Diving into Toothbrush Technology: What Do The Terms Mean?

As soon as we could record history, people have already noticed that even ancient humans used some form of dental care as far back as thousands of years ago. Humanity itself has long been aware of the consequences of leaving our teeth unchecked. There is some mechanism that degrades our teeth, and we need to address it. Fast forward to today, dentists and researchers have identified these mechanisms, and they are actively working towards pushing dental health into our everyday live

s. Day by day, the technology incorporated into our dental care tools becomes more advanced and specific. Often we ask ourselves, what do these weird and fancy-sounding terms even mean?

History of Toothbrushing

The history of oral hygiene and dental health practices goes as far back as 5,000 years ago. When you go for around a day without brushing your teeth, you will notice the unpleasant feeling of something building up on them. This would have been the same feeling they had when they realized they needed oral hygiene. 

This feeling is due to plaque buildup on the teeth. Humans back then treated it using different tools they could find easily. These include anything from the usual toothpicks, chew sticks, tree twigs, strips of linen to something outlandish such as bird feathers, animal bones, and porcupine quills. 

In the 17th century, Antony van Leeuwenhoek created his revolutionary microscope technology. This allowed us to see and understand the reasons for plaque buildup. In the late 1800s, the usual toothbrush shape and function that we use today started popping up. Years later, the first electric toothbrush saw action in 1969.

Today, we now have a lot of different features for our toothbrushes. These features can come from the size of the bristles, the handles’ shape, and even the electronics inside the toothbrush itself. Accordingly, before we head into the different features, let us first discuss how our era incorporated electronics into something counterintuitive as a toothbrush.

Toothbrush and Electronics

While the addition of electronics into toothbrushes seems bizarre, it introduced a lot of particular and niche functions to the simple tool. Specifically, this technology allowed for sufficient dental care for the elderly and those with mild cognitive impairment. A recent 2022 study highlights this capacity through what they call an “intelligent powered toothbrush”.

Over 12 months of use, the dental scores of the participants improved in terms of their plaque index, bleeding index, deepened periodontal pockets, and overall quality of life. Aside from this, the toothbrush technology aided in health-related tasks through sensors and data carrying. The intelligent toothbrush monitors the user’s health and transfers data through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. This is especially useful for older participants or has cognitive impairments.

Aside from this niche application, electronics in toothbrushes seem to have also improved its performance. We can see this improved performance in an 8-week trial study of an oscillating-rotating technology for a toothbrush. The technology allowed for micro-vibrations that reached directly to the bristle tips. A feat unachievable through manual brushing since only the base of the bristles can move. The oscillating-rotating technology showed significant advantages for plaque removal and gingival health compared to a manual toothbrush and a sonic toothbrush. 

Current Toothbrush Technology

Putting electronics inside a toothbrush is not the only way to improve its performance. Researchers can also opt to adjust its mechanical and structural features. Some of these features are intuitive, such as thinning and softening the bristles for effectiveness and comfort. Some may also use different toothbrush materials, such as bamboo or charcoal. 

These are attempts to improve the performance of the toothbrush through obvious changes. However, there are some terms manufacturers use that fail to give an impression to ordinary people. The following are some uncommon technologies that you may see on the package of your chosen toothbrush.

End-tufted Toothbrush

A tuft is simply a collection of bristles. You usually see a toothbrush has around 5-12 tufts per row. In an end-tufted toothbrush, there is only one pile of bristles specifically designed to brush and remove plaque from the inside cavity of your molars. You can also use this around the molars with better precision due to the shape of the brush. 

Sulcus Toothbrush

Unlike the simplistic approach of the end-tufted type, this toothbrush consists of two rows of bristles while maintaining the advantage of precise cleaning. This reduced number of tufts allows for a smaller surface area of the head of the toothbrush. This helps in reducing the user’s gag reflex when brushing their teeth. At the same time, its small size also aids in reaching the narrow corners of the gums and teeth.

Ionic Toothbrush

Another unusual addition to toothbrush technology is using ions through the bristles using a battery. Although this toothbrush also makes use of electronics, the way it utilizes them is different from mechanical and connectivity features. The technology stems from the fact that the surface of the teeth is normally negatively charged, so the positively charged plaque clings to it. By disrupting these bonds through ionic exchange, the toothbrush removes the plaque more easily. 

CrissCross and Tapered Bristles

The orientation of the bristles of a toothbrush has recently been a topic for researchers to adjust for better performance. In 2019, researchers tested an experimental manual toothbrush with CrissCross and tapered bristles. The toothbrush featured angled bristles crossing one another. This allows for better reachability in the gum crevices, and accordingly, the results showed positive results. The tapered toothbrush performed better against gingivitis when compared to a normal toothbrush.

How Do I Choose From All These

Just like the many types of toothbrush, there are as many unique teeth structures that these tools cater to. Toothbrush technology is not one size fits all. Its specificity encourages people to try as many different types until you find and feel the right one for you. If you need help in choosing, you may consult your dentist to guide you with their knowledge on the condition of your teeth.