Questions :

16. Toothbrush Innovations

Contributed by:

Dr. Tuti Ningseh Mohd Dom

Dept. of Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur

Since the birth of the modern toothbrush in 1938, toothbrush design has evolved in more and more salient ways. Why, walk down any of the supermarket aisles featuring personal grooming items and one is bound to be dazzled by the huge array of colourful toothbrushes of varying types, shapes and sizes; not to mention the differing costs. Let us survey the different types of toothbrushes currently available in the market.

Types of Toothbrushes in the Market

The Zig-Zag shaped bristle design has been "designed to clean better between teeth". The handle is shaped like a dental instrument to allow proper balance when pressure is applied to the brush bead.

  • The brush with the flexible neck is meant to work like a "shock absorber to reduce pressure and prevent gum irritation. Its handle has a non slip grip with an angled, tapered head, which helps to clean hard-to-reach areas.
  • Toothbrushes with angled heads are supposed to provide better access behind teeth and other hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
  • Those with angled bristles provide triple action bristles to ensure proper cleaning, no matter how well or how poorly people brush. The angled outer bristles are for gumline; long inner bristles are for between teeth and shorter bristles are for the tooth surfaces.
  • Toothbrushes with special indicator bands have the advantage of having dyed bristles that fade when the brush needs replacing.
  • Some toothbrushes have diamond-shaped or oval shaped heads that enable you to reach all teeth surfaces easily, including the back teeth areas between teeth.
  • The special toothbrushes are available for people who have shrinking gums due to gum problems or spaces between teeth where teeth have been extracted. Since these people may find that the regular toothbrush cannot reach certain spaces in between teeth, they may require the use of a special toothbrush. You can see that this type of brush is shaped like a minute baby's bottle brush, right-angled and small enough to reach spaces where the regular toothbrush cannot reach.

Tips for choosing a suitable toothbrush

To ensure that you get the best possible benefits from your toothbrush without imposing any harm on your teeth and gum structures, several tips are suggested. Using a soft, even ultra-soft bristle toothbrush is very important for good health. Medium to hard bristle toothbrushes may cause tooth abrasion near the gumline, resulting in sore or irritated gums. Whether you choose a big head or a small head brush depends very much on whether there is sufficient spacing between your teeth and cheeks, and whether your teeth are aligned in straight line or not (Your dentist might be able to help you out with this). Ditto for what shaped of brush head you might need to use. Many experts agree that the new styles of toothbrush heads with softer, multilevel bristles are better than flat brushes at cleaning between teeth. Still, others contend that no bristle, however high-priced it may be would be able to get between the teeth the way a strand of dental floss can. While others prefer a straight handle, the bend or angled ones are good too, at helping to reach the back of the mouth. Children may prefer newer models with neon colours, cartoon characters and squishy handles. These may be easier to grip and may be worth the money if they encourage the children to brush.

One would then conclude that the best toothbrush is the one that the user feels most comfortable using and with which he can brush his teeth efficiently and effectively. Having said that, what is as important is finding a brush that you'll keep using once the novelty of a particular feature has worn off. After all, a toothbrush is just as good as the person who uses it. You can have the best toothbrush with all the best features that money can buy; yet what is the use of it if it is not used properly or worse, only used occasionally? As long as you're using a good quality soft-bristled toothbrush and brushing with the proper technique, you can do a good job.

Toothbrushing technique

But what it the proper technique, you ask? First, a daily dental hygiene routine is vital to maintain healthy teeth and gums. The following is a basic guide. Do ask your dentist if you want to be sure of a regime that is more specific for you. Recommended regimen: -

  • brush with fluoridated toothpaste for at least two minutes in the morning and before bedtime, and ideally after lunch.
  • Floss daily to remove dental plaque (which is a sticky substance formed by bacteria in the mouth) from between the teeth.
Get a professional dental check-up once a year; depending on your oral health status. How to brush: -
  • dental researchers consistently found that all normal brushing techniques were sufficient when it came to cleaning efficiency. However, it was observed that children favoured horizontal strokes whereas adults preferred vertical strokes. The key to effective brushing is to remember to brush all front as well at back teeth while making sure that you reach all surfaces of the teeth.
A final note on brushing technique: -
  • Experts now advise that a brush should be held using a pen grip (same way as you would hold a pen) as this allows free movement and less pressure on the tooth surface.

Caring for your toothbrush

Most investigators now agree that the toothbrush, which is meant to keep the teeth clean could be the very vehicle that aids in breeding and transmission of various microorganisms in the oral cavity. Some experts suggest that cleaning the brush daily in antiseptic mouthwash would be able to fight bacterial growth that can flourish into the toothbrush. Toothbrushes should be placed in a dry area as wet and moist toothbrushes may allow bacteria proliferation. Another thing that one can do is of course to be sure to rinse all plaque and food particles from the toothbrush after each use. Toothbrushes have an average of three-to-six month life-span. They should be replaced as soon as there is any evidence of fraying or when the bristles begin to lose shape. Frayed toothbrushes do not clean efficiently and have a tendency to facilitate rubbing of teeth in contrast to brushing. This causes more wearing away of the teeth. Worn or frayed brushes may even injure the gum tissues.

Dental health should never be taken for granted. There are many advantages to taking good care of the teeth and gums, not the least of which is to avoid dental and periodontal or gum disease; along with all the related woes and anguish. Not only that, having the healthy teeth and gums will improve the quality of life as life suffering is lessened, self esteem improves and so is your productivity. And hey, it saves a lot of trips to the dentist and helps keep your health budget to a minimum, too!


Malaysian Dental Association shall ensure that the collection, use and disclosure of your personal data is consistent with the Malaysian Personal Data Protection Act 2010 ( 'PDPA' ). It is acknowledged that personal data collected and processed is obtained voluntarily and with your consent.

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