Battle of the Brushes: Manual vs. Electric
(Excerpt from the book)
By Sheila Wolf, RDH (AKA "Mama Gums")
Our earliest memories of both dentists and their
offices usually center around the toothbrush. The big one
the dentist or hygienist used on the model teeth to show us
how to brush, certainly, but also the FREE one we got to take
home when our visit was finally over!
From the beginning, we are presented with a
flurry of instruction as to this vital practice: brushing
our teeth. Is it up and down? Side to side? Medium bristle?
Hard? Soft? And the biggest question of all: What in the heck
is that little Hershey's kiss shaped thing on the end?
Brushing is emphasized with good reason: It
is the meat and potatoes practice that keeps bacteria from
flourishing in the mouth. Further armed with the right toothpaste,
dental floss, and a host of other best practices and my own
special "chemical warfare" that make your mouth a cleaner
place to live, brushing becomes the human equivalent of changing
your oil every 3,000 miles.
But you can't start without the proper brush.
But, which kind to use? There are two kinds of brushes: manual
and electronic and/or sonic:
If you choose a manual toothbrush, I recommend
one with soft, rounded, nylon bristles. (Natural bristles
are better than nylon only if you have acrylic bridgework
you will have to ask your dentist for a more personalized
A softer brush is always preferable to one with hard, stiff
bristles. I would also consider using one that is smaller
than what you are used to, as it is easier to manipulate around
the often-cramped confines of your mouth. This is especially
true if you have spaces caused by missing teeth, or if you
have trouble reaching behind your last, hard-to-get-at molars.
I would also recommend that you alternate between
brushes, using several different brushes daily, as each brush
would benefit from drying out between brushings. So, if you
brush 3 times a day, you should have three different toothbrushes.
It will also give you a chance to try out different brushes
- testing various brand names, bristle strength, size, etc.
- to see which one you like the best.
Brushes can be placed in the dishwasher
to sterilize them . . .
No matter which brush you
choose to use, all brushes should be replaced every two-to-three
months, long before the bristles splay and shred. Frayed or
worn brushes eventually become ineffective - and even harmful
- tools once they are too worn down and develop sharp edges.
Also, I suggest that you
replace a brush after having a cold or even a sore throat,
as the brush will harbor bacteria and you can actually re-infect
yourself from a "germy" toothbrush. Ever notice that it seems
to take forever to get rid of that nasty flu?
Well, it could just be your
Electric or Sonic Brushes
These relatively newfangled gadgets - although
they seem to be popping up in stores all over the country
these days - are brushes that electrically move vertically,
horizontally, or even in combination.
The newest technology is the Sonic toothbrush,
which is so advanced that it vibrates at thousands of vibrations
per minute. This particular tool is very good at disturbing
the bacterial colonies that next between your teeth and gums,
which, as we have learned, can cause gum disease.
In electric brushes, I tend to prefer the Braun.
In Sonics, I like the Sonicare.
I do, however, like to recommend a toothbrush
that feels good to you. One that you will enjoy using, that
is practical for your particular budget, that won't just sit
there collecting dust next to your crocheted toilet paper
cover because it's too difficult - or frustrating - to use.
Whichever model you prefer and eventually decide
to purchase, don't let technology take the place of what you
have already learned: the method of brushing with either an
electronic or sonic brush is exactly the same as using a manual
The directions on the electric/sonic brush may
instruct you to "hold the brush stationary," but I don't think
this method is very effective. After all, could you do a good
job on your kitchen floor by just holding the mop against
Didn't think so . . .
Be sure to clean the insides of your top and
bottom front teeth, in an "up and down" direction, rather
than "side to side" like the rest of your teeth. I think two
full minutes of brushing with an electronic or sonic brush
is effective for contributing to the overall health of your
teeth and gums.
Next time we will talk about the importance
of cleaning the critical in-betweens using a dental irrigator,
toothpicks and/or dental floss.
Sheila Wolf, RDH, affectionately called Mama Gums, has been a registered dental hygienist since 1971. She is currently retired from clinical practice but enjoys writing, speaking, and consulting on various oral health issues. She has authored two award-winning books, Pregnancy and Oral Health: The critical connection between your mouth and your baby, and Your Mouth Could Be KILLING You. Both are available on her website, http://www.mamagums.com/about_book.html, through Amazon, and at finer bookstores everywhere. Sheila also works with people privately as an oral wellness coach, educating and empowering people to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime, avoid gum surgery, and just possibly add years to their lives. You may reach Sheila through her website, www.mamagums.com or in San Diego at 866-MAMA-GUMs.
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