You’ve probably noticed that toothbrushes have different bristle firmness ratings – soft, medium, and hard. This tells you how firm the bristles are and how much pressure they put on your teeth and gums when you brush. It also makes it more confusing when you select a toothbrush. Which is a better – a soft or hard toothbrush?
A Soft Toothbrush is Best for Most People
Many well-meaning toothbrush shoppers reach for toothbrushes with firmer bristles believing they’ll do a better job of cleaning their pearly whites. When they pull the hard toothbrush out of the package, they brush with the enthusiasm of a person who’s determined to remove every last stain from a very dirty floor.
The problem is all of that brushing causes gum irritation and aggravates sensitive teeth. Not only does brushing with a hard toothbrush cause gum irritation, it can cause gums to recede over time.
In a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, researchers found that subjects who used hard toothbrushes had more gum recession than soft toothbrush users, and the effects were magnified by frequent brushing. Brushing your teeth several times a day with a hard toothbrush could cause your gums to recede prematurely – leading to gum irritation and sensitivity.
Soft or Hard Toothbrush: Does a Using a Hard Toothbrush Erode Tooth Enamel?
Most studies show that whether you use a soft or hard toothbrush doesn’t have a major impact on the health of your tooth enamel. Using a hard toothbrush accelerates erosion of tooth enamel only slightly more than a soft one. A bigger cause of enamel erosion is drinking acidic fruit juices and carbonated beverages. Loss of tooth enamel is also more common in people who don’t produce enough saliva and people who take medications that dry the mouth.
Choosing a Soft or Hard Toothbrush: The Bottom Line?
Choose a soft toothbrush – and save the medium and hard bristled brushes you have in your cabinet to clean hard-to-reach spots in your home. A soft toothbrush gets the job done without gum irritation or contributing to receding gums. Always look for a soft toothbrush that has the American Dental Association seal of approval. This ensures you’re getting a high-quality toothbrush without jagged edges that can irritate delicate gums. Buy the right brush – and use it faithfully – twice a day.
J Periodontol. 1993 Sep;64(9):900-5.
Caries Research.Vol. 42, No. 4, 2008.