How to choose your next toothbrush

5 important features, plus a look at some interesting models

Published: May 27, 2014 03:00 PM

Though it seems pretty basic, picking a toothbrush is anything but. Soft bristles or hard? Bent neck or straight? Manual or electric? The choices are endless: Our recent search for toothbrushes at turned up 435 results in 53 brands! So our colleagues at ShopSmart magazine got advice from the American Dental Association and independent experts on how to choose your next toothbrush.

In addition to following this expert advice, you can look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Products that display the seal have met the organization’s standards for safety, efficacy, composition, labeling, package inserts, and advertising, says the ADA spokeswoman Ruchi Sahota, D.D.S. Note that the seal is voluntary, and companies must pay for it. (Companies must still meet certain standards for their products to earn the seal.) Among the brushes shown below, some have the seal, some do not.

If you’re wondering whether you should spring for an electric toothbrush, here’s a money-saving tip: Electric and manual brushes are equally good, research shows, as long as you do a thorough job of brushing twice daily for at least two minutes each time.

And remember to replace your toothbrush every three months, or more often. Brushes become less effective as they get worn or frayed.

Check our buying guides for toothbrushes, which includes tips for cleaner teeth, and tooth whiteners. And don't forget to (properly) floss your teeth.

What to look for in a toothbrush




Soft bristles


Some medium brushes are soft enough, but your best choice is a brush that’s labeled “soft.” Never choose hard bristles. You can damage the gums very easily, says Mark S. Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor at the New York University College of Dentistry.

Angled bristles


Like a bent neck, bristles in varying heights and angled in different directions might make it easier to get into every crevice.

Bent neck

This style can help you get into the nooks and crannies of teeth.


Right-sized head

Bigger isn’t always better. “Make sure it fits your mouth comfortably,” Dr. Sahota said. If the head is too large for you, it will be tough to get the bristles into the back corners of your mouth, and you’ll leave some plaque behind.

Comfortable handle

Slim or chunky? Pick whatever feels best in your hand. “All chefs don’t use the same knife, and it’s the same with toothbrushes,” Wolff said. “Choose a handle that will help you brush comfortably.”

Toothbrushes that go beyond the basics

These toothbrushes are all soft-bristled and have cool features that make them stand out—or in the case of the Violife, stand up. Find them at or unless another site is listed. (Some are sold in bulk packages.) We did not test them in our labs. Shown, from left to right:

Radius Original, $8

Its handle is designed to help righties or lefties brush more effectively.

Good Joy Hooking Toothbrush, $4

Hanging can help keep it clean and bacteria free. (You can sign up to get a new one every three months.)

Preserve, $3

The handle is made from recycled yogurt cups; when you’re done with the toothbrush, you can mail it back to to be recycled.

Specialized Care Surround, $5

Bristles come from three places to surround your teeth as you brush.

Brush with Bamboo, $5

The handle is biodegradable and made from bamboo.

Violife Rockee, $15 (shown below)

This bulbous brush stands upright and rocks like a Weeble, so you don’t need a holder to store it. Also check out kiddie versions.

Violife Rockee, $15
Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of ShopSmart magazine.


E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Health News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more