum health—making a soft toothbrush a better choice. Not only are soft-bristled toothbrushes safer, but many people also find them more comfortable on the teeth and gums. 

Hard-Bristled Toothbrushes

Wondering why we even have hard bristles on a toothbrush? Well, some people benefit from a firmer brush. Most dentists wouldn’t suggest hard-bristled toothbrushes for daily use, but if stain removal is a goal, they may be helpful. Similarly, those with dentures might need a firmer tool to get in and around the crevasses and clips. However, even though a firmer toothbrush can be helpful, excessively hard brushing can damage the denture surface. 

While proper oral care can prevent emergency dentist visits, too much oral care (especially over-exuberant brushing) isn’t great either. If you notice dull teeth, receding gums, tooth sensitivity, or a frayed toothbrush, it may be a good idea to tone down your brushing, or make the switch to softer toothbrush bristles. 

A couple brushing their teeth

How to Choose the Best Toothbrush

So, now that we know the toothbrush bristles differences, how do you use them to choose the best toothbrush for you? 

Well, generally speaking, most people are going to want a soft or medium toothbrush. If you feel like a soft-bristle toothbrush is too soft, one with angles or multiple layers will help to get into the nooks and crannies of your mouth. 

You’ll also want a toothbrush that is long enough so that it can be comfortably held while you reach the sides and backs of your molars. The portion with the bristles should be a comfortable size too, about one-inch tall and a half-inch wide. Look for bristles with rounded tips, and if you notice that the bristles fall out while brushing, it’s likely time for a new toothbrush. 

What about an electric toothbrush? Powered toothbrushes often come with soft or medium bristles. While they’re often advertised as being superior to their manual counterparts, the science doesn’t check out. In a 2019 study assessing both manual and powered toothbrushing, no significant differences were found with respect to plaque.

That said, the most important consideration you can make when it comes to a toothbrush is how it can support regular brushing. 

If you find that a soft, manual toothbrush is more comfortable, that’s the best decision for your oral care routine. If gentle brushing with a firm toothbrush feels like it does the best job of reaching crevices and removing plaque, then go with that. If an electric toothbrush makes it easier to brush (especially if you have arthritis), then feel free to incorporate it into your oral care routine. 

Toothbrush Bristle Materials 

What are toothbrush bristles made of? Almost always, you’ll find toothbrush bristles that are made of nylon. Nylon is a synthetic fiber that can withstand all of the water and ingredients that usually come in non-abrasive toothpaste

For those trying to make the switch to sustainable oral care practices, it’s difficult to find an alternative to these plastic-based bristles. The main contender is boar hair bristles, which come from domesticated animals—and for obvious reasons, many people wish to avoid.

Some companies also use bio-based castor bean oil in their bristles. While this is a natural alternative to nylon, the bristles aren’t compostable and will take a long time to biodegrade. 

Charcoal Bristles for a Cleaner Smile

As another clean-mouth craze taking the world by storm, charcoal is increasingly making its way into oral care products—including the bristles of the Brilliant Black Toothbrush! Activated charcoal is well-known for its detoxifying properties. Combined with the gentle, soft-to-medium and BPA-free bristles, the ingredient can work its magic by absorbing toxins, lifting statins, and gently polishing teeth and massaging gums. That’s a brilliant toothbrush, indeed! 

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