Carly looking at her results with Bupa Dental Care Gloucester Road

How to choose the right toothbrush and toothpaste

With so many toothbrush and toothpaste options available, it can be difficult to know which are best for you. We’ve put together some top tips to help you make your selection, including guidance from one of our dentists, Steven Atwell.

Choosing your toothbrush

When it comes to picking your toothbrush, a variety of bristle and brush head options are available, and you can opt for manual or electric.

Bristle options

Unless your dentist has advised otherwise, we recommend opting for a soft-bristled toothbrush. Soft bristles are gentle on your gums and enamel, while medium and hard bristles could damage these areas, leading to sensitivity. There’s a myth that harder bristles can remove more plaque, however, this isn’t true, as plaque is soft and can easily be removed from tooth surfaces.

For further mouth protection, we’d recommend choosing bristles with round ends; to reach gaps between teeth, a combination of short and longer bristles is best.

Brush size

For cleaning and reaching all areas, a small-headed toothbrush is the most effective option. The handle of the brush should also be long enough to comfortably hold.

Manual or electric?

If you brush correctly, twice a day, it doesn’t matter which type of brush you choose. Although, an electric brush may be best if you tend to brush harshly, have limited mobility, or if your dentist has advised improving the quality of your brushing.

Speaking about choosing an electric toothbrush, Bupa Dental Care dentist, Steven Attwell said, “I’d recommend looking for a model from a reputable manufacturer, rather than merely plumping for the most expensive option.

“Pricier electric toothbrushes tend to boast fancy features, such as Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone app, but these are ‘nice to have’, rather than essential. The important thing is to choose a model that will effectively clean plaque, bacteria and debris from your teeth and gums.”

Steven recommended two features which most electric toothbrushes currently offer as standard: Quadrant timers and pressure sensors. Explaining about electric toothbrush features, Steven said, “Choose a toothbrush with a built-in quadrant timer, which flashes every 30 seconds when it’s time to move onto the next quarter of your mouth. It should also have a pressure sensor, which flashes or buzzes if you’re brushing too vigorously. Brushing harder won’t remove more plaque and can, in fact, damage your teeth and irritate your gums.”

Family brushing teeth at sink

Children’s toothbrushes

For children, select a child-sized brush that’s suitable for their age – which you can find on the packaging. As with adult teeth, we’d recommend choosing bristles with rounded ends and a combination of shorter and longer bristles. If you’re struggling to choose a toothbrush, speak to your dentist. They’ll be happy to advise you.

Choosing your toothpaste:


It’s essential that your toothpaste contains fluoride, and the right amount of it. A naturally occurring mineral, fluoride helps protect the enamel, and your teeth from decay. According to the NHS, adults should use toothpaste containing 1,350-1,500ppm of fluoride1. To check the amount, look at the parts per million (ppm) of fluoride on the packaging.

Whitening toothpastes

If you’d like to keep your smile bright, you could opt for whitening toothpaste. Containing stain-removing ingredients, whitening toothpastes can remove staining from food and drink. However, they aren’t as effective as whitening treatment provided by a dentist. While they can remove surface stains, most don’t remove stains under the tooth enamel (the protective layer over teeth).

It’s important to check if whitening toothpastes are for daily use and follow the instructions provided. Many whitening toothpastes are abrasive, and if overused, could gradually wear away the enamel. This not only causes tooth sensitivity but could make teeth more yellow long-term - when the enamel is thinned, there’s more show-through of dentine (the tissue that sits below the enamel), which is yellow in nature. Charcoal toothpaste has become a teeth whitening trend, but it’s a myth that it can replace your regular toothpaste. It typically doesn’t contain fluoride and is too abrasive for daily use.

Desensitising toothpaste

If you have sensitive teeth or gums, desensitising toothpaste is specifically designed to provide relief. It includes active ingredients which block pain signals travelling between the tooth surface and sensory nerves inside it.

Tooth sensitivity can occur due to several reasons, from receding gums, to cracked teeth and tooth decay. So, if you experience sensitivity, it’s also important to see your dentist, who can examine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Children’s toothpaste

For children’s toothpaste, we recommend toothpaste which has been specifically designed for children. These typically contain fluoride, which is essential for helping prevent tooth decay.

And it’s important it contains the right amount of fluoride, which depends on a child’s age. The NHS provides the following guidance:

• Children age six or younger should use toothpaste containing at least 1,000ppm of fluoride, or family toothpaste with between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm.

• Children age seven and over should use family toothpaste with between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm2.

Toothbrushes and toothpastes for dentures, braces and veneers

If you have dentures, it’s important to use denture-specific products including brushes and cleansers. Speak with your dentist for advice. Although, you still need to brush your natural teeth, tongue and gums with a fluoride toothpaste, as per our guidance above.

To care for veneers, we recommend choosing a toothpaste that does not contain too many abrasive ingredients. The gel should contain fluoride to help protect the underlying natural tooth from decay. Speak to your dentist for advice. For brushing veneers, we’d recommend using a soft-bristled electric or manual toothbrush, as hard or medium bristles could cause damage.

If you have fixed braces, we recommend using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, with round ends and varying bristle lengths. To clean between the brackets, you’ll need to use an interdental brush. Your dentist should advise suitable products, including toothbrushes, toothpaste and interdental brushes designed for brace wearers, as well as mouthwash for hard-to-reach areas.

Speak to your dentist for advice

For further advice, speak with your dentist, who can provide recommendations based on your needs. And don’t forgot, your toothpaste and toothbrush aren’t the only parts of an oral health routine. It’s important to floss daily and see your dentist for regular check-ups.

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Bupa Dental Care is a trading name of Oasis Dental Care Limited. Registered in England and Wales No: 00478127. Registered office: Bupa Dental Care, Vantage Office Park, Old Gloucester Road, Hambrook, Bristol, United Kingdom BS16 1GW.

Oasis Dental Care Limited has a number of trading names including Bupa Dental Care. For a list of all our different trading names please follow this link.

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