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Best Manual Toothbrush 2022

Best manual toothbrush

Quick summary

Brushing your teeth is an important part of your daily routine.

The recommendation is to do it twice a day for 2 minutes.

Whilst there are benefits to an electric toothbrush, the manual brush is considered adequate, provided it is used with the correct technique.

When it comes to choosing a toothbrush, there are subtle differences that could make a big difference to your brushing experience. 

There are also environmental considerations to take into account.

In this article, I will let you know what the key differences are and tell you what to look out for when picking a manual, non-electric toothbrush.

I have included recommendations to suit a range of budgets and requirements.

Any of the brushes mentioned in this post will do a good job, as long as you use them correctly.

Our best picks at a glance

Best bamboo: Hydrophil (Amazon, &Keep)

Best reusable handle: Radius Source (Amazon, Ebay)

Good value: Curaprox CS 5460 Ultra Soft (Amazon, Ebay)

Good recycling option: Reswirl (Reswirl)

Budget option: Colgate Extra Clean Medium (Amazon, Ebay)

How we chose

Our team is made up of dental professionals and experienced product testers.  We specialise in oral health and abide by a strong code of ethics

Together, we ensure our recommendations include only the very best choices. We regularly review our recommendations based on newly released products and clinical evidence.

To choose the best manual toothbrushes is very subjective. I have chosen products which I have personally tested, unless stated otherwise. In most instances, there are also detailed written and video reviews for each product.

Most toothbrushes have different head shapes and bristle arrangements. Doing hands-on testing does allow me to assess cleaning performance. But, there is conflicting evidence to support one type of brush being significantly better than any other. Technique is more important.

I have tried to choose brushes that have some amount of data to support any specific claims they make or independent safety testing. 

Recommendations also consider feedback from consumers and industry leaders.

I have recommended brushes which are comfortable to hold and use, although there is some personal opinion involved with this.

Other criteria include how environmentally friendly the brush is. The recommendations aim to balance between brushes cost and environmental impact. No toothbrush is perfect, but the aim is to offer recommendations which can be recycled to some extent from home (for example, handles which can be recycled with household collections) or where the company has good sustainable manufacturing processes.

Best manual toothbrush 2022 — our recommendations

Because there are many differences between brushes it is difficult to pick one brush that is suitable for all.

There will be a degree of trial and error involved for you to pick out your preferred toothbrush.

To help you on that journey, here 

is a selection of highly rated brushes that take into consideration all the key factors we see as important in the decision making process.

Best bamboo

Hydrophil Bamboo Toothbrush (4 Pack)

£15.45 from &Keep*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush

When buying a 4 pack: £3 to £4 per brush.

Why we chose it

This is our selection for the best bamboo toothbrush, and it is also one of the most environmentally friendly brushes available.

The bamboo handle is combined with bio-based bristles (which are arranged on a flat plane and are soft to medium hardness).

What stands out for me is the fact that the company has multiple sustainability policies – including being carbon neutral and water neutral, with transparency as they provide certificates for eco-friendly claims on their website too.

In terms of use, the Hydrophil brush is safe and I found it comfortable when testing it.

These brushes are not found in most high street stores, but are reasonably priced when purchased through UK based eco retailers, where shipping charges are not applied.

To dispose of this brush, remove the bristles from the handle (or cut off the head). The handle can be disposed of with garden waste or on a composting pile. The bristles cannot be recycled unless using TerraCycle.

Pros

  • Affordable brush
  • Multiple colour options
  • Multiple bristle hardness available
  • Kids option available
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable product
  • Plastic free packaging
  • Transparent website
  • Ethical company
  • Gives to charity
  • Vegan

Cons

  • Only available online
  • Bamboo not easily recyclable for everyone
  • Relatively expensive
Hydro Phil Bamboo Toothbrush
The Hydrophil bamboo toothbrush is safe and comfortable to use

Read our Hydrophil Review >>

Best reusable handle

Radius Source Toothbrush (3 Pack)

£29.95 from Ebay*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush head

£10 for the handle, then £4 to £5 for replacement heads

Why we chose it

This toothbrush has a number of good environmentally friendly aspects, including the recycled material handle, bio-based bristles and the replaceable head. I have selected it because it is one of the best eco-friendly toothbrushes as well as the best option for people looking for brushes with replaceable toothbrush heads.

The handle is made of recycled materials and you can choose from a few different options such as hemp or wood. The handle itself is also “reversible” and can be used by left-handed or right-handed people.

The bristles are made from bio-based nylon rather than conventional plastics. The larger than average heads from Radius are used as a selling point, with them saying you only need to replace the brush head every nine months, although I would recommend keeping this to every 3 months due to bacteria build up.

The detachable heads need to be recycled with a specialist system such as TerraCycle, but this is less waste than disposing of a whole toothbrush every 3 months. 

Although the brush can be a bit more costly, the replaceable heads are affordable and come in a range of sizes and shapes. Although it seems expensive, at the moment it is about the going rate for a replaceable head toothbrush and the heads work out about the same cost as a regular manual toothbrush.

During testing I found the large handle very easy to use, which could be especially helpful if you have any mobility problems. This good grip should also help get the right technique. 

The large handle can make the whole head feel bulky, which can take some getting used to. It could be uncomfortable for some people, such as those with smaller mouths or a pronounced gag reflex.

Overall, I liked the brushing experience with this brush. The handle had a good grip, much better than average, and I liked the feel of the larger heads covering more tooth surface.

Pros

  • Easy grip handle
  • Replaceable head toothbrush
  • Multiple colour options
  • Multiple bristle hardness available
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable
  • product
  • Handle easily recycled
  • Vegan

Cons

  • Only available online
  • Expensive option
  • Plastic packaging
  • Larger heads not suitable for everyone
Radius source toothbrush on table top with packagin
The Radius Source toothbrush is a good eco-friendly choice

Read our Radius Source Review >>

Good value

Curaprox CS 5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush (3 Pack)

£10.89 from Ebay*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush

When buying a pack of 3: £2.53 to £3.63 per brush

Why we chose it

These toothbrushes are available individually, but they have made this list as being great value for money in a multipack. They are some of the best soft bristle toothbrushes you can buy.

Curaprox toothbrushes and bristles are made in Switzerland. Each brush head contains 5,460 individual bristles, arranged on a flat plane and are just 0.1mm in thickness and offer an ultra soft brushing experience. Compare this to standard toothbrushes that have 500-1000 bristles. The bristles are their trademarked CUREN range, made from polyester instead of nylon. 

Whilst not marketed as an eco-friendly option, one of the bonuses of this brush is that the handles can be easily recycled due to the plastic number 5, PP, handle. Simply remove the bristles and place the handle in with your plastic recycling. Bristles can be sent to specialist recycling facilities or with household waste.

The octagonal shape handle is comfortable to hold, and helps position the brush in the mouth. A small and compact head makes it easy to move the brush around the mouth, including to the back teeth.

The handles are available in a variety of bold colours, which offers a fun and colourful edge to these toothbrushes.

Pros

  • Affordable brush
  • Multipack option
  • Multiple colour options
  • Handle easily recycled
  • Easy grip handle
  • Available in some supermarkets

Cons

  • Plastic packaging
3 colour variations of the Curaprox CS5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush next to each other
The Curaprox CS 5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush is a good value pick

Good recycling option

Reswirl toothbrush (4 Pack)

Best Manual Toothbrush 2022 1

~£13.96 from Reswirl*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush

£3.49 when buying 4

Why we chose it

The Reswirl Toothbrush is a newly available toothbrush that is fully manufactured and recycled within the UK — bristles, handle, and packaging! 

I have selected it as one of the best manual toothbrushes in the UK because it is British made and is one of the most eco-friendly toothbrushes available.

As a company, they obviously have good ethical principles for managing waste and also reducing impact, whilst also supporting social causes e.g. donation to charity. 

What is really special with this brush is that Reswirl have created their own closed loop system, meaning that you send your waste back to them when you are finished and the material is put back into making new products. They call their brush “The infinite toothbrush” because of this process, and it is unique to any brand I have seen.

To reduce environmental impact, they use bio-based plastics instead of conventional oil-based plastics. The handle is partially bio-based plastic and partially recycled plastic, minimising carbon footprint.

The brush has an off white color with raised spots for extra grip. The bristles are coloured, with a few different choices available. The bristles are made from bio-based nylon, are arranged on a flat plane, and are available in soft or medium. 

Whilst each brush is individually wrapped, the packaging is compostable or can be returned to Reswirl.

I have tested these brushes — I didn’t have any problems when using the brush and found it comfortable to hold.

Whilst this brush is on the pricier end of the scale, it does include postage to you and then back to the company for recycling, as well as the cost of recycling. They recommend returning 4 brushes at a time to reduce the impact from postage.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly and sustainable product
  • Company provides recycling options
  • Transparent website
  • Ethical company
  • Gives to charity
  • Subscription available to reduce costs
  • Multiple bristle hardness available
  • Multiple colour options
  • Easy grip handle
  • Made in UK
  • Vegan

Cons

  • Only available online
  • Relatively expensive
Reswirl in plastic wrap on box
Reswirl is a British made toothbrush and one of the most eco-friendly choices available

Read our Reswirl Review >>

Budget option

Colgate Extra Clean Medium Toothbrush (3 Pack)

~£1.99 from Ebay*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush

33p to 66p when buying a 3 pack.

Why we chose it

I have selected the Colgate Extra Clean toothbrush as the best high street option for a non electric, manual toothbrush.

It is very affordable, and comes as a pack of 3 for less than the cost of a single brush from most of our other selections. They are available in most high streets, anywhere where toothbrushes are sold.

They come in a pack of 3, each different colours, with a number of combinations available. The pack I tested contained blue, purple and pink.

The bristles are arranged in multiple levels and at a few different angles. This gives a good clean between the teeth when using the right brushing technique. The head is fairly large because of the long bristles, and this may be uncomfortable for some people to use.

Unfortunately what you save in money costs the environment. The brushes come in card and plastic packaging (although this is fully recyclable).

Colgate is making an effort to reduce their impact with their products by using recycled materials in both the brush and the handle, but there is still a long way to go overall.

Unlike most high street toothbrushes, the handle of this one does appear to consist of only one type of plastic — I reached out to Colgate to confirm this but didn’t receive a response. 

This means it can potentially be recycled so long as the head with the Nylon bristles is removed. That is why this brush from Colgate made it to the list over other options available.

Pros

  • Available on the high street
  • Cheap to buy
  • Multipack
  • Good bristle arrangement
  • Multiple colour options
  • Handle potentially recyclable

Cons

  • Plastic packaging
  • Not an eco-friendly option
colgate extra clean multipack
The Colgate Extra Clean is cheap but isn’t the best option for the environment

£10 from Boots*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush head

Replacement heads cost £2.50 to £3. The initial cost of the handle is around £10 to £13, but it comes with 2 brush heads included.

Why we chose it

This is a reusable handle toothbrush which is available in many larger shops.

As a big brand, Colgate isn’t known for being eco-friendly, but this is a step in the right direction. It’s not perfect, and there are a lot of processes in manufacturing that Colgate could change, and a cynic might say this is a bit of greenwashing. But the brush itself is pretty good. 

The metal handle is heavier than a plastic alternative, but feels like it should stand the test of time. It is easy to grip too.

The heads are made from plastic and nylon bristles, and have a polishing cup incorporated. I don’t know whether it has any real benefit in use, but it doesn’t do any harm. The multilevel bristles are more firm than most of the other toothbrushes I have tested, so this is one for you if you like a hard bristle toothbrush. 

The head itself is a pretty standard oval shape, and an average size too. The back of the head has a dimpled rubber texture for cleaning the tongue.

The handle comes with two heads, in plastic free packaging.

This toothbrush has made it to this list as I liked the extra clean sensation you have after brushing, plus its availability in stores (which is ever increasing as shops recognise the demand for more sustainable products).

Pros

  • Available on the high street, in superstores and online
  • Multipack (comes with two heads)
  • Good bristle arrangement
  • Replaceable head toothbrush
  • Plastic free packaging

Cons

  • Not as cheap as a regular toothbrush
  • Bristles may be too firm for some
Colgate Link in hand
The Colgate Link pictured during our testing

Read our Colgate Link Review >>

Humble Co Bamboo Toothbrush (4 Pack)

€16.99 from Humble*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per brush

£1.50 to £2.90 per brush when buying a pack of 5.

Why we chose it

The Humble Co products are well made, with the environment in mind, and are sold at a reasonable price.

The Humble Brush has a bamboo handle. 

The bristles are nylon 6 (the most common material). They come in a choice of colours and firmness. I like the bristle arrangement, which is multilayer and feels like it gives a good clean.

Packaging is plastic free and made from recycled material.

Humble brush now also has a reusable bamboo handle with replaceable heads. Their bio-based plastic handles are also a good option.

Pros

  • Subscription option available
  • Kids option available
  • Good bristle arrangement
  • Multiple bristle hardness available
  • Multiple colour options
  • Good recycling options for handles
  • Good eco-friendly option
  • Plastic free packaging
  • Ethical company
  • Gives to charity
  • Vegan

Cons

  • Bamboo not easily recyclable for everyone
  • Not available in many stores but can be bought online
Humble brush bamboo toothbrush
Humble Co products are well made with the environment in mind

Boie USA Toothbrush

Boie USA toothbrush

$10 from Boie*

*Prices correct at the time of writing

Approximate price per head

$10 for the handle, $5 per replacement head, $10 shipping. Depending on the exchange rate this brings the cost in at about £7 per replacement head.

Why we chose it

Boie USA have made this replaceable head toothbrush, and I have recommended it as one of the best options due to it having a reasonable environmental record. But this toothbrush really stands out because of the silicone-like soft bristles.  It is quite different in brushing experience to traditional nylon or polyester bristle toothbrushes. 

This is a manual toothbrush which has a reusable handle and replaceable head. The slim and lightweight brush handle is made from plastic number 5, polypropylene. This means it is easily recycled with household plastic recycling at the end of its useful life. It is available in a range of colours. 

With Boie USA you change just the brush head only, there is no need to throw the whole brush away. This is a more eco-friendly option than replacing the whole brush every 3 months. They actually advise that the head only needs replacing every 6 months (although with evidence showing that bacteria build up occurs at 3 months, I am unsure about recommending this).

The toothbrush head does not have regular bristles. Instead, it is made from plastic number 7, specifically a thermoplastic elastomer. These are embedded with silver (which is antibacterial) and arranged on a flat plane. 

At present we do not know if the bristles themselves have less of an environmental impact than regular bristles. But they are designed to last longer and may be a good option for people who scrub when brushing, causing regular toothbrushes to fray quickly.

This fraying can reduce the effectiveness of the brush, but will not happen with the soft plastic bristles. The brush head will need to be recycled by using a specialist system such as TerraCycle, but Boie also have their own returns program for you to use.

We found it cleaned fairly well and go into more detail in our Boie review.

Cost wise, this is an average price for a reusable handle, and can be purchased on a subscription basis to reduce costs. Each replacement head works out about the cost of a mid-range manual toothbrush. There is the cost of shipping from the USA ($10) to factor in as well, though.

Pros

  • Different brushing experience due to soft plastic bristles
  • Subscription available to reduce costs
  • Softer bristles unlikely to cause wear from overbrushing
  • Multiple colour options
  • Handle easily recycled
  • Replaceable head toothbrush
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable product
  • Company provides recycling options
  • Plastic free packaging
  • Transparent website
  • Ethical company
  • Gives to charity

Cons

  • Difficult to source (only available online)
  • Expensive option
Boie toothbrush
The soft bristles on the Boie toothbrush could be good for people who scrub too hard

Read our Boie Review >>

Manual toothbrush buyer’s guide

In the sections below I have included useful information for anyone that wants to do a bit more research before buying a manual toothbrush.

I’ve also answered common questions and included advice on how to get the most out of your brush.

As always, if you’ve got any questions, please leave a comment below.

Manual toothbrush brushing front teeth

What’s the evidence for and against using a manual toothbrush?

We already have a full article comparing manual vs electric toothbrushes, and which one is better, so I will not go into as much detail here.

Generally an electric toothbrush is recommended by dental professionals as it does not require as much technique, and there are a number of other benefits.

I would advise that if you struggle with brushing or have active gum disease, an electric toothbrush is the better option.

If you are a clinically high risk patient I would advise using an electric toothbrush. I go into more detail about that in this post.

Studies (reviewed by Niederman and Yaacob et al ) show that electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque. They also show that electric toothbrushes help with gum disease.

Despite the clear evidence in reducing plaque, there is no evidence to support the use of electric toothbrushes when it comes to reducing decay.

Manual toothbrushes can be adequate if you take the time to learn the correct technique and if you have no active gum disease.

There could be a number of reasons to consider a manual toothbrush over an electric toothbrush, including cost, regular travel, or consideration for the environment.

Pros & cons of manual toothbrushes

Pros

  • Cost effective
  • Easy to source
  • Easy to travel with
  • Do not require batteries or a power source
  • More environmentally friendly than an electric toothbrush
  • Quiet when using
  • Many options available
  • More likely to be locally made

Cons

  • No built-in timer or pacer
  • Requires a lot of manual dexterity and is technique sensitive
  • Requires the user to move the brush frequently
  • Not as efficient at removing plaque compared to an electric toothbrush

Brush head shape & size isn’t too important

There is quite a significant difference in the size and shape of the brush heads on manual toothbrushes.

The most common option is a rectangular shape with rounded corners, with bristles about 3-5cm long with all the bristles cut to the same length (on a flat plane).

Newer options include smaller, rounder and even diamond shaped brush heads.

Different shapes and sizes cater to the different needs of users.  The same style does not work for all users.

This difference in brush head size is also true for electric toothbrushes.  Oral-B tends to have small round brush heads, whilst Sonicare tends to be larger.

Some people prefer larger brush heads, whilst others prefer smaller. 

Dental professionals normally advise smaller round brush heads, as the size allows for a better reach to the back teeth and better positioning on the tooth. 

At the time of writing, I can’t find any quality research to suggest a bigger toothbrush head is better at cleaning (although the number of bristles in a given area can have an effect).

There are a lack of studies comparing the effectiveness of different brush head sizes, so it really is personal preference.

Two manual toothbrushes together

Bristles make more of a difference than handle design

The bristles on different toothbrushes can be very different. From the colour to the way they are cut, and the angles to the orientation.

In many ways this is the only real way that a toothbrush can change how well it cleans.

Each manufacturer will have developed the brush head differently to try to achieve a great clean and help them stand out from the crowd.

For most people, the bristles make more of a difference than the handle design.

These differences include:

  • Bristle material
  • Length of bristles – which also affects hardness of the toothbrush. Some brushes will have bristles of different lengths (or heights).
  • Bristle angles and orientations
  • How the tip of each individual bristle is cut, for example tapered or rounded.
  • Stiffness/firmness/hardness
  • Angles and orientation
  • Colour – a purely aesthetic difference that doesn’t affect cleaning ability.

Some brush heads claim to have specific benefits.

There is no evidence to support claims that toothbrushes can whiten the teeth.

Toothbrushes do have a role to play in stain removal, but they cannot change the colour of the teeth.

Overall, evidence is conflicting about whether or not bristle design can help remove more plaque.

Effective plaque removal is key to supporting gum health. Technique is more important than the exact toothbrush you choose.

Close-up of specialist manual toothbrush head

Bristle materials

The most common bristle material is nylon (polyamide / PA6), and polyesters are another plastic option. These two different types of plastic are made from fossil fuel based oil. Newer types of nylon or polyester can be made from bio-based plastic. This means the base material is plant based rather than oil based, which is more environmentally friendly.

Traditionally, toothbrush bristles were made with animal hair, such as those from a boar or even a horse. Some “natural” brushes and those that promote themselves as fully biodegradable still use them.

Animal hair toothbrush bristles can harbour more bacteria than nylon due to the natural structure containing a hollow canal. Processing boar hair is also very difficult, and it is not always possible to get a rounded tip which will not damage the gums during brushing (Fattal et al).

Other non-plastic bristles include plant fibres such as miswak. Whilst these are compostable, they are ineffective at cleaning as they wear quickly.

Silicone and rubber bristled toothbrushes are becoming more common. A small number of toothbrushes have bristles made from thermoplastic elastomer, TPE. They are advertised as lasting longer and causing less tooth wear. We discuss the full pros and cons in our article on rubber & silicone toothbrushes, but the take home is that there is no evidence to suggest they are less effective at cleaning.

The type of material affects how you can recycle the toothbrush. Animal hair can be composted, whilst other materials require specialist recycling. Find out more about how to recycle toothbrush bristles here.

I would recommend the use of a plastic type of bristle over natural fibres. The available evidence does not support one type of plastic material over another for effectiveness when cleaning, so the material is largely personal choice.

Bristles can also come infused with silver, which are advertised as antibacterial, or charcoal, which are advertised as whitening. There is some evidence to support silver embedded toothbrush bristles as having less build up of material. There have been no studies to support the idea that charcoal bristles whiten the teeth.

Three colourful manual toothbrushes

Bristle stiffness / hardness / firmness

One of the biggest decisions when choosing a toothbrush is how hard the bristles are.

Bristles are available as soft, medium or hard (firm).

The firmness, or hardness, of the toothbrush is affected by bristle material, bristle diameter and bristle length. The number of bristles and tufts will also affect how firm the toothbrush is.

Each brush head has hundreds or thousands of individual bristles in them. The bristles are grouped together into ‘tufts’ of about 20-40.

A brush head will be made up of a number of tufts. These can vary in shape, size and density to change the way the toothbrush cleans your teeth.

Bristle firmness is to some degree personal preference, but evidence has shown that whilst medium bristle brushes are more effective at plaque removal than softer brushes, they can  be damaging to the gums to a level that is clinically significant.  

This damage includes reversible trauma to the gums. Another risk is wear of the tooth surface at the gum level.

Soft bristles are effective enough at plaque removal. These are safer on the gums but there is some evidence that they can cause more tooth wear than a medium stiffness.

Firm or hard bristled toothbrushes are not as easy to buy as they once were. They are the best for  plaque removal, but are harmful to the gums and tooth surface. This is because of 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. This does lasting damage over the long term.

Most dentists will advise using a medium or soft bristle toothbrush . If you have tooth wear, avoid a soft toothbrush and opt for medium instead. 

Really the take home message is that the technique is more important than the bristle firmness for plaque removal and protection against tooth wear.

Close up of blue bristles on Humble co bamboo toothbrush

Bristle cut, shape & pattern

The bristles on a brush head can be cut and shaped differently at the tip.

When a toothbrush is made the bristles get cut to the length of the manufacturer’s choosing. As they are cut by the sharp blade, the tips of the bristles can be uneven and sharp.

These sharper tips can aggravate gums and even cause abrasion on the tooth surface. This is more likely for brushes that have not been through a blunting process.

The blunting (or polishing) process is one where the tips of the bristles are rounded off to create a softer and less damaging brushing experience.

Seeing this rounded bristle tip with the human eye can be difficult, but is clearly seen under a microscope.

Some brands actively promote this rounding of the bristles as a feature of their brush. It is typically the cheaper brushes that do not go through this blunting process.

Another option is the bristle length.

The overall length of the bristles can affect the hardness or firmness of the toothbrush. Some brush heads have bristles all the same length whilst others are differing lengths.

The tufts of bristles can be arranged into a pattern, such as wavy, concave, or even a criss-cross bristle formation. Some brushes also offer a polishing cup design built into them.

Having different bristle heights can improve the cleaning ability of the toothbrush. 

The principle is that the varying lengths, angles and arrangement 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.

Clear evidence is lacking to clearly say what is ‘best’. Some studies report that the tuft arrangement does play a role and that those with bristles of varying length and angle are better, whilst other studies advise that individual technique is more important than bristle arrangement.

The newer breed of silicone and rubber bristles also vary in their cut and configuration.  There isn’t as much variety as there is with nylon or polyester bristles, but given the smaller number of these types of bristled brushes, there is limited study into which is the ‘best’ configuration.

Close-up of criss-cross bristle formation

Bristle colour and indicator bristles

Indicator bristles are commonly seen on electric toothbrush heads. Few manual toothbrushes have these types of bristle.

Indicator bristles are dyed in a specific way so that the dye fades out with use and acts as a visual indicator of the remaining life of that head.

The most common colour is light blue, so the bristles fade to a pale, almost white, colour. This change in colour normally means you need to replace the brush head.

Indicator bristles graphic

Handle design & construction

The design of a toothbrush handle can vary considerably depending on the manufacturer. You can choose between different materials, shapes and angles for your toothbrush.

The purpose of the handle is to act as leverage for brushing. It gives length between the head of the brush and the hand to enable the brush to reach the back of the mouth with ease. The rigidity of the handle transfers the pressure from your hand and onto the toothbrush head.

The materials available for toothbrush handles don’t affect the cleaning ability. They can affect the recyclability and environmental impact, though.

Traditional brushes are made of a plastic handle with rubber grip.

More sustainable materials include recycled materials, bamboo, metal, or bio-based plastics. Find out more about the different options in our article on the most eco-friendly toothbrushes.

There are also brush handles that are made of materials which 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.

Toothbrushes can have a flat or round cross section with a straight or curved shank. 

There is no right or wrong choice for handle shape. Some people prefer a flatter handle, whilst some prefer a round handle. Other options available include octagonal cross section, or irregular shapes for a firm hold.

Straight brush handles are the most basic design, and cheapest to make.  They are long handles (circular or flat cross section) and have no contours, real shaping or grip built-in.

Curved brush handles make it easier to reach the back teeth. 

Contra angle brush handles change shape towards the top of the brush handle, just before the brush head itself. The thickness, shape and angle of the brush head differs from the handle.

A handle can also have extra shaping to help you hold it. Premium brushes can have indentations or additional material on the handle to aid your grip. Another way to improve grip is choosing a toothbrush made from a softer, less slippery material such as rubber. 

Full width shot of Curaprox brush

How much difference does price make?

The price of a manual toothbrush can vary considerably.  From less than a £1 through to £8+ per brush.

In some respects, you get what you pay for, but it is not always that straight forward. This is especially true for sustainable or environmentally friendly products.

Our recommendation is that £3-6 per brush is a good middle of the range budget.

By spending a bit more, rather than just opting for the cheapest, you can benefit from better quality bristles, better brush design and a more sustainable product.

Manual toothbrushes often come in bulk (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 £4 – £7 per head from leading brands.

How to use a manual toothbrush correctly

How To Brush Your Teeth Properly With A Manual Toothbrush

Ineffective plaque removal due to failure to use a toothbrush correctly is one of the biggest contributors to poor oral health.

Electric toothbrushes are recommended because they reduce human error. But a manual toothbrush can be good enough if the technique is right.

Common brushing mistakes include:

  • Not brushing for long enough
  • Not brushing evenly around the mouth
  • Missing the back teeth
  • Not getting the right angle between the brush and the teeth
  • Missing the area where the tooth meets the gum

There is no one person or organisation to blame, but not many people brush with the right technique.

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 this is news to you you will want to check you are using the correct technique.  Read our guide on how to brush with a manual toothbrush, and watch the video above — it will really help.

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.  These are a fun and interactive way to show you how well you are brushing for both kids and adults.

Close-up of teeth with plaque disclosing solution on them

Replace your brush every 3 months

It is recommended that you replace your toothbrush or brush head every 3 months.

This is because over this time the toothbrush bristles become damaged and are not as effective. There is also a build up of bacteria so using a brush for any longer becomes unhygienic.

After 3 months of use, the brush will have spent 6 hours inside your mouth, passing over the teeth and gums.

With every pass the tips of the bristles are worn down. When they are no longer in optimum condition they are not as good at removing plaque. 

It is easy to brush too hard by placing too much pressure on your toothbrush.  This accelerates the wear on the bristles, and causes them to split and fray.  The tips become damaged and irritate the gums. 

Old tatty brush heads that need replacing

Replacing the brush head limits the potential damage that the bristles can do as well as making sure you are always using a brush that actually works.

Another factor that drives the 3 month replacement cycle is bacteria build up.

There are over 600 different types of bacteria in a healthy human mouth.  Most are harmless, but some can stick to toothbrush bristles and cause infections in the gums.

Studies by Raiyani et al and Karibasappa et al looked at the numbers of bacteria on used toothbrushes.

The bacteria and fungi found can cause dental diseases, as well as urinary tract infections and diarrhea amongst other conditions. 

There is more contamination at 3 months than after 1 month, with bacteria being found in clumps rather than as individuals as time progresses.

This is why it is recommended brushes are replaced every 3-4 months, even if bristles do not appear worn.

We do have advice on how to clean and store your toothbrush in the meantime.

If you opt for the silicone or rubber bristle brushes, subject to the brand, the manufacturers say the heads can last from 3-12 months. 

They claim the materials are more resistant to bacteria growth, and are made with silver particles built into the head to help resist and kill bacteria that may reside in the head.

This is why they claim a 3 month brush head replacement is less necessary, although I haven’t seen any independent research to verify this.

Flossing is also important

Brushing your teeth only cleans 60% of the tooth surface, so some 40% goes uncleaned on a regular basis.

This is mostly between the teeth — the interdental or interproximal gap. This interdental cleaning includes using dental floss, interdental brushes, and water flossers.

These gaps come in different sizes. Irrespective of the size, you need to clean these gaps daily.

Interdental brushes are the most effective way to clean between your teeth, and the evidence is explained more fully in my article comparing the different ways of interdental cleaning.

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. See our page on how to floss for more information.

person using interdental brush on front teeth

Toothbrushes and the environment 

Toothbrushes are one of a number of dental tools that are traditionally high in plastic but with a short shelf life.

The plastics used in toothbrushes are hard to recycle because the handles are a mixture of materials which need separating in specialist centres. In addition to this, it’s only possible for bristles to be recycled in a small number of places. This means that toothbrushes normally end up at landfill sites. 

Manual toothbrushes are more eco-friendly than electric toothbrushes when you assess their impact from manufacturing to disposal.

If you want to make changes to your dental care to pick more sustainable options, you need to consider the material of the handle and bristles, the manufacturing processes, and what you do with the toothbrush at the end of its useful life.

The different types of manual toothbrushes affect the planet in different ways. Some of the more environmentally friendly options available include:

  • A toothbrush made from recycled plastic, such as Reswirl.
  • Bamboo toothbrushes, such as Hydrophil or Humble Co
  • Reusable toothbrush handles (made from plastic, metal, or bamboo) with replaceable heads, such as Radius Source or Colgate Link
  • The use of plant-based or bio-based plastics instead of traditional plastics, where plastic is unavoidable.
  • Companies offering recycling schemes to create a circular economy, such as Reswirl.

This is a complex topic which we have covered, and you can see the following pages for more information:

About Dr. Gemma Wheeler, BDS (Hons)

Gemma qualified from Cardiff University School of Dentistry in 2015. She went on to complete her Foundation Training and a further two years in the Armed Forces, primarily based around Wiltshire. She now works in a private practice in Plymouth.

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1 thought on “Best Manual Toothbrush 2022”

  1. A really good attempt to discuss toothbrushes, their variations and their pros and cons. Well done! Personally, I love Curaprox products, especially their interdental brushes. Their ‘Christmas Tree’ shaped brush is brilliant for getting into gaps large and small.

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