Does this question get on your nerves? Or does it…dare we say…make you bristle?
Alright, perhaps the soft bristles vs. hard bristles debate is not as dramatic as the quintessential over or under toilet paper dispute (that is, if you have toilet paper at all these days), but it is a widely asked question that many folks have definite opinions on.
The answer? As a general rule of thumb, most dentists recommend soft bristles.
Why is that?
There are five main reasons why soft bristles are overwhelmingly endorsed by the dentistry community:
REASON #1: History
We’re not exaggerating when we say that there are quite literally hundreds of years of history that show that people, by and large, prefer softer bristles.
A brief history lesson on bristle toothbrushes that demonstrates this point:
The first bristle toothbrush was made in China during the Tang Dynasty (609-907) using bristles made of hair from hogs found in the cooler Siberian and Chinese regions. Colder climate made for hair that was thick and firm enough for a toothbrush. However, when the “hog bristle” toothbrush reached Europe in the 17th century, many Europeans chose to replace hog’s hair with horse hair because the hair bristles were finer and softer.
The first mass-produced toothbrush was developed by a man named William Addis in the UK. A stint in a jail cell left him with a lot of free time and a distaste for more pedestrian cleaning methods, which led him to drill holes in bone and affix bristles in the drilled holes with glue. Voila! Something like a modern toothbrush. William’s company sold a range of toothbrushes, the cheapest of which were made with boar’s hair and the more expensive were made with badgers’ hair. Why? Well, if you’ve ever used a shaving brush, you’ll know that boar’s hair is coarse and rough on your skin, whereas badger hair produces a silky, luxurious feel.
Onto the modern era. Nylon toothbrushes were introduced by DuPont in 1938 and were originally made with more abrasive bristles. By the 1950s, however, nylon toothbrushes were made en masse with softer bristles, aligning with consumer’s overwhelming preferences. This trend is still seen today.
REASON #2: Potential damage
If you brush with too much pressure, too vigorously, or too frequently researchers have found that hard or even medium bristles could cause serious damage to your mouth. What kind of damage? A 2015 study conducted in the Journal of Periodontology found a significant link between gingival recession and hard bristles. Gingival recession, also known as receding gums, is a painful condition whereby dental roots are exposed resulting in loose teeth, increased space between teeth, cavities, dental decay, yellowing in the teeth, and painful sensitivity from exposed nerves. Additionally, as with any abrasive foods or elements you put in your mouth, hard surfaces pose a risk for enamel damage. Since we are born with a finite amount of enamel in our lifetime, it’s important to preserve it as best we can.
REASON #3: Efficacy
Soft bristles have been shown to be just as effective as hard bristles when it comes to cleaning your teeth. Although it might seem like hard bristles would do a better job, you actually don’t need much pressure to remove harmful plaque, bacteria and food particles. What matters is not so much the hardness of the bristle, but the technique you use to brush and the shape of the bristles. Dentists recommend brushing with the toothbrush bristles angled toward the gum line and using gentle circular motions. As for the shape, rounded tip bristles have shown to not only be more effective in maintaining oral health, but they are also less abrasive on your gums and enamel.
A quick word to the wise: Although soft does the trick as well as medium or hard bristles, there is such a thing as too soft. We would recommend not using the extra soft bristles unless you are struggling with hypersensitive gums or periodontal disease.
REASON #4: Soft bristles don’t last longer, but that’s a good thing.
Folks might tell you they prefer a harder-bristle brush because the bristles maintain their integrity longer. That’s not necessarily a good thing. You should be replacing your toothbrush at least every 3 months because bacteria, over time, collects within the bristles. Soft bristles can give you a good marker of when it’s time to change out your brush. (By the way, if you need a little extra help on knowing when to change out your brush, check out our subscription plan for our replaceable brush heads.)
REASON #5: Because soft bristles just feel better.
It’s simple: you can’t beat a good-feeling product. Countless studies have associated a positive experience with a repeated experience. Ipso facto, better feeling brushing experience = good regular dental habits. Something to keep in mind, especially if you’re struggling to get your young kiddos to get into a good hygiene routine.
So, which soft-bristled brush is the best? RADIUS toothbrushes are designed with an oval shaped, extra-large head with gentle, rounded bristles to not only get you the maximum coverage and thorough clean, but offer a more pleasant experience during your twice daily routine. Our philosophy is happy mouth = happy smile.
If you’re still a die-hard fanatic for the harder bristles, we offer our Source brush which has options for medium and “flossing” bristles to reach in between your teeth.
Whatever your preference, we’ve got you covered.