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September 21, 2007

Experts' Expert: A dentist talks about toothbrush selection and care


In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Ellen Byron's "Tricks of the Trade" column featured dentist Nancy Rosen talking about what she looks for in a toothbrush, along with other related tips.


• Brush for two minutes

• Replace your toothbrush every 3 months

• Choose soft bristles rather than medium

• Run the bristles under hot water to further soften them before brushing

Here's the newpaper piece.

    The Right Brush for a Dentist's Own Teeth

    When dentist Nancy Rosen shops the toothbrush aisle, she is often struck by how many options are ill-suited for proper oral care.

    Bristles can be too harsh for teeth and gums, expensive power toothbrushes often boast unnecessary features, and many brush heads are far too big. "I don't know what type of human being can fit some of these brushes in their mouth," says Dr. Rosen, whose patients include actors, models, news anchors and socialites.

    When caring for her own smile, Dr. Rosen, who serves as an occasional consultant for Oral B, says she uses a simple, soft-bristled electric brush that she bought five years ago for about $40. "There are models over $100, with a lot of bells and whistles, but I don't think everyone needs to spend that kind of money," she says.

    Dr. Rosen uses a plug-in brush, rather than one that's battery-operated, because the latter tend to require users to hold down a power button as they brush. She finds that onerous, especially when she's trying to brush for the length of time she prescribes to patients: two minutes. Also, Dr. Rosen doubts many people will replace an old battery in a timely manner. "But if it's plugged into the wall and you just push a button, it is fool-proof," she says.

    Before buying a power brush, check on how easily available its replacement heads are, Dr. Rosen recommends. "You should replace them every three months," she says, noting that manual brushes should be replaced just as often. Bristles shouldn't get so worn that they look like they've been sat on. "Then you're doing more damage than good," says Dr. Rosen, explaining that "you're going to have to brush harder, and that removes enamel and causes gum recession."

    Choose a brush with "soft" bristles rather than the so-called "medium" ones — they're too harsh on teeth and gums, Dr. Rosen says. Before brushing, Dr. Rosen says she always runs the bristles under hot water to further soften them. Size matters, too, Dr. Rosen warns. On both power and manual brushes, opt for smaller heads, which allow for a better brushing technique.

    Good brushing habits are a crucial first step to ensuring an effective whitening procedure, popular with Dr. Rosen's patients. "You can't have bleaching if your teeth aren't clean — then you're just bleaching plaque," she says. "You'll be wasting your money, and sometimes plaque hides other dental problems that you need to take care of before whitening."

September 21, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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I recently read somewhere that you should change your tooth brush on the day the season changes. This is the sort of reminder I need. So, today is the day I put a new brush in my electric toothbrush, which has a two minute timer - which I also need (two minutes can be a very long time...)

Posted by: terrence | Sep 21, 2007 6:59:36 PM

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