What To Look For In A Toothbrush, According To A Dentist — & 5 Of The Best Ones

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When it comes to brushing your teeth and removing the masses of potentially cavity-causing bacteria known as plaque, there are two main types tools to choose from: a manual toothbrush or an electric one. While an electric toothbrush moves faster than your hand ever could, Dr. Tyrone Rodriguez, a board-certified pediatric dentist and American Dental Association spokesperson, tells Bustle that there are many advantages to having one of the best manual toothbrushes, like the ability to more easily focus on certain areas of the mouth or be delicate if you're concerned about sensitive gums ⁠— plus, you can brush at a pace that you set and never run out of power, he says.

To find the best fit for you, Dr. Rodriguez recommends choosing what feels comfiest. “Manual brushes are designed differently for different purposes. You have to use the brush that’s comfortable and that you know you’re going to utilize,” he explained in an interview with Bustle.

When it comes to picking a manual toothbrush, he recommends thinking about the following features:

  • Comfortable handle: Make sure that the toothbrush is designed in a way that is easy for you (or your child) to hold. Some handles feature a nonslip thumb grip to give you better control of the brush, while other handles are longer to make it easier to reach the back of your mouth.
  • Extra soft or soft bristles: “The firmer the bristles get, the easier it is to damage gums and wear away the enamel,” says Dr. Rodriguez. This is why he suggests selecting a manual toothbrush with extra soft or soft bristles, rather than medium or hard bristles.
  • Shape of the head and bristle arrangement: Multi-level bristles, especially bristles that get longer as you get to the tip of the brush, can make it easier to reach the back of the mouth. Angled bristles can help to cover more tooth surface area.
  • Head size: For a manual toothbrush, “a toothbrush that covers about two to three teeth at a time is about the right size,” says Dr. Rodriguez.

If sustainability is important to you, consider looking for a brush that is made from recycled materials or is recyclable.

To help you find the best manual toothbrush, here are five options that Amazon reviewers love.


The Best Overall, All Things Considered

This manual toothbrush from Oral-B features soft bristles that are in a super unique arrangement: At a 16-degree angle and in a crisscross pattern, the bristles were found to remove up to 99% of plaque in hard-to-reach areas, according to a study by the company. Plus, the bristles are rounded at the ends, meaning they’re extra gentle on your teeth and gums.

The back of the brush has a textured gum massager and cheek-tongue cleaner to help remove germs from your entire mouth, while the handle features a thumb grip for extra comfort. This definitely isn't the cheapest manual toothbrush option out there, however, Amazon reviewers say that it's worth the investment. “This just makes every other toothbrush look bad. It’s the toothbrush I never knew I needed," one reviewer wrote.


The Best Manual Toothbrush For Sensitive Gums & Teeth

With more than 1,000 reviews and a 4.6-star rating on Amazon, reviewers rave about this manual toothbrush from Dr. Collins, saying the bristles are simply superb. Unlike traditional toothbrushes that have nylon bristles, this toothbrush boasts ultra-soft and slim-tapered polyester bristles, which help to ensure that the most surface area is covered and plaque removal is efficient but gentle, two essentials for those with sensitive teeth and gums. Polyester bristles are also less porous, aka there is less opportunity for bacteria to grow on the brush. The nonslip thumb grip makes the handle nice and comfortable, making brushing an enjoyable part of your daily routine. One reviewer commented, “The Dr. Collins Perio is SO MUCH FINER than the other soft brushes I've tried. These Dr. Collins brushes allow me to brush my gumline and between by teeth with zero discomfort, and while cleaning amazingly well."

Another fan wrote: "I have such sensitive teeth that my dentist has to inject Novocain in my gums and clean them with hand implements rather than use a power attachment. The bristles on the Dr. Collins brush are gentle and soft on both my teeth and gums and do not cause any bleeding and yet still provide excellent and thorough cleaning of my teeth."


The Best Budget Manual Toothbrush

At less than $10 for four quality toothbrushes, this pack of soft manual toothbrushes from Colgate is a great buy for the whole family. With a focus on teeth whitening, the bristles are designed to polish away surface stains while cleaning those hard-to-reach areas. The ergonomic handle is easy to hold, while the thumb grip makes your brushing session that much comfier.

The back of the brush features a tongue and cheek cleaner. One reviewer even wrote, “I've used these before and had great results every time! The layout of the bristles and rubber gum stimulators works great to clean and polish teeth, get between the little cracks, and keep gums healthy. Add to that the tongue cleaner in the back, and you have a comprehensive tool to get the job done.”


The Best Recycled & Recyclable Manual Toothbrush

Not only is this manual toothbrush from Preserve made from 100% recycled material, it is also recyclable through Preserve's toothbrush recycling program (triple bonus: you'll also get a $6 coupon for every six Preserve brushes you send in). This BPA-free brush features a gently curved handle to help you easily reach the back of your mouth. All of the bristles are ultra-soft, but the outer row are even softer than the inner row to help protect your gums and tooth enamel while brushing. Amazon reviewers say that not only is this brush a sustainable choice, it's also a great design that makes a big difference in their mouth, with one writing, “I really like the shape of the handle and the softness of the bristles. My dentist commented on the improvement in my gum health.”


The Best Manual Toothbrush For Kids 18 Months & Older

Specially designed for your little one’s teeth and gums, this manual toothbrush from Totz features a smooth, soft, and oval-shaped brush that helps to ensure that your child won’t cause damage while brushing. The small handle is easy for your child to hold so they can establish good brushing habits early. The brush design will also surely catch your child's eye; it's colorful and sparkly.

The brush is BPA-free, and Amazon reviewers say this toothbrush is perfect for their kids, with one even saying, “I never thought I would write a review on a toothbrush, what is there to be said really, right? BUT these brushes ARE different in the best way. I love, love, love these toothbrushes. Both of my kids love using them [...] Anyway these clean better with less effort and they are easier for little hands to hold. I really appreciate the detail they put into the design and packaging.”

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