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Good To Know

Hard bristles vs. soft bristles. Learn how to pick the best toothbrush

Feb 11, 2021

We live in a world with endless choices of how we like our stuff. For example, your preference on how you like your tofu: firm or soft and silky? Your pillow and mattresses: firm support or sink in like a cloud? Music preference: hard rock or soft and slow? 

You have a choice in softness in your toothbrush, too. You may not even think about it when you shop for your toothbrush, or maybe it’s something that keeps you awake at night (on your firm mattress). 

Let’s peek into picking the right toothbrush for you.   


Yes, there’s an actual difference in the bristles that put a toothbrush into the category of soft, medium, firm (and even farther on each end of the range, like Super Soft and Extra Firm). Let’s take a look:

  • Soft bristles have elasticity to allow for effective and delicate gum massaging.
    Damage Free: The key here is that the soft bristles clean without damaging the tooth enamel. 
  • Medium bristles have structured filaments made to provide maximum cleaning.
    Watch the gums: While medium firmness does a good job of cleaning the teeth, it can make gums bleed with everyday use and cause additional damage. 
  • Firm or Hard bristles use a special hard filament that may have Calcium Carbonate in it to help prevent tartar and stains.
    When to use: It makes sense to consider a hard toothbrush when cleaning dentures. It can get the job done without harming teeth or gums. But, everyday use of hard bristles on your teeth is not ideal.

As you might have guessed, soft-bristle toothbrushes are the most popular because, well, we like a little soft gum massaging instead of stiff brushing. A quick Amazon shopping exercise will show you about 280 options for soft, about 100 for medium and less than 30 for firm. The popular vote goes to soft! 

Hard bristles? Soft bristles? Learn how to pick the best toothbrush


Users prefer the comfort and feel of soft toothbrushes, and dentists do, too. Bottom line is this: Softer bristles enhance the entire cleaning experience by removing plaque while also massaging the delicate tissues of the gum, which is why The American Dental Association® (ADA®) recommends soft bristles over harder, more erosive, ones.

Because the soft bristles feel better on your teeth and gums, people are more likely to enjoy brushing and maintaining healthier oral care habits. The positive experience makes for a repeated experience.  

Let’s talk about those good brushing habits, and specifically, what dentists recommend about brushing. 

  • Brush for 2-3 minutes. The thorough cleaning is so important, and it takes a few minutes to cover all the areas you need to cover.
  • Vigor need not apply. Apply just enough pressure to feel the bristles on your gums. In fact, they say plaque is soft enough that it can be removed with a cloth if only you could reach all the surfaces that it’s on. That’s the key to the bristle design in RADIUS toothbrushes, by the way.  
  • Soft bristles are best. It prevents damage to the teeth, gum and root area. 
  • Angle your brush. Try to position your toothbrush so the bristles are at a 45-degree angle to your gumline. The RADIUS Big Brush with Replacement Heads is designed so that the bristles are angled at 45 degrees - easy enough! 
  • Short strokes. Don’t saw back and forth across your teeth. Instead, nice short circular motions several times on each spot are best. 

Here are a few shopping tips to go along with the brushing tips. Obviously, look for the firmness of the bristles (soft), but also look at the angle of the way the bristles are arranged on the head of the toothbrush.

Those angles are helpful in getting to the nooks and crannies where the food and bacteria can hide. When you see that bristles have multiple layers or more bristles, that’s a plus, too. More soft bristles, more cleaning surface area. Sustainability is uber important at RADIUS, so if it’s not already, it should be on your checklist when you shop. Plastic and harsh chemicals are a no-no.

There are great options for toothbrushes that don’t bog down our landfills and contain harmful additives. And, lastly, don’t forget to look for toothbrushes that have earned the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. RADIUS toothbrushes make the grade and are ADA approved!

Hard bristles? Soft bristles? Learn how to pick the best toothbrush


Both medium and hard-bristle toothbrushes can damage the protective enamel on your teeth, plus damage your gums causing a receding gum line. While medium bristles don't do as much damage each time you brush, the difference in how much it harms your teeth adds up over time.

Studies show that very few people should be using firm toothbrushes because they can have a traumatic brushing effect. A 2015 Journal of Clinical Periodontology study looked at the effects of bristles on your oral health.

It concluded that people who brushed with medium or hard bristles were most at risk for tooth or gum damage, even having gum lesions or gingival recession. Gingival recession, also known as receding gums, is a painful condition where dental roots are exposed.

It can result in loose teeth, cavities and decay, increased space between teeth, and sensitivity from exposed nerves. 

So, yes, the harder bristles may remove plaque slightly better, but they cause more harm than good in your mouth.


Now that it’s clear you and your gums want soft, massaging bristles, let’s look at a few of our favorites from RADIUS and why. 

RADIUS designs have a unique configuration — an oval brush-head with small holes filled with 8,824 vegetable-derived bristles that are twice as soft as the average.

These softer, plentiful bristles reach every nook and cranny of your mouth. They’ll go easy on the gums, even with vigorous brushing. Instead of bleeding gums or damaged enamel, opt for  an invigorated mouth with a tingly-fresh feeling. 

  • The RADIUS Source Brush head was designed with radiating bristles embedded in a curved bristle bed. It’s connected to a longer neck so you get a deeper clean and a stimulating gum massage all at the same time. (Even a tiny gum massage sounds relaxing, right?) It’s a smaller head than others, but the bristle design means the same delightful gum stimulation and massaging benefits. 
  • The RADIUS Flex Brush has 3x the normal toothbrush’s bristles. More bristles means more surface area covered and better cleaning. It’s simple, yet amazing. The wide oval brush head coupled with a flexible neck helps target those tricky-to-reach areas and massages the whole mouth as it goes for an all-over tingly clean. And, those extra bristles means the Flex brush lasts 3x longer than other run-of-the-mill toothbrushes. 

    Don’t worry, if you have firm toothbrushes laying around, you can reuse them in other ways. A few of our favorites include cleaning tile grout, scrubbing under your fingernails, and cleaning the crevices in your appliances. 

    Here’s to firm tofu, hard rock, and soft toothbrushes. 

    Happy (soft) brushing!