How to choose the right toothbrush and toothpaste

When it comes to managing your oral hygiene, brushing your teeth is a daily essential. Choosing the right toothbrush and the right toothpaste is an important part of optimising your daily oral hygiene routine and in this post, we will talk through the things to consider when choosing a toothbrush and toothpaste that are best suited to you.

Choosing the right toothbrush

Let’s start off by talking about how to choose the best toothbrush for you. One of the biggest struggles people have when it comes to selecting a toothbrush is the amount of choice. Whether you are choosing a manual or an electric toothbrush, there are lots of different options and knowing which one is the best for you can be tricky, especially if your dentist or hygienist is not with you advising you on the best one.

Choosing a toothbrush is a very personal decision based on your dental needs. For some people with sensitive teeth, choosing a toothbrush that has been designed to ease the sensitivity associated with brushing is the most important factor. For others who may struggle with plaque biofilm retention along their gum lines, a brush to help to reduce this will be the most important consideration.

Whilst toothbrushes all share some similar properties, there are some important differences that can help to tailor your toothbrush to your own personal needs.

Here are some of the things to consider when choosing a toothbrush:

1.     Decide between a manual and electric toothbrush

The first thing you need to decide on is whether you prefer a manual or an electric toothbrush. It doesn’t matter which you decide on – dentists recommend either (see below), as long as you brush your teeth twice a day for a period of two minutes.

Whilst dentists don’t care too much about the type of toothbrush you use, they may recommend an electric toothbrush based on your overall dental hygiene. Electric toothbrushes can also be helpful if you have dexterity issues or struggle to reach the teeth at the back of your mouth.

Manual toothbrushes are, of course, more cost-effective than electric toothbrushes and this is a consideration for many people when deciding between a manual and electric toothbrush.

If you do struggle to brush for two-minute periods, an electric toothbrush can help with this as many have built-in timers that will alert you when you have been brushing for two minutes. If you use a manual brush, it’s a good idea to set a two-minute countdown timer to help ensure that you brush for the desired time every brush.

Another potential advantage of using an electric toothbrush is for those who tend to brush their teeth too vigorously. An electric toothbrush requires you to use very little pressure when brushing as the rotating head does all the work for you. If your dentist has noticed issues with receding gum lines from aggressive brushing, they may recommend an electric toothbrush to help with this.

2.     Select the best type of bristles

Whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, one of the most important considerations is the bristles on your toothbrush head.

For most people, soft bristles are the best option for overall dental care and they are great for removing plaque and debris from between teeth. They are also less harsh on your gums, helping to reduce the risk of receding gums.

Medium and hard-bristled brushes can be hard on gums and enamel and they are typically not recommended by dentists. Occasionally, there might be an instance where a slightly harder bristle is preferable, however, unless your dentist recommends this, stick with soft bristles for your toothbrush.

3.     Choose the right toothbrush head size

If you use a manual toothbrush, then there are a range of different toothbrush head sizes available and choosing the right one is an important part of the process. For electric toothbrushes, the heads tend to be a more standard size because of the way they rotate, however, they do often have different bristle configurations that can be tailored to suit your needs.

With manual brush head sizes, small-headed toothbrushes can be better for reaching all areas of the mouth, especially the hard-to-reach back teeth.

Your dentist might also recommend a tapered head if you have a narrow mouth towards the back teeth which can make it difficult to reach with some brush heads.

As well as choosing the right toothbrush head size, you can also get different handles including angled and flexible necked which can all help you to achieve a deeper, more complete clean of your teeth.

Choosing a toothbrush FAQs

When it comes to choosing a toothbrush, these are some of the most frequently asked questions:

What kind of toothbrush do dentists recommend?

As we have already talked about above, dentists will recommend a toothbrush that is most suited for your own individual dental requirements and this can vary between manual and electric, soft or hard-bristled, small or large head.

The key to choosing the right toothbrush for your teeth is to speak to your dentist or dental hygienist first as they will be able to point you in the direction of the best toothbrush for your teeth.

What firmness of toothbrush do dentists recommend?

When it comes to the firmness of your toothbrush bristles, most dentists will recommend soft bristles for the majority of people as this is the type of bristle that is most effective for most people.

There are some people who might benefit from a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush, however, these are not that common and a soft-bristled brush is typically the best brush that dentists recommend.

Do dentists prefer manual or electric toothbrushes?

Dentists don’t have a preference for electric and manual toothbrushes and they understand that everyone is in a different position when it comes to the type of brush they can purchase. The thing that dentists care about the most is that people brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time, using either a manual or electric toothbrush.

As we have already mentioned, there are some situations where an electric toothbrush might be preferable and can help with your overall oral hygiene, however, in the main, a manual or electric toothbrush can do a very similar job and it comes down to personal preference.

How often should I replace my toothbrush?

It is recommended that you change your toothbrush at least every three months, whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush. Of course, there are times when you might need to replace your toothbrush before the three-month period has finished and these include:

  • If you have been sick or you are recovering from a cold or flu
  • It begins to show excessive signs of wear and tear

If your toothbrush does show signs of wear and tear before the three months is out, then you might want to talk to your dentist about the potential causes of this as you may be brushing too aggressively which can lead to other issues.

Be sure to make a note of the date you change out your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head so you can monitor how long you have been using it for.

How to choose the right toothpaste

Brushing your teeth is an essential part of your daily dental hygiene routine and whilst choosing the right toothbrush is important, choosing the right toothpaste is also an important step towards better oral hygiene.

Many people choose a toothpaste based on the brand that they like, or often, the brand they have grown up with. Other people will pick their toothpaste based on price or which one is on the best promotion in the supermarket.

Whilst these are important considerations, it is also important to look for a toothpaste that is both approved by the dental association (here in New Zealand or potentially the ADA in the USA) and contains a recommended amount of fluoride.

The Expert Advisory Group of the NZ Guidelines Group recommends that:

  • Toothpastes of at least 1000 ppm are recommended for all ages and should be used twice daily.
  • Parents and caregivers are advised that a smear of fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children up to 5 years old.
  • For children 6 years old and over, a pea-sized amount should be used.

Look for packaging labels that say ‘contains 0.221% sodium fluoride’ or ‘contains 0.76% sodium monofluorophosphate’ to ensure that you purchase toothpastes that contain at least 1000 ppm fluoride. Avoid the ones that are labelled ‘child strength’. You can learn more about fluoride levels on the Ministry of Health website.

When it comes to choosing the right toothpaste for you, just like a toothbrush, it all comes down to your own personal requirements and your dentist will be more than happy to make some recommendations based on your oral hygiene.

Here are some of the things to look out for when choosing a toothpaste:

Look for a dental association approved toothpaste

This is a much more common approach overseas, especially in the US where the American Dental Association (ADA) has a comprehensive list of approved toothpastes and other dental hygiene products.

Here in New Zealand, the NZDA does have a list of approved products, however, these are limited to Colgate products so don’t necessarily give a true reflection of all the brands and types of toothpaste which may be suitable for your teeth.

You can find the list of NZDA-approved products on their website.

Check the amount of fluoride

The majority of toothpaste sold in New Zealand contains at least 1000 ppm fluoride and this is important to check when you are purchasing a toothpaste.

Most dental associations around the world recommend brushing your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. This is because fluoride has been proven to fight cavities, an essential part of your overall dental care.

There are a number of diverse fluoride formulations available so it is good to understand what each of them is when looking for a toothpaste. There is some really good information available on the Ministry of Health website (see link above) which will also tell you how many parts per million you need of each type of fluoride.

Tartar control

Some people find it difficult to remove the plaque biofilm that can build up on teeth, especially if they don’t use an abrasive toothpaste. When plaque hardens, it turns to tartar which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

If you do struggle with plaque build-up, look for a toothpaste that is specifically for fighting plaque and tartar.

Sometimes brushing alone cannot prevent some build-up of tartar so it is important to schedule regular visits to the dental hygienist who will perform a deep clean of your teeth, removing any build-up of tartar.

Teeth whitening

There has been a big rise in the number of teeth whitening toothpastes on the market over the past decade as people fight to keep their teeth looking whiter for longer.

Many of these regular toothpastes that claim to have teeth whitening properties will make very little difference to the overall whiteness of your teeth. There are some specially formulated kinds of toothpaste that often contain baking soda that can help with teeth whitening and stain removal on your teeth.

If you are looking to whiten your teeth, it’s always best to speak to your dentist first and ask for recommendations on teeth whitening toothpastes that are suitable for your teeth.


One of the most common causes of people looking for a new toothpaste is sensitivity. Dentin hypersensitivity can strike at any time in life and can be extremely painful or uncomfortable for people when they consume hot or cold items like coffee or ice cream.

There are a number of toothpastes available on the market that can help to desensitise teeth. There are also mouthwashes and chewing gums that can help.

If you are having issues with sensitive teeth, talk to your dentist or hygienist who will be able to recommend the best course of action, including the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth.


Hopefully, this helps you when it comes to choosing the right toothbrush and toothpaste for your individual needs.

One of the most important things to remember is that we are all different and what may be great for one person might not necessarily be the best thing for another. Talk to your dentist or hygienist about your own personal dental care needs and try a range of products until you find one that you are comfortable with.

Our needs change throughout our lives so don’t be afraid to make a switch – whether it’s your toothbrush head, a move from a manual to an electric toothbrush, or a complete change of toothpaste brand.

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