Medical Equipment

The Toothbrush Conundrum

If you watch T.V. like millions of other Americans everyday, you have likely been bombarded by advertisements trying to sell you a toothbrush.  Now, all these ads are basically the same.  They begin by showing you some gorgeous woman or handsome man with a perfect smile and end with a phrase telling you that this is the toothbrush most dentists recommend.  Now I doubt any of you has chosen a toothbrush based on these adds.  If you’re anything like me, you wander into a pharmacy and grab the coolest looking cheap toothbrush you find.  However, there are so many different kinds of toothbrushes out there I have always wondered, am selling my mouth short?  What do these fancy toothbrushes have to offer? How should one really go about choosing the toothbrush that is right for him or her?  Toothbrushes are, after all, a vital part of your oral health and daily routine.  As such its time to stop being cheap, do some research, and pick out the toothbrush that is right for you.

Toothbrushes in their modern form have been in existence since the 1930s.  But way back then consumers did not have much choice about what  kind of toothbrush to buy.  In the past eighty-two years, however, things have changed.  The toothbrush market today is saturated with different brands and different models all jousting for position as the consumers favorite.  The proliferation of electric toothbrushes only added to the fray.  All of these options can lead to consumer confusion about which toothbrush is best suited to their needs.

Tips for Choosing a Toothbrush

Regardless of whether your toothbrush is manual or electric there are certain characteristics you should always look for.  Begin with the size of the toothbrush.  The best toothbrush should give you easy access to all surfaces of your teeth.  For the average adult, a toothbrush head that is a half-inch wide and one-inch tall will offer the easiest and most effective brushing.  Be wary of larger toothbrush heads as they may prove to be hard to maneuver making it impossible to get at those hard to reach areas.  Be sure that the toothbrush has a long enough handle that you can comfortably hold it in your hand.

Another important toothbrush characteristic is the bristle variety.  There are generally three varieties of nylon bristles to chose from: soft, medium or hard.  For the overwhelming majority of people a soft bristle brush will offer the most comfort and be the safest choice.  If you brush vigorously or the strength of your teeth is weak, medium and hard bristle brushes may actually damage your gums, root surface, and protective tooth enamel.  For even more protection when you brush, be sure the bristles of your toothbrush have rounded tips.

It is always helpful to get an expert recommendation when shopping for a toothbrush. After that go to your dentist and ask him what he thinks is the best toothbrush for you.  When you are perusing the toothbrush aisle, look for toothbrushes that have earned the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of approval.  For disposable toothbrushes, the seal means that the bristles will have safe tips, they will not fall out of the toothbrush under typical brushing conditions, the handle will withstand normal use, and the toothbrush will reduce plaque and gum disease in their early stages.

The most important factor when choosing a toothbrush is likability.  Do not chose a toothbrush that you’re not fond of because you and this toothbrush are going to be getting up close and personal at least twice a day for a long time.  If you like your toothbrush, you’re more likely to use it.


The last time I decided to buy a new toothbrush I decided to buy an electric one.  After using it for several years I can honestly say I have no idea how I functioned with the old disposable toothbrushes for so long.  Not that I have anything against them personally, its just my opinion that electric toothbrushes offer much more style, convenience, and functionality.  Electric toothbrushes cut down on movement and eliminate scrubbing.  They basically do all the work for you.  My personal model has a built in timer so I can be sure I brush the recommended two minuets.  While I decided to fall in love with an electric toothbrush, maybe that’s not for you.  If you like the old manual ones don’t be shy, just be smart.  Research the best brands.  Ask your dentist for a recommendation and find the toothbrush that is right for you.

Dental Lasers

Not long ago, lasers were thought to be futuristic, dangerous, machines that would be developed into weapons by future generations.  Now here we are in 2012 and lasers are everywhere.  They are used for almost every conceivable possibility.  In medical fields, lasers have become increasingly useful as surgical tools because they provide better than pinpoint accuracy and cutting power.  In dentistry, the use of lasers is a relatively new phenomenon.  Beginning in the early 1990s the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved lasers for use on gums and several years later, in 1996, approved them for use on teeth and hard tissue.  Since their introduction in the 1990s, lasers have become a more routine part of dental practice.  They are now used to treat tooth decay, gum disease, biopsy or remove lesions, and whiten teeth.  One major reason that lasers have not become even more popular is because they are very cost prohibitive.  Even with that high cost, lasers are no longer some futuristic pipe dream, like hovercrafts or flying cars. They are an integral, everyday, part of dental practice and will continue to grow as research reduces their cost.

How Do Dental Lasers Work

Lasers work by delivering energy as a concentrated beam of light.  When used for dental procedures, the laser acts as a cutting instrument by vaporizing tissue that it comes into contact with.  When used for “curing” a filling, the laser strengthens the bond between the filling and the tooth. When used in teeth whitening procedures, the laser acts as a heat source to enhance the effect that tooth bleaching agents have.

Dental Uses for Lasers

Lasers currently have several uses in the dental industry.  They can be used to help treat tooth decay.  They are used to remove the decay from inside the tooth and to prepare the enamel for the filling.  Lasers can also be used to “cure”, or harden, a filling.  Lasers have not gained wide usage for fillings because they are far more expensive than a pneumatic drill.  Lasers are used to reshape gums and to remove bacteria during root canal procedures.  Biopsy and lesion removal are more common uses for lasers.  Laser can be used to biopsy small amount of tissue so they can be tested for diseases such as cancer.  They can also be used to treat lesions such as canker sores.  Lasers are used to speed up the in-office teeth whitening procedures. A peroxide bleaching solution, applied to the tooth surface, is “activated” by laser energy, which speeds up of the whitening process.

Pros and Cons of Laser Use

Lasers provide several improvements over the use of pneumatic drills and other, older, dental technology.  In most cases, lasers cause less pain and discomfort than older dental technology.  This can reduce or completely remove the need for local anesthetic.  They may also reduce the anxiety a instilled in a patient by a large, noisy, drill.  When used for soft tissue treatments, they reduce and swelling and bleeding.  They are also much better at preserving healthy tooth during the removal of cavities.

Although there are numerous advantages to laser usage, they are not without their setbacks.  Price is the biggest setback.  They are simply too expensive for many dentists to afford.  For example, lasers can cost between $39,000 and $45,000 compared to about $600 for a standard drill.  They also cannot be used on teeth which already have fillings in place, which for some patients renders them useless.  Traditional drills also may be needed to shape and polish the filling or adjust the bite, tasks that lasers simply cannot perform.

The future is now. Lasers are no longer tools of the distant future.  They are used in the here and now.  I have been to the dentist and had dental work done with a laser and, I must say, it is wonderful!  The pain and anxiety caused by those awful drills is eliminated.  The laser is silent, quick, and quite cool.  When lasers fully replace drills as the preferred method of dental repair, the days of being terrified of the dentist will be gone.  Kids will be excited to go to the dentist and have their teeth blasted by lasers like they are storm troopers in Star Wars.  Hopefully one day soon, lasers will completely replace pneumatic drills as the preferred method of fixing teeth.