Soft-Bristle Toothbrushes: How Effective Are These?

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. The Basics
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Soft-Bristle vs. Electric Toothbrushes
  4. Dental Recommendations

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you brush your teeth two times per day with a soft-bristle toothbrush.

Soft-bristle brushes are gentle on your gum line and effective at removing plaque from your teeth. Soft-bristle brushes come in either manual or electric forms.

Electric toothbrushes can help to maximize your brushing, as they are able to reach all areas of the mouth more easily. They can also give you a more uniform brushing experience to ensure you do not miss any areas.

Overall, dentists recommend using either a manual or an electric toothbrush with a soft-bristle head to brush your teeth.

The Basics of Soft-Bristle Toothbrushes

There are three main types of bristles for toothbrushes: soft, medium, and hard. This generally refers to how stiff the bristles are.

In theory, you would think that hard bristles would be better at cleaning your teeth than soft ones, but this is not actually the case. Soft-bristle toothbrushes can reduce plaque while maintaining and not harming gum tissues.

There are two main types of soft-bristle toothbrushes: manual (handheld) and electric (powered). The angle of the bristles can also differ, including flat, angled, and multi-leveled. There are various sizes of soft-bristle toothbrushes.

Effectiveness of These Toothbrushes

Soft-bristle toothbrushes are very effective at reducing the amount of plaque on your teeth, especially those with tapered bristles.1

Harder-bristled toothbrushes can be good at removing plaque; however, they can also cause trauma to your gum (gingival) tissue. Soft-bristled toothbrushes are less likely to do so.2

Soft-Bristle Toothbrushes vs. Electric Toothbrushes

The ADA reports that both electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective for plaque removal. When choosing an electric toothbrush, be sure to choose one with a soft-bristled head.

Advantages of an electric toothbrush include the following:

  • They are easier to use for people with dexterity issues.

  • They can more easily get around dental appliances, such as braces.

  • They have a variety of directional head movement to choose from.

  • They often have a built-in timer to ensure you brush your teeth for the proper amount of time.

The main disadvantage of an electric toothbrush is going to be cost. The initial cost and the cost to replace the brush heads is significantly more than replacing a manual toothbrush.

However, electric toothbrushes can potentially clean your teeth better, prevent tooth decay, and lead to healthier gums than using a manual toothbrush.3 This is primarily because these toothbrushes can give you a more effective cleaning and often ensure that you are brushing for long enough as well.

Dental Recommendations

To prevent tooth decay and promote overall good oral health and hygiene, dentists recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice per day for two minutes at a time with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Angled or multi-tiered toothbrushes work best. They can be either manual or electric toothbrushes, as long as the bristles are soft to protect your gums.

Choose a toothbrush that fits into your mouth well. There are numerous different sizes available, and you will need one that can reach all of your teeth easily.

To best take care of your teeth, floss once per day. This will help to clean out the spaces between your teeth.

It is also important to see your dentist regularly for routine checkups and professional cleanings. Your dentist can also recommend the best toothbrush for your teeth after assessing your particular situation.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.