Toothbrushes and Toothpastes

By: Dr. Jim Arnold Last Updated: January 7, 2010

One of the most common questions that I receive pertains to different toothbrushes and toothpastes. Everyone wants to know what products are most effective.

My recommendations for dental products 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.

There are several types of manual toothbrushes, ranging from soft bristle brushes to hard bristle brushes. 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 minimize this kind of damage. A soft bristle brush will remove plaque very effectively 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 types that work very well. The Braun Oral-B and Sonicare models are probably the most popular. 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 toothpastes go, anything that is approved by the FDA and the American Dental Association will work well for most people. 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 “tartar control” toothpaste.

A specific ingredient found in most toothpastes will exacerbate the severity of canker sores. Fortunately, there are a few brands that are effective without this ingredient. Some people use whitening toothpastes in an attempt to make their teeth whiter. While these products aren’t harmful, their efficacy is questionable.

Using the proper brushing technique (and flossing regularly) is the real key to cleaning your teeth and gums. Seeing your dental team on a regular basis is also essential. Follow the recommendations of your dentist and hygienist, and you’ll be equipped to do a terrific 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 many other dental topics can be found at