The Best Manual Toothbrush For You? Guide to Toothbrushes in the US

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manual toothbrush
Manual toothbrushes come in all shapes and sizes

It’s not easy to choose the best manual toothbrush for you and your family. You’ll have your own personal needs and preferences, and the new technology that’s becoming available makes the choice more complicated.

We’ve put together this guide to the best manual toothbrushes in the US market, whether you’re looking for:

  • A manual toothbrush suited to specific needs (treating gum disease, cleaning braces, whitening teeth, etc.)
  • A toothbrush that’s great value
  • One that features advanced technology

We’ll also give you some information about toothbrush care and some details about the different brands available on the market. The table below is a quick reference for our top picks on different types of toothbrush, but read on for all you need to know about choosing a manual toothbrush for better oral hygiene.

Type of manual toothbrush What to look for Our top pick
Travel toothbrush Compact, with plastic cover Check prices on Amazon
Toothbrush for gum disease Soft toothbrush bristles made from polyester Check prices on Amazon
A smoker’s toothbrush Hard bristles to remove stains Check prices on Amazon
Denture brush Two heads—one with soft and one with hard bristles Check prices on Amazon
Whitening toothbrush A charcoal toothbrush Check prices on Amazon
Sensitive toothbrush Soft toothbrush bristles made from polyester Check prices on Amazon
Toothbrush for braces Ideally, a brush with shorter bristles in the middle Check prices on Amazon

Why choose a manual toothbrush?

The most important thing to know is how and when to brush your teeth. If you get that right, then finding the best toothbrush for you will be a question of personal preference as much as anything else.

If you don’t brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily then even the best manual toothbrush or the most expensive electric toothbrush won’t be able to keep your teeth free from plaque buildup. This puts you at risk of developing cavities, gum disease, and other oral health problems.

With this in mind, there are a number of reasons why you might choose a manual toothbrush over an electric one.

Electric toothbrush vs manual brushing

You might think that the more money you spend on a toothbrush, the better it will clean your teeth. Although there are some studies that suggest electric toothbrushes can remove more plaque from your teeth, manual toothbrushes are still very effective if used well.

Some reasons you might prefer a manual vs electric toothbrush include:

  • Convenience when traveling
  • You don’t like the feel of an electric toothbrush
  • They’re easy to find
  • They cost less than powered brushes

However, it’s true that many people get a more effective clean with an electric toothbrush because of the technology they use to aid brushing. If you’re considering an electric vs manual toothbrush, we recommend you read our guide to electric toothbrushes for adults (or this one for children) to learn about the benefits and the best models available right now.

How often should you change your toothbrush?

Toothbrushes get worn down quickly—they are being used twice a day, every day, after all! Dentists usually recommend changing your toothbrush around every three months, or sooner if the bristles start to fray before then (this might be a sign you’re brushing too hard).

Oral-b toothbrush manual
An indicator like on this oral-b manual toothbrush tells you when to change brushes

If you have trouble remembering to change your brush, you can get one with a built-in indicator like this Oral-B adult manual toothbrush. These come with a blue line that fades during use. Once it has faded halfway down the bristles, you know it’s time to put a new toothbrush on your shopping list.

You should also change your brush whenever you’ve been sick with a cold or sore throat. Germs can gather on your toothbrush so you should get rid of it when you’ve had any type of infection around your head.

With that, you might be thinking about how to clean your toothbrush. You don’t need to use any special cleaning products, but here are some simple steps for keeping your toothbrush in good condition:

  • Rinse it thoroughly after every use
  • Between uses stand it up, head up, not touching other brushes
  • Keep it in the open
  • Don’t put a case on it
  • When using a travel toothbrush, allow it to dry before putting it in the case 

What’s the best manual toothbrush?

The best manual toothbrush for you will depend on a few different factors. Some things that you will need to consider include:

  • How old is the person using the toothbrush?
  • Do you need to think about traveling with it?
  • Are there any existing oral health issues?
  • Is teeth whitening one of the aims?
  • Do you need a toothbrush for cleaning braces or dentures?
  • Is the person a smoker?

We’ll go through all of these things and give you our top pick for a toothbrush to meet these needs.

Whichever toothbrush you choose, you should go for one with soft or medium bristles, since hard bristles can damage teeth and gums. Also select a small or medium-sized brush head that fits easily into your mouth and allows you to reach all around your teeth, especially right at the back.

Toothbrushes for children

Here, we’re looking at toothbrushes for people over the age of eleven. We have a separate article about the best manual toothbrushes for children and babies, with information about the different toothbrushes to use for different ages.

Best travel toothbrush

best travel toothbrush
The best travel toothbrush will still come dentist recommended

One of the benefits of a manual toothbrush over electric is that you can just throw it in your suitcase when you travel and not have to think about it; no need for chargers and adaptors. You want something that won’t take up a lot of space or much of your weight allowance either.

This travel toothbrush is really convenient for when you’re on the go. The handle doubles as a foldaway case so that it won’t pick up dirt or fluff from your bag. It is also dentist recommended, has a firm grip handles and made of sturdy BPA-free plastic.

Best toothbrush for sensitive teeth

Brushing sensitive teeth isn’t fun, and can actually lead to greater sensitivity if you don’t use the right brush. If you suffer from sensitive teeth, you may want to try Curaprox 5460 Ultrasoft toothbrush. This toothbrush has a certain Euro allure—as it is designed by a Swiss company. 

The key to this brush being good for sensitive teeth lies in the number of bristles it has, and the thickness of the bristles. Most toothbrushes have around 500 to 1000 bristles, but the Curaprox has a whopping 5,460 bristles, each one just 0.1 mm thick. Finer bristles are far more gentle, while the greater number means a deeper clean.

Best toothbrush for gum disease

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, isn’t pleasant. It’s generally caused by a buildup of plaque on your teeth which, in turn, irritates your gums. One of the most common symptoms is your gums bleeding when you brush.

best toothbrush for gum disease
The best toothbrush for gum disease will have super soft bristles

Because gum disease makes gums sensitive, you should look for a very soft toothbrush so as not to irritate them any further. Aggressive brushing can also make your gums more painful, so only use gentle pressure.

As well as being good for gum disease, a soft bristle brush is also the best manual toothbrush for gum recession. Receding gums sometimes occur as a result of brushing too hard, but they are also a sign of more advanced gum disease.

For either of these issues, we suggest using a Dr. Collins Perio Toothbrush. This toothbrush features super slim polyester bristles that can get into the smallest gaps between teeth. These bristles are also tapered and save your tooth enamel from further abrasion. Since they are made from polyester, they are also less porous than traditional nylon bristles, limiting bacterial growth. You’ll also enjoy the fresh breath and natural antiseptic effect of the tea tree oil and magnolia bark that is infused into the bristles. 

Best whitening toothbrush

best whitening toothbrush
Try this whitening toothbrush with charcoal

There are lots of things that can stain your teeth, like coffee, wine, and nicotine. Some teeth whitening methods cost hundreds of dollars, but using a whitening toothbrush is an everyday option that won’t break the bank. Don’t expect dazzling white teeth this way though; whitening toothbrushes gently remove surface stains but can’t make teeth whiter than they naturally are.

You might have heard about whitening your teeth with activated charcoal, but did you know you can get charcoal toothbrushes? The bristles are infused with activated charcoal, which soaks up the substances causing stains on your teeth. The jury is out on whether they actually make much difference to the color of teeth, so you’ll have to try for yourself if you’re curious.

Dental Expert has a really popular charcoal toothbrush which, even if it doesn’t do too much in terms of whitening, is highly rated for its very soft bristles. To get the full advantage of the daily chance to whiten your teeth, you can also use a whitening toothpaste. Our pick is Sensodyne Tru White toothpaste for its low abrasiveness.

Best manual toothbrush for braces

Best manual toothbrush for braces
A u-shaped bristle design cleans better around braces

When you have braces fitted, you need to pay special attention to keeping your braces and teeth clean. Food can easily get stuck around the brackets, and regular flossing becomes even more fiddly (fortunately there are various tools for flossing with braces to make the job easier).

A special orthodontic toothbrush isn’t always necessary. You can choose to keep using your normal toothbrush for your braces, but it might wear down a little quicker because of the brackets and wires on your teeth.

To avoid this extra wear and tear on a normal manual toothbrush, Colgate Ortho toothbrush has a U-shaped bristle design, which makes it our choice for the best toothbrush for braces

It’s also helpful to have some interdental brushes for cleaning your braces. These very small brushes can clean between your teeth and around your brackets, making it much easier to remove bits of food and keep plaque at bay. You can read more about them in our guide here.

Best toothbrush for dentures

toothbrush for dentures

Having dentures, or false teeth, means you have to adapt your oral care a little. A normal toothbrush and toothpaste are too abrasive for dentures and could damage them. Instead, you should use neutral soap or cleaning paste and a special soft-bristled toothbrush for dentures.

This type of manual toothbrush actually has two different brush heads—a larger, normal-shaped one to clean the flat surfaces of your dentures, and a smaller, pointy one to clean between the teeth.

This dentures brush has the two different brush heads that you need, along with an easy-grip handle to make cleaning easier. In the video below you can see how to use a denture toothbrush to clean your dentures:

Smoker’s toothbrush recommendations

Smoking stains your teeth because nicotine penetrates enamel and turns it yellow. Brown patches around the edges of your teeth and around your gums may also develop after smoking for long periods, too.

For the good of your oral health, it’s best to quit smoking altogether and reduce the likelihood of gum disease, bad breath, and oral and lung cancer. But even then, any stains on your teeth will remain. 

A smoker’s toothbrush may help alleviate some of the esthetic problems caused by smoking. These have extra firm bristles for more abrasive brushing to remove surface stains. We recommend using with caution, since a hard toothbrush can irritate the gums—especially if you already have early gum disease.

If you do want to give it a try, this Wisdom Smoker’s Toothbrush is a good choice. Smokers say it does a good job of removing stains from their teeth, and even some non-smokers use it because they prefer the firm bristles.

Can I use a cheap toothbrush?

cheap manual toothbrush
Save on manual toothbrushes by buying in bulk

Some of the best toothbrushes in the US come with all kinds of bells and whistles nowadays. Even the best manual toothbrushes include advanced technology which can bump up the price. But manual toothbrushes in the US can still be cheap if you’re not worried about too many special features.

You can get cheap toothbrushes from well-known brands for around 20–50 cents if you buy in bulk. For example, you can buy bundles of 24 Colgate toothbrushes on Amazon to make it more economical. This is a good way to ensure your whole family has a supply of new toothbrushes when they need them, without breaking the bank.

As we said earlier, it’s not all about the type of toothbrush that you use, but also how well you brush your teeth. Don’t worry if you can only afford cheap toothbrushes; follow our teeth brushing guidelines and clean between your teeth every day with floss or interdental brushes, and you should still do a good job of removing plaque.

As a recap, here is a quick guide to help you choose which toothbrush type will be best for you:

Type of manual toothbrush What to look for Our top pick
Travel toothbrush Compact, with plastic cover Check prices on Amazon
Toothbrush for gum disease Soft toothbrush bristles made from polyester Check prices on Amazon
A smoker’s toothbrush Hard bristles to remove stains Check prices on Amazon
Denture brush Two heads—one with soft and one with hard bristles Check prices on Amazon
Whitening toothbrush A charcoal toothbrush Check prices on Amazon
Sensitive toothbrush Soft toothbrush bristles made from polyester Check prices on Amazon
Toothbrush for braces Ideally, a brush with shorter bristles in the middle Check prices on Amazon

The best manual toothbrush innovations

Manual toothbrushes as we know them date back to the 1920s. That’s when manual toothbrushes started to be made using the nylon bristles that are so common nowadays. Shapes and sizes may have changed over the years, but the basic idea and materials have remained the same.

Recently, though, there has been more innovation going into manual toothbrushes. Here are some of the new ideas on the block that you might want to consider exploring.

A chewable toothbrush

Used in a similar way to chewing gum, a chewable toothbrush is used once, chewed around the mouth while releasing a form of toothpaste, and then discarded.

chewable vs manual toothbrush
If you struggle to hold a regular toothbrush, a chewable one is an alternative

How do they compare to manual brushing? A study has shown that chewable toothbrushes aren’t as effective at removing plaque as a manual toothbrush using the ‘rolling method’—a way of brushing teeth which some people may find difficult. However, the study concluded that a chewable toothbrush will still help with plaque removal for people who are unable to effectively use a normal manual toothbrush due to mobility or sensory issues.

Fuzzy Brush makes chewable toothbrushes that can be used when you’re in a rush to get to work in the morning, or don’t have access to fresh water when camping. They are single-use, so not great for the environment. Unless you have problems brushing with a regular toothbrush, we recommend you just use these as a backup rather than for everyday brushing.

A silicone toothbrush

Rather than using the same nylon to make toothbrushes, there are some companies that are working with silicone to make new types of toothbrushes. They use food-grade silicone for the bristles and some brands have made it so you only have to change the head, rather than the whole brush, which could be helpful to the environment.

Bamboo toothbrushes

With environmental concerns becoming more of an issue, people are naturally looking at ways to reduce their waste. One thing that you can do is use a bamboo toothbrush.

Bamboo can easily be recycled or composted, so once you cut out the nylon bristles you can put the handle in your compost bin. For a detailed look at bamboo toothbrushes you can check out our full article here.

Other manual toothbrush brands

Along with the specific toothbrushes we have mentioned, there are other popular toothbrush bands worth a look:

Conclusion

best manual toothbrush
Find the best manual toothbrush for you

As long as you’re following all the guidelines about how to brush your teeth well, a manual toothbrush can clean your teeth just as well as an electric one. There are lots of options on the market so the best manual toothbrush for you will depend on your needs.

Unless you have other preferences, choose a soft-bristled brush with a head that’s small enough to fit into your mouth easily. Keep it clean and let it dry after use. And remember to change your toothbrush every three months, or as soon as you notice the bristles showing signs of wear.

FAQs

What is the best soft-bristle toothbrush?

The best soft toothbrush will have extra-soft and fine bristles that won’t further irritate your teeth. One such toothbrush receiving rave reviews is the Curaprox 5460 Ultrasoft toothbrush.

What is the best whitening toothbrush?

There isn’t much to back up the claims that a whitening toothbrush will give you a noticeably whiter smile, but you can certainly give it a try. Oral-b makes a charcoal-infused toothbrush that gets good reviews, and another popular brand is the Dental Expert, which makes very affordable soft charcoal toothbrushes. 

Are electric or manual toothbrushes better?

In the debate between manual toothbrushes vs electric, most dentists will tell you that brushing technique and brushing frequency are much more important than whether you choose manual or electric. So, in order to make sure you brush with regular frequency, you should choose the type of toothbrush that you most enjoy using.

Some people prefer electric, because of the fun gadgets and app compatibility, and because they feel that their teeth are cleaner with electric. Other people prefer manual because it’s low-maintenance and gets the job done. You can always ask your dentist what they recommend, because they might be able to tell, based on your oral health, which will be best for you.

What is the best manual toothbrush for gum recession?

If you have receding gums, you’ll want to make sure to use a toothbrush with extra soft bristles, so as not to cause further irritation and receding. Dr. Colllins makes a perio toothbrush made of tapered polyester bristles, to prevent sensitivity and clean better between teeth. Sensodyne is known for its line of toothbrushes and toothpaste for sensitive teeth and gums, so they’re sure to have a toothbrush for you.

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Sources
Oral Health Foundation: Caring for my teeth and gums. Consulted 25th October 2019. Cochrane: Powered/electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes for maintaining oral health. Consulted 25th October 2019. Science Central: Comparing Chewable and Manual Toothbrushes for Reducing Dental Plaque: A Pilot Study. Consulted 25th October 2019. Mouth Healthy: Smoking and Tobacco. Consulted 25th October 2019.  
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