Doc, should I use a hard or soft toothbrush?
Great question, I get this question quite often. Firstly let me ask what are you trying to achieve when brushing your teeth?
Well of course I want to clean my teeth.
Umm, well, so my breath doesn’t smell and, ah, so they look clean. Oh, yeah, and so I don’t get cavities? (added quickly to appease me I think).
Ok, so what are you trying to remove?
Um, bits of food and stains from coffee and tea and… plaque, is that what it’s called? You know, the furry stuff that sticks to your teeth after eating sweet stuff?
Good job, now is the stuff you want to remove stuck tightly or just floating around?
Well I guess the really loose stuff my tongue just flicks it off, so I think the stuff is sitting in the hollows between the teeth and I guess the stains are on the front surface right? Oh, and food gets stuck on the back teeth like when I have corn chips.
Yes you’re spot on. So with brushing we want to remove stuff that’s fairly soft, that’s stuck in the hollows between your teeth, or sits on the surface, right?
Ok, so let’s imagine a sheet of corrugated iron…
You know, it’s like a long sheet of bumpy metal on the roof of some houses?
Ok, bad example, let’s imagine a potato chip, let’s say, a crinkled or ruffled one?
I’m with you Doc, I love those.
Now imagine the potato chip is dirty, like say you dropped it on the ground and you want to use a toothbrush to clean it.
I’d just eat it anyway Doc, you know, the five second rule.
Um, Ok, imagine someone else wanted to clean a dirty chip and was going to use a toothbrush. Now if we brush across the grain with a hard stiff brush you would expect the brush would just skip across the tops of the bumps and the bristles wouldn’t reach down into the hollows right?
What if you press down harder Doc?
Yes, exactly, that’s what many people do, but the problem is that if you apply so much pressure for the hard bristles to flex then the tops of the bumpy bits can be worn away over time. Right?
So Doc, is that what happens when I use a hard toothbrush – the bumpy bits of the teeth get worn away?
So you’re saying it would be better if I used a soft flexible brush so that it will dip into the hollow bits without wearing down the tooth?
Tony Di Salvo