How to choose a toothbrush and toothpaste
If you feel like you need a PhD. to navigate the multitude of choices in the toothbrush and toothpaste aisle, relax. Selecting products that help prevent tooth decay and promote good oral hygiene can be quick and easy if you keep these simple rules in mind, says Dr. Richard Price, a dentist and spokesman for the American Dental Association.
1. Look for the label
Electric or manual, the ADA seal on the package lets you know the toothbrush meets the standards for safety and effectiveness set by the association, which promotes dental health. Price says the ADA symbol appears on toothbrushes made of nylon or other synthetic bristles that are rounded at the end. ADA-accepted toothbrushes are firm enough to remove plaque from your teeth but soft enough not to damage your teeth and gums if used properly. Nylon or synthetic bristles also dry more quickly and completely, helping them resist bacteria.
2. Select the right size
When it comes to toothbrushes, one size doesn’t fit all. If your toothbrush head prevents you from easily reaching all the surfaces of your teeth or the handle is too short or long for your hand, ditch it. “It’s got to be comfortable in your hand and mouth or you won’t use it,” Price says. Of course there’s no substitute for floss to clean between teeth and under the gum line, he says. And if a child’s toothbrush helps you clean your back teeth better, then use one.
3. Find a product with fluoride
Simply put, fluoride is medicine for your teeth, Price says. It slows the decaying effects of bacteria that produce gum disease and, at a microscopic level, helps cavities heal and toughens tooth enamel, he says. Because children younger than 5 tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, he recommends limiting fluoride toothpaste to a pea-size drop so it doesn’t cause an upset stomach.
4. Go simple
A small portion of the population might have an allergic reaction to ingredients in tartar control toothpaste and whitening products that use varying levels of peroxide, and the peroxide may cause sensitivity, Price says. Bottom line: all toothpastes are cleaners and with proper use, they help control tartar buildup and remove stains. “Unless you have a specific problem, stick with the most vanilla product,” he says. Consult your dentist if you have questions.
5. Replace your brush regularly
Price recommends using your toothbrush until the bristles become frayed, which usually occurs after three or four months of regular use. He says there’s no need to replace your toothbrush every time you get a cold or illness. “You can soak the toothbrush in alcohol or put it in a dishwasher to disinfect it if you are anxious about removing germs” he says, and recommends storing your toothbrush someplace where it can thoroughly dry and not support bacteria life. By the way, toothpaste can help stamp out bacteria on a dry toothbrush because toothpaste has a detergent in it, Price says.
6. Dare to share
Some may get squeamish when thinking of sharing their tube of toothpaste with someone else’s toothbrush, but Price says there's no need to have your own toothpaste to avoid spreading germs. “I have not seen one study that indicates that’s a good thing to do other than make you feel better,” he says.