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The first line of defense against tooth decay, toothbrushes work with toothpaste to remove food and plaque from the surfaces of teeth. As a trip to the drug store will confirm, there are dozens of styles, mostly "high tech," as companies strive to create the best toothbrush.

There are three categories of toothbrushes:

  • manual toothbrushes - models vary along the lines of grips, shape of the handle (flat or bent), head size, and bristle pattern.
  • electric toothbrushes - these models use an electric motor to oscillate the toothbrush head in either a circular or back and forth motion.
  • electronic toothbrushes - these models include the popular Sonicare brush which vibrates the brush at a much high speed than an electric toothbrush.

Which toothbrush is best for you? The Academy of General Dentistry recommends that "a toothbrush head should be small (1" by 1/2") for easy access to all areas of the mouth, teeth and gums. It should have a long, wide handle for a firm grasp. It should have soft nylon bristles with rounded ends so you won't hurt your gums." However, they assert that "no body of scientific evidence exists yet to show that any one type of toothbrush design is better at removing plaque than another. The only thing that matters is that you brush your teeth." They do concede that the electric/electronic brushes may be more effective because they allow people to clean more thoroughly faster.

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