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Understanding the Different Types of Toothbrushes: Which One is Right for You?

Understanding the Different Types of Toothbrushes: Which One is Right for You?

Understanding the Different Types of Toothbrushes: Which One is Right for You?
Dr. Jones
June 26, 2023

Gum disease, tooth loss, and cavities are the prevalent oral conditions that impact Americans. The CDC reports that 52% of children aged eight or younger have at least one cavity. A quarter of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have cavities. 

Oral care requires people to brush their teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Brushing your teeth with the wrong toothbrush can make it harder to keep your teeth and gums in good health. With so many different types of toothbrushes, how do you know which one is best for your needs?

Explore the Different Types of Toothbrushes

What is the best toothbrush for children and adults? It depends on how well you brush. For most people, Dr. Jody Jones, a Nashville dentist, recommends an electric toothbrush.  Learn more about the different types and other toothbrush options.

Electric (Battery-Powered or Rechargeable)

There are several different types of electric toothbrushes. Some use AAA or AA batteries, but others have a lithium-ion battery that recharges when you put it on its stand or plug it into an adaptor. Battery-powered electric toothbrushes are often less expensive, but some base-model rechargeable toothbrushes are very affordable if you don’t mind missing out on some frills.

In addition to the way a toothbrush is powered, there are different ways they work. All electric toothbrushes use either oscillating/rotary or sonic waves to clean teeth. 

Oscillating toothbrushes have a head that the motor moves back and forth. Rotating brushes are circular, such as the Oral-B line, and spin around. Studies have shown that rotating brushes do a fantastic job at removing plaque as it’s more in line with the small circular motions that people should do when brushing their teeth.

Sonic toothbrushes use high-frequency vibrations that remove plaque and bacteria. They’re gentle on the gums and often work faster than an oscillating or rotary toothbrush, which can be more effective for removing plaque and bacteria.

That’s one factor to look at when choosing an electric toothbrush. What is the brush strokes per minute (BPM) rating? A higher number is better. Oral-B claims their brushes move at up to 48,800 movements per minute. 

Sonicare is similar and boasts up to 31,000 brush strokes per minute. Different brushes may be higher than these averages, so do your research or ask your dentist for guidance.

Higher-priced rechargeable toothbrushes often come with special technology that improves your brushing habits. You could have a toothbrush that connects to an app on your phone and tracks how well you’ve brushed each quadrant, when you’ve applied too much pressure, and when your toothbrush head needs changing.

That’s one downfall of most electric toothbrushes. The replacement heads are more expensive than manual toothbrushes. Look into subscriptions to save money or find a model that works well with generic brands.

Entire Upper or Lower Jaw at Once

A newer toothbrush is the Sonic brush, also known as an auto toothbrush, which has a U-shaped mouthpiece and silicone bristle that brush all of your upper or lower teeth at the same time. Add toothpaste, fit the mouthpiece onto your upper or lower jaw, and turn it on. It uses sonic vibrations to break up plaque.

Why do people love this toothbrush? First, you can use whitening gels in the mouthpiece to whiten teeth in a 15-minute whitening mode. Second, as it does all teeth at the same time, it’s faster and brushes all of the teeth in less than a minute.

Generally, dentists agree that this isn’t the most effective toothbrush out there. But, it may be a good choice for children who simply do not brush properly and are resistant to doing it properly. It’s a good stepping stone for proper brushing habits.


Finger toothbrushes aren’t commonly used, but they help clean the teeth and gums of younger children. The toothbrush slips on your finger and has very small nubs that remove plaque from the gums and baby teeth. They can also be helpful for caregivers who provide oral care services to the elderly.


A manual toothbrush is an old-fashioned type where you have the bristles in the toothbrush head. There’s a long handle to reach into your mouth and hold while brushing your teeth. They’re cheap and can be effective if you use them correctly. The problem is that many people struggle to use them correctly.

You need to position the bristles so that they’re at an angle to the teeth, and you need to brush in a circular motion. This can be hard for children and adults to manage. A manual toothbrush is good in a pinch, but electric toothbrushes are typically preferred by dentists due to their ability to clean the teeth and massage the gums.


Orthodontic toothbrushes clean between teeth and around brackets and braces. There are interdental devices that look a lot like a mascara brush and have bristles around the core.

Another option is a Sulcabrush. It resembles a toothbrush, only the bristles form what looks like a pen point and poke into the gaps between teeth. They’re useful when a person has a hard time flossing between dental implants and bridges.

If traditional flossing is difficult, consider a water flosser, too. Instead of using floss or an orthodontic toothbrush, a high-pressure stream of water or fluoride mouthwash is blasted between the teeth and around the gumline to break up plaque.

What Type of Bristle Is Best?

No matter which toothbrush you choose, there are soft, medium, and hard bristles. Many people apply too much pressure when brushing their teeth. 

  • Hard or Firm: Hard bristles are the most abrasive. While they’re good for removing stains, they also can damage the enamel, which increases the risk of cavities. Another risk of damage is on the gums that are being scratched by the firm bristles, and that can increase the risk of infection and gum disease.
  • Medium: Medium bristles are a cross between hard and soft. Many people prefer them thinking more plaque is being removed. While that’s true, they also can harm your gums if you apply too much pressure.
  • Soft: Soft bristles are the best for daily brushing. They will not harm the gums or the enamel. But, they are effective at breaking up plaque.

Tips for Proper Brushing

The mistakes people make when brushing include brushing too hard, but that’s not it. Many people do not brush for the full two minutes. They also miss hard-to-reach areas. If you’re not using fluoride toothpaste, your enamel isn’t getting the care it needs.

Did you know that brushing your teeth right after eating a meal can cause damage? The acid in foods softens the enamel, so you need to give your saliva a chance to do its job. Wait an hour after eating before you grab your toothbrush.

Decide which toothbrush is best for your needs and learn more tips for proper oral care by working with Nashville dentist Dr. Jody Jones. He and his team offer preventative, restorative, and cosmetic dental treatments. Plus, they’re skilled at working with patients experiencing dental anxiety. 

Don’t let your fear of the dentist or dental treatments keep you from quality oral care. Schedule a consultation with Jody Jones DDS and enjoy a healthy mouth.