The modern-day toothbrush has evolved significantly—and we’re not just talking about the leap from manual to electric. In fact, before the 1940s, it was rare to find a toothbrush that wasn’t made from real boar’s hair. (Yikes...) In 1938, tech-based giant Dupont de Nemours created the very first synthetic toothbrush made from nylon, which resembles what many of us use today.
In modern times, toothbrush bristles are still made out of synthetic nylon but are broken down further into a few main classes based on texture: extra soft, soft, medium, and hard.
“A hard-bristled brush has very dense bristles, which is a more aggressive scrubber, while a soft-bristled brush will have less densely packed bristles, which allows for the bristles to flexibly bend around the teeth and gums gently,” explains Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist, Anita Rajpal, DDS.
Soft-bristled toothbrushes are often preferred, mainly because they’re more gentle on the gums and don’t harm tooth enamel. They’re especially beneficial for people with delicate gums or enamel, notes Dr. Rajpal. “While hard-bristled brushes are effective at removing plaque and food debris, they are often too abrasive on the enamel and gum tissue, and can cause erosion and recession,” she warns.
The best soft toothbrushes, at a glance:
- Best overall: Oral-B Series 9 Electric Toothbrush ($300)
- Best budget: Colgate Hum Smart Rhythm ($25)
- Best manual: Nimbus Extra-Soft Toothbrush Pack ($19)
- Best splurge: Philips Sonicare Prestige Rechargeable ElectricToothbrush ($300)
- Best rotary: Rotadent ProCare Rotary Toothbrush ($125)
- Best Bluetooth-connected: Oral-B Pro 7000 Smart Series Toothbrush ($130)
- Best for sensitive gums: Nano Toothbrush Pack ($7)
- Best eco-friendly: Nudoku Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush Pack ($7)
- Best for travel: Patelai Travel Toothbrush Pack ($9)
- Best for small spaces: Mode Electric Toothbrush ($165)
- Best for kids: Nimby Toothbrush Pack ($19)
With a soft-bristled toothbrush, you get the benefit of a quality clean when the right brushing technique is performed, without the possible negative consequences of gum damage or enamel wear. “The medium and hard toothbrushes do have their own uses but are best saved for brushing dentures, flippers, or Invisalign clear aligners,” says Marina Gonchar, DMD, orthodontist and founder of Skin to Smile in Morristown, New Jersey.
Shop these dentist-approved picks for a soft toothbrush that'll definitely leave you smiling.
The 11 best soft toothbrushes, according to experts
Out of all the dentists we interviewed for this story, the Oral-B iO Series 9 was constantly recommended over and over again—and it’s easy to see why. Sure, it’s pricey, but it just may be the only toothbrush that you ever need (seriously.)
Not only does this brush provide top-of-the-line power, but it also has an app to provide feedback on your brush skills, plus a built-in pressure sensor that warns you if you’re brushing too hard, helping you minimize the chances of damaging your gums, explains Jared Helfant, DDS, clinical director at Dental Team of Florida. “With a built-in timer and a sleek metal silhouette, this brush rotates side to side instead of vibrating making it much quieter than other toothbrushes,” he adds.
For a soft, affordable electric option that won’t drain your wallet, get the Colgate Hum Smart Rhythm. Featuring floss-tip bristles, the head gets gunk out without cutting up your gums or harming soft tissue. Click the button and enjoy 30,000 sonic vibrations per minute—it also syncs with an app so you can get real-time feedback on how your brushing, while the built-in timer tells you when to stop or switch positions.
If you prefer a a manual toothbrush, Tina Saw, DDS, dentist at Elevated Smiles in Carlsbad, California, recommends this brand, which sells a high-quality pack of five soft-bristle toothbrushes for less than $20. They’re about as soft as they come and use Microfine Technology which features multiple heights of bristles to help you brush hard-to-reach areas and efficiently remove plaque. The brush head is a little smaller than most, so it’s compact and great for travel.
Albeit pricey, this is the highest-end model that Phillips sells for their line of electric toothbrushes—and its fancy. It even comes with a leather travel case that doubles as a charging dock. “It is a smart brush, and will offer coaching and guidance through an app that connects via Bluetooth,” says Dr. Helfant. “It has a Sense IQ feature, which constantly monitors your brushing and changes the intensity if you’re brushing too hard- rather than just warning you.” The colors are luxe, too. Choose from a metallic champagne or midnight gray.
A rotary toothbrush is simply defined by its round shape. It moves around in a circular motion to help remove plaque and debris and can come in soft or hard bristles. Mahnaz Rashti, DDS, Beverly Hills-based periodontist, recommends this rotary toothbrush to all her patients. “Throughout all my years as a periodontist, this brush has shown the best results among all my patients,” she says. “It is rather inexpensive compared to the other electric toothbrushes on the market, but quite honestly, it outperforms them all.”
Another Oral-B electric toothbrush had to make the list all thanks to its impressive technology and fine brushing precision. “This brush gives more power then a lot of the electric toothbrushes on the market,” says Dr. Helfant. As with the iO Series, this one also has an app that can track your brushing habits over time and provide you with helpful oral care tips along with 6 modes and a timer. Another plus: It’s compatible with every brush head that Oral-B makes, so if your roommate or significant other shares the same overall brand, you can split the cost of replacement heads.
Best for sensitive gums
These ultra-soft toothbrushes are designed in an ergonomic fashion so that they are super gentle on the gums while still providing adequate dental hygiene. They have more than 1,000 bristles each, which provides that deep cleanse without you having to scrub too hard. They’re safe for dentures and ideal for people with ultra-sensitive gums.
Made entirely from bamboo, these biodegradable toothbrushes are 100 percent natural and leave the tiniest carbon footprint when compared to regular toothbrushes. They are made from high-quality nylon and formulated without harmful chemicals like BPA. You can recycle them when you’re done and feel rest assured that you’re not only cleaning your teeth, but doing your fair share for the environment.
Best for travel
This pack of four travel toothbrushes all feature soft brush heads. They fold up really small, making them ideal for travel. The bottom of each toothbrush has two ventilated holes that can let water out and prevent moisture and bacteria buildup. The brand often has stellar deals, so keep an eye on for discounts!
For apartment dwellers and bathroom sharers, Mode’s wireless electric toothbrush will save you precious counter space. It uses a magnetic dock that plugs directly into outlets, so keeping wires off your sink or countertop and out of the way. It’s so convenient, and is also so soft, made with soft, tapered bristles that get in every nook and cranny without roughing up your mouth. Buy it once for $165, or subscribe for $150 and get a new head delivered to your door every three months for just $10.
Nimby from Nimbus Dental manufactures an excellent kids toothbrush, according to Dr. Gonchar. “The design is perfect for kids with a large, easy to grip handle and most importantly two-level microfine bristles on a small brush head to allow for the best plaque removal while ensuring gum and tooth protection,” she says.
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