We know and love our toothbrushes as the tools that kick plaque to the curb, help keep cavities at bay (with the help of fluoride toothpaste, of course) and freshen our breath. But what else can we learn about them? Read on for some toothbrush facts.
The ADA Seal of Acceptance is the gold standard for toothbrush quality. It’s how you’ll know an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs, evaluated your toothbrush to make sure bristles won’t fall out with normal use, the handle will stay strong and the toothbrush will help reduce your risk for cavities and gum disease.
In various forms, that is. Ancient civilizations used a “chew stick,” a thin twig with a frayed end, to remove food from their teeth. Over time, toothbrushes evolved and were made from bone, wood or ivory handles and stiff bristles of hogs, boars or other animals. The modern nylon-bristled toothbrush we use today was invented in 1938.
In 1770, an Englishman named William Addis was jailed for inciting a riot. He saw fellow prisoners using a rag covered in soot or salt to clean their teeth. Addis saved an animal bone from dinner and received bristles from a guard. Accounts state he bored tiny holes into the bone, inserted the bristles and sealed them with glue. After his release, he modified his prototype, started a company and manufactured his toothbrush. That company, Wisdom Toothbrushes, still exists in the United Kingdom today.
In the manual and powered toothbrush debate, it’s a wash. You just need to brush twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste. (If your toothpaste has the ADA Seal, you’ll know it has fluoride.) Both types of toothbrush can effectively and thoroughly clean your teeth. It all depends on which one you prefer. People who find it difficult to use a manual toothbrush may find a powered toothbrush more comfortable. Talk to your dentist about which kind is best for you.
Brushing before flossing, flossing before brushing—it doesn’t matter to your teeth, as long as you do both.
Cleaning your toothbrush is easy: Rinse it with tap water to remove any remaining toothpaste and debris. Store it upright and allow it to air dry. If you store your toothbrush with other toothbrushes, make sure they are separated to prevent cross contamination. And do not routinely cover toothbrushes or store them in closed containers. A moist environment such as a closed container is more conducive to the growth of unwanted bacteria than the open air.
Make sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do as good of a job cleaning your teeth.
Whether you use a manual or powered toothbrush, choose a soft-bristled brush. Firm or even medium-strength bristles may cause damage to your gums and enamel. When brushing your teeth, don’t scrub vigorously—only brush hard enough to clean the film off your teeth. Your fluoride toothpaste will do the rest of the work.
4 minutes a day goes a long way for your dental health. Put the time in each day to keep your smile healthy and keep up this twice-a-day habit.
Sharing a toothbrush can mean you’re also sharing germs and bacteria. This could be a particular concern if you have a cold or flu to spread, or you have a condition that leaves your immune system compromised.