Which type of toothbrush bristles are right for you?

various toothbrushes

Shopping for a new toothbrush presents a wide array of options, so you may wonder which choice is best. When it comes to bristles, soft, medium and hard options are available in just about every brand of toothbrush. While it may be tempting to assume that medium or hard bristles will do a better job of cleaning your teeth, freshening up your gums and removing plaque, that’s not the case. In fact, soft bristles are the best choice for almost everyone.

Why are soft bristles better?


Soft bristles provide all the cleaning power you need. Plaque is soft, so it doesn’t take a great deal of pressure to remove. When combined with toothpaste, a soft-bristled toothpaste does an excellent job of cleaning your mouth without the need for overly vigorous scrubbing. 

Why should you avoid medium and hard bristles? If you brush too hard using a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush, you could actually harm your mouth in the following ways: 

Enamel damage 


Medium or hard bristles can wear away your enamel – the hard, thin outer covering of each tooth. Your enamel helps protect your teeth from bacteria and decay, as well as daily wear and tear like biting and chewing. It has no living cells, so your body can’t repair it if it’s damaged or worn away. Any damage is permanent and can make your teeth more vulnerable to:

  • Decay, since enamel helps protect your teeth from harmful bacteria
  • Pain and sensitivity when you consume hot or cold foods and drinks, as well as sweets
  • A yellow appearance as the enamel is worn away and dentin (the layer of tissue beneath the enamel) is exposed
  • Rough, uneven and even jagged edges
  • Indentations on the surface of your teeth (known as cupping)

Gum Damage 


It’s not surprising that if medium- and hard-bristled toothbrushes can harm hard enamel, they can also damage your gums, which are much softer. You may experience the following issues if you over-brush using the wrong type of bristles:

  • Receding gums: Your gums could start to move away from the tooth, a condition that may require a deep cleaning known as tooth scaling and roof planing. Alternately, you may need a gum graft, during which tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and placed around your teeth.
  • Bone and tooth loss: If your gums recede severely, you may eventually lose bone, which can cause tooth loss.
  • Pain: As the roots of your teeth become exposed, you may experience greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
  • Changed appearance: Your teeth may appear longer than normal.
  • Tooth decay: You may be more likely to develop cavities below the gum line.

Brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day is an important part of good dental care. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that harder bristles and vigorous scrubbing will do a better job of cleaning your teeth and gums. A soft-bristled toothbrush will keep your mouth clean and healthy while avoiding the type of damage that’s associated with harder bristles.