Differences in Soft, Medium and Hard Toothbrushes - savina dental clinics malta and gozo

Good oral hygiene cannot be overemphasized. However, the efficiency of your brushing and the state of your dental health depends on the type of toothbrush you choose.

Today, we shall go over all you need to know about the different types of toothbrushes and shine the light on some important researches and studies that have been conducted over the years to give you a fresh perspective.

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Purpose of Toothbrush

A toothbrush is the number one way of removing plaque and bacteria from teeth and gums. Getting rid of bacteria and plaque helps protect the teeth against periodontal disease and tooth decay. So essentially, the purpose of a toothbrush is to get rid of plaque and bacteria.

Toothbrush Bristle Types

Toothbrush bristles are classified based on their strength. The most common include extra soft, soft, medium and hard.

Extra Soft

These toothbrushes have become rare in drug stores. They are also referred to as sulcus toothbrushes or periodontal toothbrushes. They are great for people who have gingivitis, receding gums, gum disease, bleeding gums, and periodontitis as they are gentle.


Soft-bristled toothbrushes are also gentle on the gum and teeth. They are effective in getting rid of plaque and bacteria without causing irritation. They are perfect for children and adults alike.


Some individuals are more confident when they use medium bristled toothbrushes. Medium bristles are more effective than soft bristles since they are less prone to bending. However, they can be hard on the gums if you apply a lot of pressure.


Dentists rarely recommend hard bristled toothbrushes. The firm bristles can wear out the enamel and damage your gums. They could also trigger receding gum. However, their occasional use is best for getting rid of stains (1).

Hard bristled toothbrushes are perfect for cleaning partial teeth and dentures.

Tooth Brush Add-ons

Some toothbrushes are designed with extra features such as rubber cups and floss action. While these add-ons can increase the effectiveness of brushing, they can’t replace flossing since they don’t reach the spaces between your teeth.

Rubber bits are perfect for removing additional staining from teeth. If you eat and drink foods that stain (coffee, blueberries and red wine), toothbrushes with these add-ons could help maintain the white in your teeth.

Electric Toothbrush Vs. Manual Toothbrush

electric toothbrush versus manual toothbrush

Provided you clean your teeth regularly and employ the recommended brushing techniques, your teeth should have minimal plaque and be healthy regardless of whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush. (3)

But in case you are to choose between the two, here are some points to bear in mind:


Though some electric toothbrushes can be quite expensive, many basic ones have become affordable. Aside from the initial investment, you’ll have to purchase head replacements for the electric toothbrush. However, if an electric toothbrush results in cleaner teeth and less tartar build-up, and it does recover the costs by saving on dental bills.


The best toothbrush is one that you can use often and well. Some people dislike the vibrations of electric toothbrushes while others do. Some find electric toothbrushes to be time-saving and thorough, especially those living with arthritis or limited mobility in their wrists.

If you enjoy your toothbrush, there are higher chances you’ll use it for two minutes. Some electric toothbrushes come with timers to tell you when you’ve reached the recommended brushing time.


According to studies (2) conducted to investigate the effectiveness of disposable and electric toothbrushes against plaque, there isn’t a significant difference.


ADA approved toothbrushes are tested for safety and labelled safe. But even then, some toothbrushes are more reliable than others. If you are a little hard on your teeth and gums, using an electric toothbrush can help you ease up and be gentle on them while still being thorough.

However, electric toothbrushes can increase the levels of bacteria in your blood in comparison to disposable toothbrushes.

Which is Better?

The best type for you depends on your preference and brushing techniques and habits. Different situations make electric or manual toothbrushes better.

Read our full guide here: Electric Toothbrush versus Manual: Which is Better?

The Best Toothbrush for Children

When picking a toothbrush for your child, you should choose one that they will use regularly and adequately. There are a lot of electric and disposable toothbrushes for kids that come in different colours and features based on favourite characters from animations, cartoons, and classic stories. To choose the best option, follow the below suggestions:

  • Buy a child-sized soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Ensure the toothbrush comes from a well known and trusted brand
  • If your kids are old enough, tag them along and let them give some input on the toothbrush they’d like

Tips to Brushing Your Teeth

  • Choose a toothbrush with medium bristles and a small head unless instructed otherwise by your dentist
  • Use toothpaste with fluoride (it helps in preventing tooth decay)
  • Incline your toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gums. Use circular motions
  • Brush your gums on the inside as well as outside of your teeth
  • For the insides of the lower and upper front teeth, use vertical strokes
  • Ensure all your teeth are brushed thoroughly

Studies Which Prove Soft Bristles Are Best/Safe to Use

In a study (3) conducted to compare the effectiveness and safety of soft and hard-bristled toothbrushes, a test group of 20 students aged 25 years on average was used. The students let plaque pile up for three days before conducting the comparison study. The results of the study were: hard bristles got rid of more plaque but also resulted in more gingival abrasions than soft toothbrushes- a clear indication that soft bristles are safer.

Is there any reason for using hard toothbrushes?

Yes. They are perfect in situations where teeth are stained and when cleaning dentures and braces. However, we don’t recommend regular use of hard bristled toothbrushes.

Toothbrush Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should You Change Your Toothbrush?

You should get a new toothbrush every 3-4 months, but it can be sooner if you’ve been sick recently.

How are toothbrush bristles attached?

Most bristles are made from nylon. They are bent in half using a machine and then jammed into holes in the toothbrush head. The fibres are then stapled securely. No gum is used during the attachment.

What toothbrush is best for sensitive teeth?

Extra soft-bristled toothbrushes are perfect for sensitive teeth and gums.

Do I need a specific toothbrush for dental braces?

A regular soft-bristled toothbrush will work. However, we recommend using orthodontic cut toothbrushes. These have a ‘v’ shape on the bristles. You can also use a spiral dental brush otherwise known as a proxy brush.

What toothbrush is best for teeth whitening?

There isn’t any specific toothbrush perfect for teeth whitening. It’s all about the brushing technique. Follow the aforementioned brushing tips, and you’ll be good to go.

Do I need to throw away a toothbrush after being sick?

Yes. This will ensure you don’t spread the bacteria to your family members. The other option is to clean it using vinegar or hydrogen peroxide or to boil it.


Choosing the right toothbrush is as important as following a strict brushing routine. Get in touch with us if you need further clarifications.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at its disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.