Researchers at Franciscan University in Santa Maria, Brazil studied the difference in medium and soft toothbrush bristles for plaque removal and soft-tissue abrasion. A total of 25 undergraduate students participated in the study. All participants were free from gingivitis at the onset of the study. The students were asked to refrain from all oral hygiene for 96 hours, to allow plaque to accumulate. Using disclosing solution, place scores were measured.
For the experiment, students were randomly assigned to burs two quadrants of their mouth with the medium bristle toothbrush, and the other two quadrants with the soft brush. The lower quadrants were brushed with Colgate Triple Action toothpaste and the upper quadrants were brushed without toothpaste. Upper quadrants were brushed first, before the lowers. Each quadrant was brushed for 30 seconds.
Both medium and soft bristle brushes removed significant amount of plaque. There was no difference in plaque removal between brushing with or without toothpaste with the soft bristle brush. The medium toothbrush with toothpaste removed more plaque than without the toothpaste. Both brushes removed more plaque from facial surfaces (on the outside, or lip-side of the teeth) than the proximal surfaces. The medium brush removed more plaque than the soft toothbrush from the premolar area. Both toothbrushes removed more plaque in premolar areas than the molar or anterior areas.
The medium bristle brush caused more cervical abrasions than the soft toothbrush. The medium toothbrush with toothpaste resulted in more tissue abrasion than brushing without toothpaste.
What does this mean for you? It means that a soft bristle toothbrush will clean your teeth as well as a medium bristled one, but with less damage to the gum tissue. It also means that toothpaste does not get your teeth clean. The work is done by the brush. The toothpaste simply provides fluoride, needed by most people in their daily hygiene to reduce cavities, and provides a minty fresh taste in the mouth. Consider brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush dipped in a fluoride mouthwash for a cleaner mouth with less abrasion to the gums.
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