Characteristics of a Toothbrush and how to Select the Right One for You

The toothbrush is an essential oral hygiene tool used to clean the tongue, gums and teeth.  Studies have shown that brushing one’s teeth on a regular basis, while using proper techniques will help to remove plaque from teeth.  Removing plaque prevents the build-up and calcification, which if left alone will harden into calculus or tartar (1, 4). This is why plaque removal may constitute the single most important oral health activity and prevention method to fight cavities, gingivitis and gum disease.  When used with a bead of toothpaste, the toothbrush is also an effective tool at cleaning hard-to-reach areas and removing food particles from in-between the teeth.

Toothbrush History

The history of the toothbrush goes back to ancient times.  Excavations have put the date on these instruments as far back as 3000 BC. Throughout history the toothbrush has been a variety of different materials and been used in different ways, but at the core it was there to serve one purpose which is to clean the mouth. Ancient Roman and Greek writing discussed the practice of using toothpicks to clean the teeth and mouth.  It was also been documented that ancient Babylonians used chewing sticks to clean their teeth.

Around 1600 BC, the Chinese people chewed on a twig until one end became brush-like. They would then fashion the opposite end of the stick to a point and use it to clean food particles from between teeth. Later on, in 1600 AD, China became the birthplace of the first “true bristle” toothbrush, which is an instrument made of bristle boar hairs attached to a bamboo or bone handle.

In 1780, William Addis, a British citizen, manufactured the first modern toothbrush. His descendants continued in the business, carving toothbrush handles from cattle bone. The head of the toothbrush contained bored holes, which held natural bristles secured in place with wires. The bristles consisted of the neck and shoulder hairs of wild pigs native to China and Siberia. Traders then transported these toothbrushes to Europe.  Toothbrushes with natural bristles or horsehairs remained common into the early 1800s. Although the toothbrush had been in use for hundreds of years, most Americans did not start brushing their teeth until returning soldiers brought the practice back home after performing training and duties in World War II.

In 1857, H.N. Wadsworth received the first American patent for a toothbrush. Around thirty years later, in 1888 the toothbrush began being developed in mass production. As the use and demand for the toothbrush continued to grow, so did the need for a better device.  Du Pont employee Wallace Carothers had just the answer for a better toothbrush when he created the first nylon bristle toothbrush.  From nylon bristles, the next great toothbrush invention was electric! The first electric toothbrush was made in Switzerland in 1939, and appeared in the U.S. in the1960s under the name of Broxodent. Rotary toothbrushes came on the market next in 1987(1, 2).

Types of Tooth Brushes

There are many different types of toothbrushes, each having a particular purpose based on the sensitivity, oral health issues and size of the mouth.  These toothbrush types include: manual, angled, diamond shaped, electric, hard/soft and big/medium/small.

Manual toothbrushes do an effective job in cleaning plaque and organic matter from the tooth surface. The basic toothbrush design consists of a handle, stem, and a head with bristles. The handle (usually made of plastic) measures about four inches long and most have a rubber grip. The handle connects to a stem that has a length somewhere between 1 to 2 inches. The stem keeps the handle from entering the patient’s mouth. The average head has a width of ½-inch and a height of about one inch (4, 5, 6).

Toothbrush heads come in a broad range of shapes. It is important for the patient to use a brush head that fits comfortably into the oral cavity and allows the person to reach all of his or her teeth. Some other attributes of toothbrush configurations and specialized shapes include the following items:

Angled – This type of toothbrush helps the person clean the inside of his or her mouth, especially the lower and upper front teeth. Sometimes an angled toothbrush provides a more precise cleaning and makes it easier to reach posterior teeth.

Diamond Shaped – This model has a head with a narrow tip compared to standard toothbrushes. This design makes it easier to clean the back teeth.

Size - The size of the ideal toothbrush head can vary from compact to full-size and depends on the size of the person’s oral cavity. A person with a small mouth may find a compact head better able to reach all areas of the oral cavity. Other people prefer full-size heads for brushing. Most brush heads when used properly will clean teeth effectively (4, 5, 6).

Electric Toothbrushes – The electric toothbrush is an option for people who do not brush their teeth properly or for patients who cannot grip and maneuver the toothbrush properly due to a disability. The user should brush with an electric toothbrush for about two minutes, while not pressing too hard against the tooth surface.

The TheraBreath® website offers an electric toothbrush that relies on sonic wave technology, two speed settings and three brush heads to ensure fresh breath and clean teeth.

Quality Control - All toothbrush manufacturers must ensure their toothbrush products comply with ANSI specifications for the Bristle Stiffness Test, consisting of an index of 1-10. Any toothbrush with a number greater than six does not meet standards. Manufacturers must also have a process in place to evaluate the abrasion level of bristles.

Toothbrush bristles come in soft, medium or hard. Studies show medium-grade bristles remove higher amounts of biofilm than soft bristles (4). Some dental professionals recommend their patients use the soft-bristled toothbrush because medium and hard bristles may cause damage to the teeth and gums. Bristles with rounded-tips offer patients more tooth protection.

TheraBreath recommends the soft bristle toothbrush which protects the tooth surface and effectively removes plaque. Click here to order the TheraBreath® Super Soft Toothbrush online.

Brushing Techniques

Place the toothbrush sideways against the teeth at a 45-degree angle. Rest the bristles against the tooth surface and the gum line. Use a back and forth motion, covering a group of two or three teeth at a time. Tilt the toothbrush vertically to brush the inside surface of the front teeth. Tilt the handle of the toothbrush down and employ an up-down stroke with the tip of the head. Brush along the gum lines, the roof of the mouth and the tongue surface. It is recommended that patients get into a sequence of brushing their teeth to make the activity “second nature (1, 5)”.

Patients are encouraged to brush the entire mouth, including inside the cheeks, the roof of the mouth and the tongue. TheraBreath® tongue scrapers work great for removing mucus from the tongue. Patients should also rinse the mouth with a TheraBreath® oxygenating mouthwash.

Conclusion

We recommend patients switch to a new toothbrush about every three months. Children’s toothbrushes may require replacement sooner. An old toothbrush can become a health risk, as overtime, dangerous microorganisms and pathogens grown and enter the oral cavity (7, 8, 10).  Starting at around $3.00, a new toothbrush is a good investment in oral health.

Regardless of the design of the toothbrush, whether manual or electric, the best choice is an instrument that enables the patient to reach all areas of the mouth comfortably.  The primary key to good oral hygiene requires patients to use the proper brushing technique to ensure the removal of plaque, the proper toothbrush for their mouth and a good toothpaste or gel.

TheraBreath recommends that patients with sensitive gums and teeth use the TheraBreath® Super Soft. Using the “super soft” bristle toothbrush in combination with a TheraBreath® toothpaste or gel and oral rinse, provides a superior preventative oral care regimen for fighting cavities, tooth decay, halitosis and gum disease.  Click here to view the Premium Soft Toothbrush from TheraBreath®.

TheraBreath® is a trademark of Dr Harold Katz LLC and Registered, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

References:

1

Colgate, “Taking Care of Your Teeth.”

http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Oral-Hygiene/Oral-Hygiene-Basics/article/Taking-Care-of-Your-Teeth.cvsp

2

Library of Congress, “Who invented the toothbrush and when was it invented?”

http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/tooth.html

3

Zanatta FB, et al. 2005. “Biofilm removal and gingival abrasion with medium and soft toothbrushes.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21842020. Oral Health Prev Dent. April 2005.

4

WebMD, “Choosing a Toothbrush: The Pros and Cons of Electric and Disposable.”

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/choosing-a-toothbrush-the-pros-and-cons-of-electric-and-disposable

5

Robinson PG, et al. “Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15846633

6

Tooth Club “types of Toothbrushes.”

http://www.toothclub.gov.hk/en/en_adu_01_03_01_02.html

7

The American Dental Hygienists’ Association, “Proper Brushing.”

http://www.adha.org/oralhealth/brushing.htm

8

Muller-Bolla M,  et al. “Manual toothbrush wear and consequences on plaque removal.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17913000

9

Pai V. “Effect of a single-use toothbrush on plaque microflora.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20139560. Indian J Dent Res. Oct-Dec 2009

10

American Dental Association, “Toothbrushes Acceptance Program Guidelines.”

http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/guide_toothbrushes.pdf

Tags:

One Response to “Characteristics of a Toothbrush and how to Select the Right One for You”

  1. Maria Says:

    Nice article, especially the part about electric toothbrush invention in 1939. I did not know it was so long time ago. I have discovered this fact just recently and the related patents.

Leave a Reply