Toothbrushes have come a long way from the twigs we used to use to get food out of our teeth and now there are more options than ever. When it comes to your standard manual toothbrush, you have a variety of bristle types from extra soft to hard.

Each bristle type has its own pros and cons so we’re going to break those down and make some recommendations for you. Keep in mind that the type of bristles that are right for you can change because it depends on your needs and any issues you might be suffering from at the time.

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Extra Soft

Extra soft toothbrushes have become less common in the aisles of drug stores but they do still exist under different names. These toothbrushes are also known as “periodontal toothbrushes” and “sulcus toothbrushes.” They’re helpful for people with gingivitis, gum disease, receding gums, bleeding gums, and periodontitis because they are more gentle. Some people even used extra soft toothbrushes to exfoliate their lips and face.

An extra soft toothbrush might be right for you if you have sensitive gums or oral health issues that require a more gentle touch. If you’re dealing with any of these issues, ask your dentist for recommendations on brushing technique to get the most out of an extra soft brush without creating any additional discomfort or pain.


It may seem counterintuitive but a soft toothbrush can get your teeth just as clean as toothbrushes with harder bristles. It isn’t just the brush you choose that impacts your results, it’s also your brushing technique.

To clean teeth and gums most effectively, angle your toothbrush bristles toward the gum line, and use gentle, circular, massaging strokes to remove plaque. You do not need intense pressure to remove plaque, bacteria, and food, in fact, you should only be using gentle pressure to do this. The time spent brushing each area is actually more important than putting lots of pressure on any given area. Heavy brushing pressure even with a soft brush can result in the same problems you’d get from using a medium or hard bristle toothbrush.

Studies have shown that soft toothbrushes do just as good of a job cleaning your teeth as medium toothbrushes and they do less damage. For that reason, most dentists recommend choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles over one that is hard, or even medium. If you have sensitive gums, sensitive teeth and signs of enamel erosion, your dentist might suggest a brush with extra-soft bristles.


Medium brushes get very similar results to soft brushes but they do more damage to your gums so they’re rarely recommended by dentists. If you’re brushing as often as you should be, this difference in damage makes a real difference over time.


Evidence suggests that very few of us should be using hard toothbrushes. Their firm bristles can wear away at the enamel on your teeth and can also do damage to your gums, causing your gum line to recede.

Although some people claim to prefer using firm bristles, the fact that they are more likely to wear away your teeth’s enamel and your gums means they are generally not the best option. Hard bristles do remove slightly more plaque than soft bristles but not enough to justify the damage that they do in the process.

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Even though dentists and toothbrush manufacturers have recommended soft toothbrushes to all of us for years, almost half of toothbrushes bought in America have medium or hard bristles. Are you ready to make the switch? A soft toothbrush may take a little time to get used to but it is much better for your oral health in the long run.