Almost everyone uses a toothbrush as part of their everyday routine. When you get up in the morning, and before you go to bed at night, you grab your toothbrush and brush your teeth. Some pet owners even brush their cat or dog’s teeth too. But what counts as a toothbrush and why do we use them?
A toothbrush is a device used for oral hygiene. It’s used to clean the gums, tongue, and teeth usually with semi-soft bristles. It is a handheld device with a long handle that gives the user mobility and the ability to access and clean hard-to-reach areas in the mouth. Toothbrushes are also regularly used in combination with toothpaste, which is a cleaning aid that often contains fluoride.
There are many different types of toothbrushes to choose from. Toothbrushes may have any variation of soft to firm bristles, size, material, form, design, color, and function.
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History of Toothbrushes
Modern toothbrushes have come a long way since the origin of the device. Prior to the invention of the toothbrush, there were chew sticks, which were created and used all over the globe by different societies. Before the chew stick, materials like wood and animal bones were often used for chewing and picking teeth clean.
Chew sticks were specifically twigs with frayed ends used to brush the teeth. The earliest examples of chew sticks that have been discovered include a Babylonian chew stick from 3500 BC, an Egyptian chew stick found in a tomb from 3000 BC, and the use of similar devices in Chinese records dating back to around 1600 BC.
The first example of a bristle toothbrush was created in China during the Tang Dynasty and they were made using hog bristle, which is a considerably tougher bristle than most toothbrushes used or manufactured today. Horsehair was also an alternative to boar bristle, and either material was often fastened to a bone or wooden handle, together resembling a modern-day toothbrush.
Over time, the bristled toothbrush was brought over and introduced to Europe where the device began to be mass produced in 1780 by William Addis. After William Addis died, he left his company known as “Wisdom Toothbrushes” to his son, also named William. By 1840, pig bristle was being used for cheaper toothbrushes, and badger’s hair was being used for more expensive lines.
In the early 1900s, celluloid replaced bone and wooden toothbrush handles, and synthetic materials like nylon replaced animal fibers. This gradual process eventually led to the modern toothbrush, followed by the invention of the first electric toothbrush in the year 1954 in Switzerland.
Since then, toothbrushes have advanced in design and function, becoming more and more effective and affordable. There are a two main types of toothbrushes including but not limited to electric and manual. However, there are also chewable, ecological brushes, and much more. We’re going to cover the three main types: electric, battery powered, and manual toothbrushes.
Electric toothbrushes, when compared to manual toothbrushes, have shown to be more effective at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis. With multi-directional abilities, electric brushes can cover more ground and do a better cleaning job with less effort, making them an efficient choice. The rotations and movements an electric toothbrush makes are powered and driven by a motor within the device. The device may rotate or perform back-and-forth oscillations via vibrations.
Also, power levels of electric toothbrushes may vary. There are standard, sonic, and ultrasonic categorizations, each one reaching a new heightened power level. You can tell if a toothbrush is sonic when you can hear the device buzzing audibly, hence the “sonic” portion of the name.
The Electric toothbrush is also relatively new, compared to its predecessor, the manual toothbrush. However, you can achieve good clean with a manual brush, it just takes less time and effort to achieve the same clean with an electric brush.
With an electric toothbrush, all you need to do is hold the device at a 45-degree angle and let the device do the majority of the work for you in half the time. Also, electric toothbrushes will shut off after two minutes of use, being the optimal amount of time to achieve clean teeth.
Battery Powered Toothbrushes
Battery powered toothbrushes are a technical category under the broad classification of electric toothbrushes. An electric toothbrush is categorized by having a motor inside the device to power its movements. However, when we think of an electric toothbrush, we mainly turn our focus to devices that are electric and rechargeable, often with replaceable heads.
Battery powered toothbrushes, on the other hand, are powered by batteries. The batteries may be replaced, which will keep the device functioning for long-term use. Some battery powered options are non-reusable, meaning that the batteries cannot be replaced, or there is no option for replaceable toothbrush heads.
This type of toothbrush can be the most economical choice over the electric toothbrush because it’s lifespan is often less. Battery powered toothbrushes are also often less powerful than rechargeable electric toothbrushes. But, just like the electric toothbrush, it takes less effort and time to get the same of a better clean with this type of brush than you would with a manual toothbrush.
Manual toothbrushes are one of the best options for those on a tight budget. Manual brushes have been around for hundreds of years, and were first mass-produced and made with animal fibers before being changed to synthetic in the 1900s.
There are many different kinds of manual toothbrushes which may focus on a different portion of the mouth. However, a general cleaning toothbrush that has a straight handle and a group of high-density bristles nearer to one end of the device is the most versatile and well-known design of the common, manual toothbrush.
While there are more effort and time required to achieve a healthy clean with manual brushes, you can have better control with a manual brush. They are also often a lot less bulky than electric or battery powered brushes, improving their mobility inside the mouth for a thorough cleaning.
Normally, manual toothbrushes don’t have replacement heads and don’t last as long as electric brushes, but they are significantly cheaper. Not to mention that there are ecological alternative manual brushes that are biodegradable, making some manual brushes a better choice for the environment. However, to get the best clean with a manual brush, you need to learn cleaning techniques that work including brushing well to cover all of your teeth and reach all areas of your mouth.
Advantages of Both Manual and Electric/Battery Powered Toothbrushes
Advantages of Electric/Battery Powered Toothbrushes
● Ease of Use- Electric and battery-powered toothbrushes are well-known for being easy-to-use. All you need to do is use the device at a 45-degree angle for optimal cleaning.
● Less Time, Better Results- It only takes 2 minutes of gentle use to achieve a thorough clean. Studies have also shown that electric toothbrushes are superior to manual brushes at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis .
● More Fun- Especially for children, brushing your teeth can seem like a chore. Using an electric toothbrush can be much more fun because it’s less work for a better clean, and there’s a timer which goes off after two minutes of use.
● Built-in Timer and Other Features- Depending on the brand and model you get, there are many features that electric toothbrushes may come equipped with, The most common feature is the 2-minute automatic shut off time. 2 minutes of gentle cleaning will help you achieve clean teeth. This feature eliminates and guesswork and saves on power.
● Interchangeable Toothbrush Heads- You can replace toothbrush heads whenever they wear out when using an electric toothbrush, less often with a battery powered brush. With electric toothbrushes, this also means that you can change the type of toothbrush head to suit your needs. Electric toothbrushes often last much longer because you can re-charge them as well.
Advantages of Manual Toothbrushes
● Perfect Clean Every Time Using a Proper Brushing Technique- If you cover all of your teeth while brushing and learn to use a proper brushing technique, you can achieve a great clean.
● Ideal for Travel- Manual toothbrushes are lightweight and slim, making them perfect for travel. They also don’t need charging or batteries, which make them a very convenient option.
● Many Options for Color, Shape, Size, and Bristle- There is a lot of variety when it comes to manual brushes. There are options for every variation of color, shape, size, and texture to suit your individual needs, no matter who you are.
● Economical- Manual brushes usually last for 3 months of regular use. However, they are very inexpensive and even free at dentists and clinics.
Toothpaste is usually used in combination with a toothbrush to improve oral hygiene. It is usually a gel or paste, often containing fluoride, which helps maintain healthy teeth.
Toothpaste may also act as an abrasive agent, helping to remove both plaque and food particles from teeth. There are many options for toothpaste including many different flavors, herbal options, natural options, whitening pastes, and specialized toothpaste options for those with dental sensitivities.
Facts About Toothbrushes and Brushing Your Teeth
● William Addis, the inventor, and founder of the company that first mass-produced toothbrushes invented the device while he was in jail.
● On average, people spend 38 days brushing their teeth in their lifetime. However, dentists advise that this number should be closer to 122 days.
● Bacteria can linger in your toothbrush after you’ve been sick
● If you don’t store and clean your toothbrush correctly, you may be reintroducing and introducing bacteria into your mouth
● Softer bristles are often gentler and more effective
● You should replace your toothbrush every 3 months to reduce bacteria accumulation and bristle bending/fallout
● In 2003, the toothbrush was chosen as the #1 invention people can’t live without, beating phones and cars
● About half of the world’s people share their toothbrush with another person!
● The hardest substance on the body is tooth enamel
● There are four different types of human teeth including canine, incisors, premolars, and molars.
Choosing The Right Toothbrushes
Opt for Softer Bristles- Softer bristles tend to be better at removing plaque while remaining gentle on teeth and gums. Soft to medium bristles are okay for adults and hard bristles are meant for cleaning prosthesis- like dentures.
Choose a Style of Bristle- Flat bristles are the least preferred as they aren’t as adept at getting into grooves and crevices. Dome shaped and rippled are both good choices as they both have a variation in length of bristle for gentler, better cleaning.
Choose the Right Size of Brush Head for You- Smaller heads are generally better as they improve access to hard-to-reach areas of the mouth. However, you need to make sure that the size of the toothbrush head you choose is designed to fit your mouth comfortably and reach all of your teeth, including your back molars.
Choose the Right type of Handle for You- Whether or not it has grips, it’s flexible, to its standard, you should choose the handle that feels most comfortable to you. As long as you choose a brush that can reach and clean all of your teeth thoroughly.
Choose Between Electric or Manual- Both brushes can give you a good clean. It’s all a matter of budget and preference. With an electric toothbrush, you can spend less time brushing for better results, it’s easier and more convenient. With a manual toothbrush, they are very portable, inexpensive, and don’t require batteries or charging to function.
Ask Your Dentist- You can always go to your dentist or orthodontist for a recommendation, especially if you have braces or wear any other dental device.
Pick a Color You Like- Choose a color you’ll be able to identify apart from the other toothbrushes you may have in your home. You should also choose a color you like that makes you want to brush every day.
Best Toothbrushes For Children
Children have much smaller mouths than both female and male adults. They also have smaller, more sensitive teeth and gums, as they have not achieved a full set of adult teeth yet. So, when choosing a toothbrush for your child, you need to make sure it is small enough, soft enough, and easy-to-use for your child so they can get into the habit of practicing good oral hygiene.
You can make it more fun for them too by setting a timer, using an electric toothbrush, or setting goals with rewards for brushing their teeth twice a day, every day.