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A Dental Assistant’s Guide to Helping Patients Choose the Right Toothbrush

August 5, 2015

Toothbrushes

Given the sheer number of options out there (sometimes spanning a whole aisle at the pharmacy), choosing the right toothbrush can be a confusing task. When it comes to modern dental care, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution.

In fact, toothbrushes are now available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Additionally, every toothbrush features different types of bristles as well as bristle patterns.

Some patients might even feel like selecting the perfect toothbrush requires a dental college diploma, or at least some expert guidance from a certified dental assistant!

If you are planning to enroll in dental assistant courses, or you have already started your program, read on to learn more about the surprisingly complex world of toothbrushes—and how you can break it all down for your future patients.

Dental Assistants Know that Size Matters

While toothbrushes come in many sizes, dental assistant school graduates know that the head of a toothbrush should offer the user easy access to the surface of his or her teeth. Children generally have very small mouths and teeth; therefore, a toothbrush with a head size between 1.5cm and 2cm would be most effective. Most adults require a toothbrush that is at least an inch tall, as their teeth and mouths are much larger than those of children.

It’s important to note that if a toothbrush is not the right size, it can become very difficult to maneuver while brushing. Remember that effective brushing consists of reaching every area of the mouth, including the backs and sides of the molars.

Understanding Bristle Varieties as a Dental Assistant

Toothbrushes are available with soft, medium or hard nylon bristles. During your dental assistant training, you will learn that soft bristles are the safest and most comfortable choice for the majority of people, especially children. Dental pros generally warn vigorous brushers to steer clear of medium- and hard-bristled brushes, since these could damage the gums, root surface and tooth enamel. Medium and hard bristles work well for individuals with poor manual dexterity, or those who tend to brush very gently.

Bristle Patterns Play an Important Role

The way the bristles are arranged on a toothbrush is referred to as the bristle pattern. You may have noticed that the bristle pattern is sometimes different on select toothbrushes. Industry experts understand that different patterns affect the way that plaque and debris is removed from the teeth. Here is a quick guide to the some of the most popular options:

Block pattern: bristles are all the same height and length and arranged neatly.

Wavy pattern: bristles are arranged in a wavy (or v-shaped) pattern, allowing for better contact with areas around tooth surfaces.

Crisscross pattern: bristles are arranged in a crisscross pattern to lift plaque effectively.

Dental assistants typically help patients select their ideal toothbrush after considering their specific needs, brushing behavior, and general oral health. They may even perform a quick demonstration to show patients how they can fully maximize their toothbrush’s unique features.

Are you considering enrolling in a dental assistant program? Visit NAHB for more information or to speak with an advisor.

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