As a toothbrush buyer, you know that they commonly come in three varieties of bristle strength: soft, medium and hard. From a dentist’s point of view, this is completely absurd. There’s really no need for medium or hard brushes, at least not if you’re using the brush to clean your teeth. Hard sounds like a great idea, if you can survive it, right? Hard brushing sounds like it’s more work, and so it must get your teeth cleaner, right? Well, no.
Cleaning your teeth isn’t like pressure-washing your driveway. You’re not trying to abrade away stubborn pieces of sticky tar. Rather, you want to remove the pieces of old food that are stuck between the teeth, and then apply a protective sealant (the toothpaste) over all the faces of each tooth. Flossing, not brushing, is the “removal” part of this operation. Floss allows us to get rid of the chunky bits that are left around the teeth, thereby clearing the way for the application of the toothpaste – just as one would sand a piece of wood before applying a sealing varnish. “Hard” toothbrushes offer the illusion that we can cheat, that we can skip flossing and simply use the act of brushing to both scrape the teeth clean AND apply the protective coat. “If I bush hard” we tell ourselves, “I can save the time and effort of floss.”
In actual fact, however, we are simply compounding our error when we make this silly sacrifice. Hard bristles, and even medium ones, can actually wear away at the teeth, disturbing the protective layer that we try to maintain by applying toothpaste. So, if you want something to clean your kitchen grout, or to apply shoe polish with, go ahead and buy a hard toothbrush. But if you want to brush your teeth, any cosmetic dentist in Philadelphia or elsewhere will tell you never buy anything but a soft or extra-soft brush.
See your local dentist for regular cleanings and more information on how to best care for your teeth.
Toothbrush Bristles: Soft, Medium or Hard?
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