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What to Look For in a Toothbrush

Finding a toothbrush isn't rocket science. Even so, it's important. The wrong toothbrush can damage your gums and lead to tooth decay. Lucky for you, finding the right one is easy.

"The best toothbrush for you is one that you will use," says Kimberly Harms, D.D.S., consumer adviser for the American Dental Association (ADA). "Using your toothbrush every day will take away harmful plaque from your teeth. Brush and floss your teeth at least once a day."

Dr. Harms suggests you buy a toothbrush marked "soft." "This means the bristles are soft and pliable and can reach in between the teeth without hurting," she explains. Hard bristles hurt when brushing and wear away the gums, as well as erode the tooth enamel at the gum line.

Buy a brush that's the right size for your hand so you can hold it easily, she advises. Brush size is especially important for small children and older adults.

An electric toothbrush offers the same benefits as a manual brush -- if you use it properly. "Electric brushes are easier for some patients, especially those who brush quickly and forget to brush the hard-to-reach areas in the back. You can do the same thing manually with a toothbrush that you will do with an electric brush. You'll just spend a little more time with the manual brush," Dr. Harms says.

When should you get a new brush? Every three to four months, the ADA says. If you notice the bristles are frayed or bent, that's a sign you need a new brush. When storing your brush, keep it clean, dry and upright. "It is less likely bacteria will stay on your brush that way," Dr. Harms says.

Plaque is continuously forming on your teeth, Dr. Harms adds. "Plaque can't be rinsed or swished away. It has to be brushed off."