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Toothbrush 101

Good oral hygiene is important…so important in fact, gum disease is a major risk factor for developing serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes! And toothbrushing is a major part of good oral hygiene.

We were all taught to brush our teeth since we were young. But how many of us were ever advised as to which toothbrush to use?

Before modern toothbrushes were invented, people used a rough cloth and water to clean the grime off of their teeth. The ancient Egyptians made a kind of toothbrush by splitting the end of a twig (called a chew stick). But brushing your teeth twice daily was not the norm until after World War II and early on there were few toothbrush options to pick from. That’s all changed…and we’re not just talking about the color of the handle or electric vs manual varieties.


Manufacturers finally realized that since we come in all shapes and sizes – so goes our mouth and teeth. We now know you need to choose a brush size that fits YOUR mouth. For most adults, a 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch tall will be most comfortable and effective. Remember, to fit properly your toothbrush must be able to clean those hard-to-reach areas like the sides of your teeth and the backs of your molars.


Comfort dictates how often – and for how long – people will brush. That’s why the Colgate REACH toothbrush was so well received when introduced in 1977. Before that time, little innovation was made in toothbrushes. But the introduction of this new idea in toothbrushes offered a curved handle – much life the instruments a dentist uses – to easily reach back teeth. Following this invention, 1978 curved bristles came to the market…and the rest, as they say, is history!


In fact, MOST like a soft toothbrush. Depending on how aggressively you brush, using medium or hard bristles could actually damage your gums, and/or tooth enamel. Make sure you use a toothbrush that has bristles with rounded tips, too.


For years, our toothbrush choices have had bristles made of nylon. The handle might be long or short, purple – red or blue, the bristles might be wavy or colored or different lengths…but they will probably be nylon. Recently silicone bristled toothbrushes have hit the market. Silicone has antibacterial properties since rubber is non-porous and therefore carries less bacteria. These bristles are soft and flexible…perfect for those that are less-than-gentle when they brush.

When asked about the newest dental innovations hitting the consumer market Jacqueline Schafer, DDS from Lafayette, Colorado states, “Manufacturers can claim anything. It’s clinical studies and actual day-to-day application that will let us know the effectiveness of new dental products. Look for either manual or powered toothbrushes that have earned the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval and you probably can’t go wrong.”

Other things to know about your toothbrush:

  • It is not recommended to share toothbrushes as you can transmit blood-born diseases
  • After use – rinse your brush with water, shake off and let airdrop completely before sticking it back in a drawer or holder
  • Bent and worn out bristles lead to decreased cleaning efficiency
  • Replace your toothbrush when it appears worn (6-16 weeks normally) or after you’ve been sick
Author Info

Dan Stratford