Types of Toothbrushes: Which is Best for You?

3 types of toothbrushes

Are you wondering if you should switch to a different type of toothbrush or incorporate a second one into your current regimen? Are you unfamiliar or overwhelmed with all the options out there?

While most people use either a traditional manual toothbrush (like the one your dentist gives you after a cleaning) or an electric brush, they’re far from your only choices.

Read on to learn about the most common kinds of toothbrushes on the market today and which ones may best fit your needs.

manual toothbrush

Manual Toothbrush

The manual toothbrush is the original modern toothbrush and the most standard type on the market. With its hard plastic handle and flexible plastic bristles, it may not be an exciting brush, but it’s still a reliable and practical choice for many. Just be sure to choose the right size, bristle stiffness, and shape for your needs to ensure the best cleaning.

Size: For most adults, a half-inch wide and one-inch tall bristle head is a good-sized brush. Anything bigger may be challenging to maneuver and not clean your entire mouth properly.

Bristle Stiffness: Options are soft, medium, and hard bristles. We recommend soft bristles as the others are too harsh, potentially wearing away your enamel and causing your gums to recede.

Shape: Although you really can’t go wrong with any shape, diamond-shaped brushes are better at targeting the back of your mouth than oval- or square-shaped brushes.

electric toothbrush

Electric Toothbrush

The two main types of electric toothbrushes are rotary/oscillating and sonic. The rotary has a round brush head that rotates, and the sonic has an oval brush head that vibrates. Although both brushes are effective in removing plaque, there are some key differences between the two. We give a slight edge to the sonic, which has the following comparative benefits:

  • Its higher speed is more powerful in removing plaque and flushing food from in between teeth
  • Covers more surface area
  • It may be easier to maneuver if you’re used to using a manual brush, as the two share a similar handheld technique
interdental toothbrush

Interdental Toothbrush

Sometimes called an interproximal toothbrush or proxabrush, the interdental (which means “between the teeth”) toothbrush cleans the sides of your teeth and in between them, similar to dental floss. In fact it’s also considered to be a type of dental floss. It resembles a mini bottle brush, with bristles that glide in and out of each tooth.

Interdental toothbrushes are a good choice if your teeth are far apart. For example, if you have bone loss and are more likely to get food trapped between your teeth, an interdental brush effectively cleans it out and perhaps even better than dental floss would. In fact, the brush is a good replacement option for dental floss if you have trouble with or dislike using it. But it shouldn’t replace your ordinary toothbrush because it doesn’t clean broadly enough.



The sulcabrush is a single-tuft toothbrush designed to be more therapeutic compared to other brushes. It removes plaque while gently massaging and rejuvenating the gum line and helping to prevent gingivitis. If you already have gum disease, the sulcabrush may slow its progression and reduce bleeding.

The sulcabrush is also effective for those with bone loss, and it’s a good choice for cleaning around crowns, bridges, and dental implants. Its narrow head also makes it an acceptable alternative to flossing, as it performs similarly.

Although the sulcabrush takes care of key dental needs, its highly targeted design means you should use it in conjunction with your main toothbrush — not instead of it — for a comprehensive cleaning.

end tuft toothbrush

End Tuft Toothbrush

The end tuft toothbrush has an extra small head ideal for addressing hard-to-reach parts of your mouth or neglected areas your dentist might notice. We don’t recommend replacing your regular toothbrush with an end tuft brush because of its small size, but it’s an excellent add-on brush for targeted care, including cleaning orthodontic bands, implants, and furcations (where the roots of your teeth divide).

person holding chewable toothbrush in hand

Chewable Toothbrush

The chewable toothbrush, also known as the fuzzy brush, is an appealing option if you’re frequently on the go. A mini toothbrush that you place in your mouth like a piece of gum, a chewable brush has tiny bristles that clean your teeth as you swish it around. It also has built-in breath fresheners, so there’s no need for toothpaste or rinsing.

Despite its appearance as a novelty item, the chewable toothbrush appears to be as effective as conventional brushes in removing plaque in both children and adults. It could also benefit those with special needs, such as people with motor skill difficulties. But we suggest exercising caution when using it in children as its small size poses a choking hazard.

mouthpiece toothbrush

Mouthpiece Toothbrush

A relatively new product on the market, the mouthpiece toothbrush (or U-shaped toothbrush) is a hands-free, electric toothbrush that fits into your mouth just like a mouthpiece. Its primary purpose is to save you time by brushing all your teeth at once.

However, we suggest that you avoid the mouthpiece brush as we believe the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. For one thing, the device forces you to clench down on it to hold it in place, which restricts its movement and prevents it from cleaning your mouth properly. There aren’t enough studies available yet to accurately determine its efficacy, but initial studies haven’t been promising.

bird standing on a crocodile

Egyptian Plover Bird

OK, so this isn’t for people, and it’s not technically a toothbrush. However,  did you know that there’s an Egyptian bird known as the Plover that supposedly cleans crocodile teeth?

If you’re familiar with the children’s book Bill and Pete by Tomie dePaola, you may remember its fictional adventure of Bill (a crocodile) and his “toothbrush” friend Pete (a bird). The story was inspired by the supposed fact of a crocodile teeth-cleaning bird, though the jury is still out on its veracity. But if it’s true, leave it to nature to figure this one out!

The Most Effective Type of Toothbrush

Despite all the great types of toothbrushes available today, we believe that none of them surpass the cleaning tools your dentist uses. That’s because a professional cleaning also removes tartar, something no brush on the market can do. Furthermore, a dental cleaning allows your dentist to examine your teeth and mouth to determine if any problems exist. They can also discuss with you what other types of toothbrushes might help you better maintain your dental and oral health and recommend the most appropriate ones.

In addition to using the proper toothbrush(s), it’s also important to use it properly.  We have an article on how to brush properly to help you get the most out of your brushing.