Selecting Dental Products 101

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications



With so many shapes, sizes and styles of toothbrushes on the market, deciding which kind to buy can be confusing.

Here's what you should look for:

  • Most dental professionals agree that a soft-bristled brush is best for removing plaque and debris from your teeth and along the gum line. Small-headed soft bristled toothbrushes are also preferable, because they can better reach all areas of the mouth, including hard-to-reach back teeth.
  • Pick whatever shape and size is most comfortable for you. The best toothbrush is one that fits your mouth and allows you to reach all teeth easily.
  • For many, a powered toothbrush is a good alternative. It can do a better job of cleaning teeth, particularly for those who have difficulty brushing or who have limited manual dexterity.
  • Replace your toothbrush when it begins to show wear, or every three months, whichever comes first.
  • The type of toothbrush your child uses is important. The wrong kind can damage the gums. All children should use toothbrushes with soft nylon bristles. When your child is an infant, the toothbrush should be very small. As he or she grows, select a toothbrush that can fit easily in the mouth and brush one or two teeth at a time. Your child's toothbrush should be able to reach all of their teeth.
  • Powered toothbrushes are fun and may remove more plaque than regular toothbrushes. That doesn't mean you should run out and buy one. Regular toothbrushes work just fine. However, powered toothbrushes do make brushing easier.


Unless your dentist recommends otherwise, it’s important to use toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen the outer tooth enamel of our teeth. However, if you’re allergic to fluoride — or have another medical condition — you may want to choose different toothpaste. But be sure to speak to your dentist of physician before making this switch.

When buying toothpaste for your child, look for one that contains fluoride and has an appealing taste. When deciding which toothpaste to buy for yourself, or another adult, look at the benefits. For example, if you are looking to whiten teeth whitening toothpaste could be a great option, or of you have sensitivity teeth then toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth is a good idea.

Mouthwashes and Mouth Rinses

Mouthwash and fluoride mouth rinse are two different products. Anti-bacterial mouthwashes are more effective in controlling plaque than fluoride rinses, and also freshen breath. Fluoride rinses coat the teeth with fluoride to strengthen teeth to prevent tooth decay and cavities. They also freshen breath. Many mouthwashes contain alcohol and are not appropriate for children younger than 6 years old, so always read the label before giving mouth rinse to a child.


Flossing is critical for healthy gums. Floss is available in many different sizes, coatings, flavors and forms. If you have trouble using the floss around your fingers, you can purchase floss holders in most drugstores and grocery stores. Some dental floss holders come in bright colors and are made to appeal to children.

Place the floss around your index and middle fingers, make a C shape around each tooth and use a push-pull and up and down motion to remove plaque at and below the gum line and between the teeth. Try to be gentle when placing the floss below the gum line.

Children should floss once a day with the assistance of their parents. Many people floss just before bedtime. But if another time is more convenient for you, do it then.

Water Irrigation Devices

Water irrigation devices can remove food from between teeth. Most children probably don't need to use them. However, children or teenagers with braces or other orthodontic appliances may find these devices useful to remove food debris and plaque from the teeth and gum line. These devices have shown reductions in bleeding, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and plaque accumulation.

Other Info About Selecting Dental Products

Determining the cause of bad breath can be tricky without the help of a healthcare professional, because there are so many possibilities of what may be causing it. So make an appointment with your dentist, who can give you a diagnosis and refer you to your family physician or another medical professional, if necessary.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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