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Happy elderly couple

Question: “There are so many different kinds of toothbrushes and toothpaste that I have a hard time choosing. What do you think are the best to use?”

Answer: My recommendations for toothbrushes vary from person to person, depending upon their individual needs. Some people are able to effectively clean their teeth with a manual brush. Others find that it is difficult to do a thorough job unless they use an electric toothbrush.

Happy elderly couple

There are several types of manual toothbrushes, ranging from soft bristle brushes too hard bristle brushes. The function of a toothbrush is to remove the soft, loosely adherent plaque which begins to accumulate on teeth within an hour of brushing. Unfortunately, medium and hard bristles can damage the gingiva (gums) when used for an extended period of time. I strongly encourage patients to use soft bristle toothbrushes to avoid this damage. A soft bristle brush will remove plaque very effective if used properly.

For people who habitually brush too hard or miss hard to reach areas, I usually recommend an electric toothbrush. There are many different brands and models which work very well. The Braun Oral-B, Sonicare, and Rotadent electric toothbrushes are all excellent. Whatever type of toothbrush is used, however, flossing is also a necessity in order to remove the plaque which hides between the teeth.

As far as toothpaste goes, anything that is approved by the FDA and the American Dental Association will work well for most people. There are many different brands of toothpaste that are very effective. Some people will benefit from using specific types, depending upon the condition of their teeth. People with sensitive teeth will often benefit from utilizing sensitivity toothpaste. Patients who are prone to excessive tartar buildup may need a “tartar control” toothpaste.

Many kinds of toothpaste will exacerbate the severity of canker sores. Fortunately, there is a toothpaste made by Rembrandt that does not contain the ingredient that makes canker sores worse. Some people use a whitening toothpaste in an attempt to make their teeth whiter. The actual whitening results are somewhat questionable, however.

Using the proper brushing technique (and flossing regularly) is the real key to cleaning your teeth and gums. Follow the recommendations of your particular dentist, and you’ll be equipped to do a good job.

Dr. Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso. He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman. You may send questions to his office at 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304, or email them to More information on this or any other dental topics can be found at

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