A toothbrush is not a complicated tool. The most important thing you can learn about it is how to use it properly. That said, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different parts of the essential tools in your life. And your toothbrush is no exception.
“You know, I have a friend who works at the crime lab at the police station. I could give him your toothbrush and he could run a test on it to see if you actually brushed your teeth or just ran your toothbrush under the faucet.” – John Candy, Uncle Buck
You don’t have to be a forensic toothbrush analyst to benefit from some background knowledge. What are these parts called? What are toothbrushes made of? In this article, you’ll learn all about the anatomy of a toothbrush and the importance of each element.
The section of the toothbrush with the most real estate is the handle. What are toothbrush handles made of? Throughout history, they’ve been made of materials like bone, wood, and ivory. These days, toothbrush manufacturers typically use durable plastic. While innovative pioneers work on more environmentally-friendly options, plastic still remains the winner due to its resistance to bacterial growth, a major health issue in modern bathrooms (more on that below).
The handle is the part you grasp in your hand to do your brushing. Consider how it feels in your hand when selecting a toothbrush. It should enable a secure and comfortable grasp. You will often see a rubber grip about halfway up the toothbrush handle.
The grip is a common feature on modern toothbrushes, though many of us remember plain old plastic ones with no rubber segment. These grips often have patterns cut into them to make it easier to control your brush while brushing. You might be thinking, so what? What’s the big deal about a grip?
Quite a bit of design goes into this part of the toothbrush. Grips come in many sizes and ridge patterns to make it easier for people to hold and maneuver the brush. You can even get separate grips to add to your toothbrush if you’re not happy with the one you have. Companies design some of these specifically for people with arthritis and other dexterity challenges. People with thin gum tissue may need to hold the brush with only two fingers, rather than a full grip. That’s a case where the grip may be particularly important.
The neck of your toothbrush is the narrow portion linking the handle to the head. Since this portion is so close to the head of the brush, disinfecting it is crucial. The neck will end up in your mouth much of the time, especially when brushing your back teeth and tongue. Some toothbrush neck features allow easier access to the harder-to-reach rear teeth. These necks are longer and may have unique angles and curves to them.
Not to take anything away from the other parts of the toothbrush, but most people would consider the head the most important. It’s where the action happens. The brush head can come in different shapes and sizes, so select the one that fits your mouth and teeth best. The head is the part you want to focus on most when cleaning and disinfecting your toothbrush.
Adult toothbrush heads are, on average, about a half inch wide and one inch tall. If you decide to go with a smaller than average brush head to better reach certain areas, be sure it has enough bristle coverage for your needs.
The most prominent feature of the toothbrush head is the set of bristles.
What are toothbrush bristles made of? Believe it or not, some of the earliest known toothbrushes were made of hog hair. This practice dates back over 500 years in China, yet you can still buy pig-hair toothbrushes today. But most people are perfectly happy with their nylon bristles, first introduced by Dupont in 1938.
There have since been tremendous advancements in finding that balance between something soft and comfortable, yet rigid enough to get the job done. You can choose a toothbrush with either soft, medium, or hard bristles. Take into consideration the way you brush when making your decision. If you put a lot of pressure on your teeth and gums with the brush, you’ll want to steer toward softer bristles. Someone who brushes very lightly may prefer harder bristles.
You may have wondered, what is the back part of the toothbrush for? This often-overlooked feature of many toothbrushes is right on the backside of the head. Keep in mind that not all toothbrushes have these. Some just have a smooth surface, but many modern toothbrushes come standard with this feature. The idea is to be a convenient way to allow you to scrape your tongue without having to buy a separate u-shaped or v-shaped tongue scraper.
Where is the tongue scraper on a toothbrush?
While looking straight at your toothbrush bristles, flip your brush over. You should see the tongue scraper. We mention this lastly because it’s typically the last thing you do when brushing your teeth. That does not mean it’s any less important, though. Using the toothbrush bristles and then the tongue scraper on your tongue is an effective way to ensure fresh breath. Do it for the people you’re closest to throughout the day. They’ll appreciate it!
There you have it, the various parts of a toothbrush. Now you have a better understanding of that amazing little device that does so much for our health. The more you know about the tools you use, the more proficient you can be with them. The next time you pick up your toothbrush, take a moment to notice the details. Do the handle and grip feel comfortable in your hand? What’s the condition of the bristles? How often have you been using the tongue scraper?
And don’t forget: When was the last time you replaced your toothbrush? It may be past due to replace it. Dentists often recommend replacing your toothbrush every 3 months to ensure that it’s cleaning properly.
Your bathroom is one of the dirtiest spots in your house, and hot showers make it a breeding ground for germs and bacteria on your toothbrush. In between your quarterly toothbrush swap, it’s a good idea to sterilize it after every use with a UV-C light like the one inside Bril. To find out how to protect your health from these threats, check out Bril’s Why You Should Sterilize Your Toothbrush.
- American Dental Association. 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush.
- Canzoneri Dentistry. Toothbrush Handles… Does it Matter?
- Higuera, Valencia and Tim Jewell. The 9 Dirtiest Spots in Your Home.
- Journal of the American Dental Association. Volume 138: Issue 9; September 2007. A Look at Toothbrushes.
- Library of Congress. Who Invented the Toothbrush and When Was it Invented?
- Nemeth, Joseph R. How to Properly Brush Your Teeth (The RIGHT Way!)
- Northstar Family Dentistry. What’s Your Toothbrush Made Of?
- Smithsonian Magazine. You Can Still Buy Pig-Hair Toothbrushes.
- Walbridge Dental. Choosing a Toothbrush Type.