Soft Or Hard Toothbrush: Which One Should You Use?

father is telling son how to pick the best toothbrush

Soft, extra-soft, medium, firm, hard, mixed, round-tipped… whether you’re searching for a manual toothbrush or an electric one, bristles are just one of the many differences from product to product. So which do you choose, and why does it matter?

Why It’s Important To Choose The Right Bristles

Your teeth are coated in a protective substance called enamel. While enamel is the hardest substance in the body, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) explains that it’s vulnerable to:

  • Erosion from acidic foods.
  • Abrasion from aggressive brushing.
  • Damage from brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush.

As your tooth enamel wears away, it offers less and less protection to the softer dentine underneath, as well as the delicate pulp and nerves inside the tooth. You might start to experience sensitivity to temperature, touch or sweet foods. It’s not just your teeth that are vulnerable. A hard toothbrush can damage your gum tissue, too, causing inflammation and irritation.

Choosing The Right Bristles

As a general rule, the ADA recommends that everyone use a brush with soft bristles to avoid damaging the teeth and gums. However, as an adult, the right toothbrush for you will depend on a number of factors, such as age, gum condition, and overall oral health status. If you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or enamel erosion, your dentist may advise you to brush with an extra-soft toothbrush to prevent further damage. If you’re in the market for a baby toothbrush or a kid's toothbrush, you should choose a soft-bristled toothbrush of an age-appropriate size and shape. The toothbrush head should be small enough to reach every part of your child’s mouth, and for smaller children with developing motor skills, the handle should be chunky and easy to grip. From around 6-12 years of age, your child will have both adult and baby teeth. During this stage, a soft kids’ toothbrush with a mix of long and short angled bristles can help your child to reach every tooth. If you or your child have braces, these combination toothbrushes may also be helpful for cleaning those hard-to-reach spots around the brackets and wires.

Is There Ever A Reason To Choose A Hard Toothbrush?

In short, no! Some people do prefer firmer bristles, reasoning that these tougher brushes will slough away more plaque. However, the potential damage to your enamel and gums far outweighs this benefit. A consistent and thorough oral health routine, good dietary habits, and regular dentist visits are enough to keep plaque at bay. If you’re still concerned about plaque or you need help choosing a toothbrush, your dentist can offer you advice.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • Antibacterial mouthwashes – these mouthwashes are more effective in controlling plaque than fluoride rinses, and also freshen breath.

  • Fluoride rinses – these rinses coat the teeth with fluoride to strengthen teeth to prevent tooth decay and cavities. They also freshen breath.

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