Choosing a manual toothbrush
Brushing your teeth should be part of your daily routine.
You know you need to do it twice a day for 2 minutes.
Whilst there are benefits to an electric toothbrush, the good old manual brush is considered perfectly adequate, providing it is used correctly.
Have you seen the number of options on shop shelves today? The choice is quite staggering.
You might think, a toothbrush is a toothbrush, right? They are all the same and they do not differ…Wrong, there are lots of subtle differences, that could make a big difference to your brushing experience.
In this article, we will let you know what those key differences are and what to look out for when picking a manual toothbrush. If you are going to spend 4 minutes brushing a day, you want to do it with a brush that you know is cleaning effectively and that you find comfortable to use.
Feelearth Soft Bamboo Toothbrush – 4pk
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Curaprox CS5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush
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Colgate Slim Soft Advanced Toothbrush – 2pk
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Oral-B All Rounder Fresh Clean Medium Toothbrush – 5pk
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Colgate ZigZag Deep Clean Medium Toothbrush – 6pk
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Our Top 5 Picks For Best Manual Toothbrush Explained
Whilst there are subtle differences between brushes it is very difficult to pick 1 particular brush that is suitable for all.
There will be a degree of trial and error involved for you to pick out what is your favourite or most liked toothbrush.
To help you on that journey, here are 5 highly rated brushes that take into consideration all the key factors we see as important in the decision making process. We’ve included buying links, but be sure to shop around for the best price.
1. Feelearth Soft Bamboo Toothbrush
A environmentally conscious and sustainable manual toothbrush option.
The soft bristled head of this toothbrush is gentle on the teeth and gums.
The 19cm long handle has a slight curvature to the handle that helps you keep a secure grip on the brush when in use.
|Feelearth Soft Bamboo Toothbrush - 4pk||14 Reviews||$ 8.75||View on Amazon|
Supplied as a pack of 4, you get excellent value.
Each toothbrush is individually wrapped in kraft paper which is biodegradable like the brush handle.
The bristles are made of nylon and are BPA free. Just remove the bristles (or snap off the whole head) and throw them in the trash, and compost the used handle.
2. Curaprox CS5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush
Missing the number 1 spot purely due to the bamboo brush being that little bit better for the environment, the Curaprox CS5460 is a brilliant toothbrush.
Available as a triple pack, you get different coloured brush handles with contrasing coloured bristles.
They look good, but they feel good in hand and use too.
The brush handle is actually octagonal in shape to help you position the brush in hand and in turn against the tooth and gum line.
|Curaprox CS5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush - 3pk||161 Reviews||$ 19.99||View on Amazon|
If you are not familiar with Curaprox, the Swiss company have been working to perfect the oral health of people since 1972 and are one of the most recommended brands by dental hygienists.
Each brush head contains 5,460 individual bristles that are just 0.1mm in thickness and together offer up an ultra soft brushing experience.
Standard toothbrushes have 500-1000 bristles, so the increased number of bristles helps clean more effectively.
A small and compact head makes it easy to move the brush around the mouth, including to the back teeth.
3. Colgate Slim Soft Advanced Toothbrush
With few exceptions, a toothbrush is going to do a reasonable job of cleaning the teeth, if used correctly.
However, the Colgate Slim Soft Advanced toothbrush just feels that bit more effective the basic toothbrush you might already be using.
The ultra thin bristles at just 0.01mm thick at the tip, yet remain strong thanks to the dual core construction that Colgate used.
In use the bristles can reach up to 7x deeper below the gum line than an ordinary brush and clean 2.4x deeper between the teeth for better plaque removal.
|Colgate Slim Soft Toothbrush - 2pk||28 Reviews||$ 8.00||View on Amazon|
Clinically proven to make gums healthier, these plastic handled brushes are comfortable to hold and come in bold, eye catching colours.
Gentle on the teeth and gums, using this brush has many happy users.
4. Oral-B All Rounder Fresh Clean Medium Toothbrush
A pack of 5, this is a superb value everyday toothbrush for you and your family.
Each handle has a rubber grip that runs the length of the handle and each are in different, bold colours.
The curvature of the handle in addition to the grip allows you to get a secure hold and the plastic construction keeps them light whilst offering flex in the handle.
|Oral-B All Rounder Toothbrush - 5pk||26 Reviews||$ 5.19||View on Amazon|
Designed to clean all the teeth really well, the head is not specifically designed for one purpose such as deep interdental cleaning.
Used in conjunction with daily flossing, your will be able to keep your oral health in check with this all rounder toothbrush.
Manufactured by a leading brand, the quality is best realised in the tips of each bristles. Rather than the rough cut that is applied to many toothbrushes, each bristle tip is rounded for a more gentle brushing sensation on the gum and teeth.
Each brush does too have a tongue cleaner on the back of the head to help you ride the tongue surface of bacteria that commonly causes bad breath.
5. Colgate ZigZag Deep Clean Medium Toothbrush
With medium bristles, this Colgate toothbrush doesn’t give quite as soft brushing sensation as the Slim Soft Advanced brush in this list.
However, the different angled bristles and firmer bristles provide a reliable clean of the teeth, reaching into many of the hard to reach areas.
|Colgate ZigZag Deep Clean Medium Toothbrush - 6pk||64 Reviews||$ 9.99||View on Amazon|
Each pack includes 6 handles that are made of a white plastic, but adorned with a bold colour rubber grip on the front of the handle.
There are 4 different colours in the pack. You will normally get 2 x orange, 2 x green, 1 xx blue and 1 x pink.
The colours make the brush more appealing, but the grip helps keep them securely held in hand.
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Our team is a mixture of consumers and dental professionals.
We strive to create honest, informative content, telling you the facts, good or bad.
We are not sponsored by big brands or healthcare companies. Our site is funded by affiliate revenue and ads, but we only recommend products that we have tested and truly believe to be worth your money.
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Manual Toothbrush Buyer’s Guide
Pros & cons
Considerations when choosing a manual toothbrush:
The advantages of a manual toothbrush are:
- Cost effective
- Easy to source
- Easy to travel with
- Do not require batteries or a power source
The negatives to a manual toothbrush are:
- No built-in timer or pacer
- Requires the user to move the brush frequently
- Lack additional smart features
- Not as efficient at removing plaque, compared to an electric toothbrush
- Requires a lot of manual dexterity and is technique sensitive
- Environmental concerns
Brush head shape & size
There can be quite a significant difference in the size and shape of the brush heads on manual toothbrushes today.
A stereotypical image might be a rounded rectangle configuration or bristles about 3-5cm long with all the bristles cut to the same length.
Such brush heads do still exist and might be what you might consider the more conventional shape and size or a toothbrush head, but today there are smaller, rounder and even diamond shaped brush heads.
The differing shapes and sizes are there to cater to the different needs of users. The same style might not work for all users.
Some people prefer larger brush heads, whilst others prefer smaller. Some people have larger mouths than others with varying tooth sizes too, these contribute to what makes a suitable brush head shape and size.
Generally speaking, dental professionals would advise smaller, round brush heads as their size often allows for a better reach and flexibility in positioning within the mouth. This can help with reaching teeth right at the back of the mouth which many fail to clean correctly.
This difference in brush head size plays out in electric toothbrushes too. Oral-B tends to have small round brush heads, whilst Sonicare tend to be larger.
Look closely and you will see the bristles on different toothbrushes are all very different.
From the colour to the way they are cut and the angles and orientation.
Each manufacturer will have developed the brush head differently to try and achieve a great clean, but in some instances to achieve specific brushing results.
Some brush heads may have bristles that help specifically with gum health, whilst others might be designed to help whiten the teeth and others may even be produced to clean deeper between teeth.
Depending on your oral healthcare goals will depend to some extent on what you choose. There is to our knowledge no one type of bristle or cut that is remarkably better than another and most will give a good overall clean to the teeth, but some are better than others.
Perhaps the most important consideration factor in your purchase is the stiffness of the bristles.
You tend to get Soft, Medium or Hard (Firm) bristles on a brush head.
Bristle firmness is to some degree personal preference, but evidence has shown that whilst medium bristle brushes are more effective at plaque removal, they are more abrasive to the gums to a level that is clinically significant. Therefore most dentists will advise using a soft bristle toothbrush as the likelihood of damage to the tooth enamel or your gums is less.
Firm or hard bristled toothbrushes are not as easy to buy as they once were as a result of the evidence and dental advice given, even though they can remove more plaque. The potentially harmful nature of too-firm bristles is accelerated when users brush too hard. The extra (unnecessary) force applied when brushing along with the stiffer and more robust bristle can cut into and wear away the delicate gum tissues, doing lasting damage over time.
Each brush head has hundreds of individual bristles in them. Made most often from DuPont Nylon, bristles are grouped together into ‘tufts’.
A brush head will likely be made up by a number of tufts of varying shape, size and density.
New technology and advances has meant that more recently, silicone and rubber bristled toothbrushes are now becoming more common with evidence suggesting they are as effective.
Bristle cut, shape & pattern
The bristles on a brush head can be cut and shaped differently.
Some brush heads have bristles all the same length whilst others are differing lengths.
A brush head may have a wavy or criss-cross bristle formation whilst others may be more tapered in their design or even have a polishing cup design built into them.
Evidence is somewhat lacking to clearly say what are ‘best’, but evidence does show that the tuft arrangement does play a role and that those with bristles of varying length and angle are better.
The principle is that the varying lengths, angles and can reach different areas of the teeth and gums. Longer bristles are often at the top and bottom of the brush head, in an attempt to reach in between the teeth, with shorter bristles in the centre brushing the tooth surface.
When a toothbrush is made the bristles get cut to the length of the manufacturers choosing. As they are cut by the sharp blade, the tips of the bristles are potentially uneven and sharp.
As you brush, the sharper tips to the bristles can aggravate and abrade the teeth and gums more than those that have been through a blunting process.
The blunting (or polishing) process is one where the tips of the bristles are rounded off to offer a softer and more enjoyable brushing experience.
Seeing this rounded bristle tip with the human eye can be difficult and is best seen under a microscope.
Some brands actively promote this rounding of the bristles as a feature of their brush and whilst by no means a guarantee, it is typically the cheaper brushes that do not go through this blunting process.
The newer breed of silicone and rubber bristled brushes do vary in their cut and configuration. There seems not to be quite the variance as there is with nylon bristles, but given the smaller number of these types of bristled brushes, there is limited study into the ‘best’ configuration.
Commonly seen on electric toothbrush heads, some (but few) manual toothbrushes have bristles that have been dyed a particular colour and are known as indicator bristles.
As the head is used the dye from those bristles fade out and act as a visual indicator to the remaining life of that head.
Quite often they are a light blue colour, when the bristle fades to a pale almost White or opaque colour, it normally means you need to replace the brush head.
Handle design & construction
Depending on the manufacturer, the design of the brush handle can vary quite considerably.
Of course, at the very core the handle acts as leverage for brushing and gives a length between the head for the human hand to hold onto and allow the brush to reach the back of the mouth with more ease.
Flat/straight brush handles are typically the most basic design and cheapest to make. They are long flat handles with no contours, real shaping or grip built-in.
There are then those brush handles that are a little more shapely. Sometimes known as ‘contra angle’ brushes, towards the top of the brush handle, just before the brush head itself, the thickness and shape and angle differs. The handle becomes thinner normally to allow for better reach to areas of the mouth.
More premium brushes then have one or more grips added to the handle or the whole handle itself is made from a much softer, less slippery material to ensure when in use you or I can hold onto it with more ease.
Finally, there are those brush handles that have been designed to really allow for much more flexibility and movement in the handle. The flex in the handle will absorb pressure and adapt better to different users brushing techniques and tooth formation.
Typically manual toothbrushes unlike electric toothbrushes require the whole brush to be thrown away once it has been used. This poses environmental concerns, however, it is worth noting that there are now an increasing number of brushes that look to address this.
This has an impact on the handle design, but brands like Boie USA have designed their manual toothbrush to have replaceable brush heads, so the handle is reusable.
The price of a manual toothbrush can vary considerably. From less than a $1 through to $7+ per brush.
The same brush will retail for considerably different prices in one shop to another.
In many respects, you get what you pay for, but it is not always that straight forward.
Whilst we all like to get a deal and wish not to spend more than we need to, we would suggest spending $3-7 on a single toothbrush is normally worth doing.
By spending a bit more, rather than just opting for the cheapest, you should be able to benefit from better quality bristles, design and cleaning performance.
With manual toothbrushes you can often buy in bulk or get packs containing 4 or more brushes which can save you money and effort when it comes to replacing it next.
For the sake of comparison, electric toothbrush heads often cost $7-12 from leading brands.
Use it correctly
Failing to use a toothbrush correctly is one of the biggest contributors to poor oral health.
There is no one person or organisation to blame here, but many of us brush our teeth with the wrong approach.
Too few brush for the right amount of time whilst a large proportion of us that do brush for the right time take the wrong approach, angling the brush wrong and not brushing evenly around the mouth
Did you know you should brush for 2 minutes and hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gum line?
If you didn’t and to check you are using the correct technique. Read our guide on how to brush with a manual toothbrush, this will really help.
Your dentist or hygienist will normally be more than happy to help and show you how to brush correctly too.
Whether you know you have the right technique or not, a great thing to do is use plaque disclosing tablets every once in a while. Kids or adults alike, these are a fantastically interactive way to show you how well you are brushing.
Replace every 3 months
Professionals recommend on average that you replace the brush head of a manual toothbrush every 3 months.
There are a few reasons behind this recommendation.
The primary reason is that after roughly 3 months of use that brush will have spent the best part of 360 minutes inside your mouth, passing over the teeth and gums.
With every pass, the bristles built into the brush head are worn. After 3 months the bristles are no longer in optimum condition and could, in fact, be doing more harm than good.
It varies from user to user, but often people brush too hard. Damaging on the teeth and gums it accelerates the wear on the bristles too. Often the can split and fray and look in bad shape when compared to a new head.
By replacing the brush head this helps limit the potential damage that the bristles can do.
Another factor that drives the 3 month replacement cycle is bacteria.
There are over 600 different types of bacteria in the human mouth. Whilst a large proportion of this gets washed down the sink a proportion remains on the bristles of the toothbrush.
Whilst organisations like the ADA have yet to see any credible evidence for significant risk being posed by this bacteria, they along with the NHS have recommendations on how to clean and store your toothbrush but realise that replacement of the brush head on a fairly regular cycle can help limit and potential issues.
If you opt for the silicone or rubber bristle brushes, subject to the brand, these heads can last form 3-12 months. The material are more resistant to bacteria growth and with some silver particles are often built into the head and can help resist and kill bacteria that may reside in the head, thus making 3 month brush head replacement less necessary.
Brush for 2 minutes twice a day
How long and how often you should brush is a question that is frequently asked.
2 minutes, twice a day is the recommendation of the Australian Dental Association (ADA), National Health Service (NHS) and the American Dental Association (ADA), by brushing your teeth for this long each day, you should be on the path to good oral health and reducing your chances of plaque buildup and well-documented health issues such as gum disease.
Floss once a day
Brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of the tooth surface, some 40% goes uncleaned unless you partake in interdental cleaning whether that is flossing or using interdental brushes.
In between teeth in everyone’s mouths are gaps. Some of these gaps are larger or smaller than others and may require different flossing tools.
However irrespective of the size, you need to regularly (ideally daily) clean these gaps.
Floss is best suited to small or tight gaps between the teeth, whereas interdental brushes are often preferred for the larger gaps, not to mention the added convenience they bring.
Getting in the routine of flossing is important, but it is just as important to ensure you use the correct technique otherwise you are wasting time and failing to really deal with the source of the problem.
There is no 1 best manual toothbrush.
Varying handles, bristles stiffness, cut and even environmental issues play a part in the decision process.
Of all the factors mentioned, in our opinion, the most important factors to consider are environmental footprint and bristles. Look to pick up a soft bristled toothbrush over and above anything else. The bristle cut and formation along with the price should be lower in your consideration and decision making process, but if you can opt for one of the more environmentally-friendly options as well, that is a bonus.
Have you used any of the brushes suggested? Got a manual brush you use and love?
Let us know your opinions and thoughts in the comments below.