Braces have been a go-to teeth-straightening treatment for decades, capable of delivering stunning smile transformations. But to be effective, they require careful cleaning—so choosing the right toothbrush is critical.
Manual or electric? What kind of bristles? There are a ton of options out there, but we’ve done the research to help you cut through the clutter and find the best brush for your braces treatment.
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Manual vs. Electric Toothbrushes
Some studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque and preventing gingivitis. However, with proper use, maintenance, and storage, manual and electric brushes are both effective—with or without braces.
Even though some electric toothbrushes can clean better, they’re also typically more expensive, with prices ranging from under $10 to around $300. However, the more expensive models often include features like multiple brushing modes, timers, pressure sensors, bluetooth connectivity, and mobile apps. Manual brushes don’t have any of that, but they’re still highly effective and easy to use.
Some studies and dentists recommend electric toothbrushes because they move faster than manual brushes, dislodging particles more easily. Plus, since they perform the brushing motion for you, it reduces the risk of human error.
The Best Electric Toothbrushes for Braces
If you’ve decided on an electric toothbrush, you’ve got an array of choices—each with its own price, features, and design. We’ve done the research for you and selected three of our favorite electric toothbrushes for braces.
Oral-B Smart 1500
Oral-B’s lineup of electric brushes is extensive, and their Smart 1500 offers an excellent balance of effectiveness and affordability. The CrossAction bristles and three simultaneous motions—oscillating, rotating, and pulsating—are great for reaching all the nooks where plaque can hide.
Plus, it has pressure sensors and three different modes, including one for sensitive teeth in case your mouth is a little sore after a tightening appointment. At $79.99, it’s not the cheapest option, but you get a lot for your money.
Phillips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100
The Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 boasts many of the same features as the Smart 1500, like pressure sensors and timers. It has fewer intensity options, and the brush head vibrates back and forth rather than rotating and oscillating.
However, it makes more brush actions per minute, which helps effectively but gently clean around braces. Plus, at a suggested retail price of $49.95, it’s slightly more affordable.
Waterpik Sonic-Fusion 2.0
Waterpik made their name on electric flossers that use a tiny water jet to clean between teeth. But with their Sonic-Fusion 2.0, they’ve paired that braces-friendly technology with the cleaning power of electric toothbrushes. The head moves like a Sonicare, but also includes a water jet that you can use to clean between your teeth while you brush.
It’s a highly convenient solution for anyone who doesn’t like the time and effort it takes to floss with braces. The downside is that it’s more expensive. You’ll often pay $150–$200.
The Best Manual Toothbrushes for Braces
As we already mentioned, manual toothbrushes can be effective too, especially if you get one that’s specially designed for people with braces. Here are a few of our favorite models.
Colgate designed the bristles on their Ortho toothbrush specifically to fit in all the tiny crevasses round your brackets and wires. They’re 17X narrower at the tips and trimmed in a U shape, so they better accommodate the shape of your braces. Plus, the brush head is smaller, making it easier to maneuver in tight spaces. They’re around the same price as a standard toothbrush, but you might have to ask your orthodontist to get one for you.
Oral-B CrossAction All In One
The CrossAction All In One isn’t designed specifically for braces, but it is designed to clean hard-to-reach places between and around your teeth. The criss-crossing bristles attack plaque from multiple angles, and the extra-long bristles at the tip are ideal for reaching around brackets and wires.
This brush is fairly inexpensive and widely accessible—you can get them pretty much any place that sells toothbrushes.
Y-Kelin V-Shaped Orthodontic Toothbrush
Y-Kelin is a Chinese manufacturer, so the name might not sound familiar, but they’ve designed their V-Shaped Orthodontic Toothbrush with braces in mind.
Similar to the Colgate Ortho’s U-shaped bristles, this brush’s bristles form a V shape, so they can access the tiny spaces around the brackets without catching on them. You can’t get these at a pharmacy or big box store, but they’re pretty available online.
Dental Aesthetics Orthodontic Toothbrush
Not only does this brush have V-shaped bristles like other braces-specific brushes, it also has an interproximal brush on the opposite end, which makes it easy to get between teeth, behind wires, and in other difficult spots. Your orthodontist might provide a similar brush when you get your braces—otherwise, you can find them online.
How to Choose Your Toothbrush
First, you’ll have to decide if you want a manual or an electric brush. Electric brushes might be slightly more effective, but either can clean braces effectively, so it’s ultimately a matter of personal preference. Here are a few things that might help you decide.
Size and Shape
You’re going to use this toothbrush every day, twice a day, so you want one that’s comfortable and fits your mouth well. People with small mouths may opt for a compact brush head, while people with larger mouths may go for a full-sized head. Some adults even like using youth-sized toothbrushes. It all depends on your particular preferences.
This really only applies if you want an electric toothbrush. You’ve got two main options: oscillating and sonic. The heads of oscillating brushes are small and round. They rotate and sometimes pulsate in and out against each tooth. Sonic brushes look more like a manual toothbrush head, and they vibrate back and forth. Sonic models make more brush actions per minute, so some dentists prefer them, but either kind can effectively dislodge and remove plaque.
Brush bristles come in soft, medium, and hard stiffness. Hard bristles might seem tempting if you think they’ll last longer or provide a better clean, but dentists actually recommend soft bristles for most people.
That’s because hard bristles can wear down your enamel, especially if you brush too hard. Ask your dentist for advice if you’re unsure, but you should be good to go with a soft-bristled brush.
Some electric toothbrushes have different modes that tailor the brush motions for sensitive teeth, deep cleaning, gum care, tongue cleaning, and more. Others have pressure sensors that tell you if you’re pressing too hard into your teeth or timers to ensure that you hit the full two minutes for each session.
Some models even have bluetooth connectivity and a mobile app that lets you track your brushing and see the teeth or sections you didn’t spend enough time on. Think about the features you’d find most useful before making your purchase.
Manual toothbrushes are almost always going to be more affordable than electric ones, although there are some budget-friendly electric models. It’s rare that you’ll see a manual brush for more than $10, while electric brushes can cost anywhere from around $10 to $300.
How to Clean Your Teeth With Braces
Brushing your teeth with braces is more complicated than brushing without them, but some of the same principles apply. You should brush for two minutes, twice per day, and floss once per day either way. However, you might want to brush after every meal instead, just to make sure you don’t have food stuck in your braces.
Flossing can be particularly difficult, since you can’t simply slide the floss between your teeth. To make it easier, you can use threaders to help get the floss underneath your wires or invest in a waterpik. It will probably take slightly longer than your typical flossing routine, but it’s essential for getting food particles out of hard-to-reach spots.
Braces’ brackets and wires give plaque more places to stick, so after you floss, you’ll have to brush around them carefully, hitting them from every angle. If you have elastics, remove them before you start and set them aside. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and move it back and forth over the front, back, and chewing surfaces of your teeth, spending 30 seconds on each quadrant of your mouth. Scrub each bracket, but do it gently, since brushing too hard can erode your enamel.
If you have an electric toothbrush, you can follow most of the same steps. However, since the brush head moves for you, just let it do the work and move the brush over each surface of your teeth and braces.
Part of cleaning your teeth during braces treatment is avoiding foods that can damage your brackets or wires. That includes crunchy foods like nuts and popcorn, sticky foods like caramel and gummies, plus chewy foods like bagels and beef jerky. Also, avoid using the teeth with braces to bite into hard fruits and vegetables.
Even though braces can make brushing a little more complicated, they’re crucial to your overall oral health, and you can still maintain dazzlingly clean teeth while wearing them. It’s just a matter of having diligence, discipline, and the right tools.
After you’ve chosen your ideal toothbrush, you’ll be well on your way to a clean, healthy, perfectly straight smile.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are electric toothbrushes better than manual ones?
Certain studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are better than manual ones at eliminating plaque and reducing gingivitis. But that doesn’t mean manual brushes are ineffective. As long as you use them the right way, keep them clean, and brush regularly, either type of toothbrush can help you achieve excellent oral hygiene.
Can I brush normally with braces?
Pretty much. If you have elastics, remove them beforehand, then brush gently on all surfaces of the tooth, just like you would without braces. You might just need to be slightly more diligent in dislodging any food particles that might be stuck in your brackets.
Can electric toothbrushes damage braces?
No. If you’re following the toothbrush’s directions, brushing gently, and using the correct bristle firmness (soft for most people), an electric toothbrush shouldn’t damage your braces.
How do I choose the right toothbrush?
Your budget is an important factor, since electric toothbrushes can range from $10 to around $300, and manual ones are much less expensive. But you should also consider the size of the head and bristle firmness as well, since comfort is key and using the wrong bristle type can harm your enamel.
If you want an electric toothbrush, think about which brushing motion—rotation or back-and-forth—is more comfortable for you, as well as the features you want. Some have multiple brushing modes and some have a pressure sensor that warns you if you’re brushing too hard. If you’re struggling to decide, you can always ask your dentist or orthodontist for their recommendation.
Is it better to have hard or soft bristles?
Dental professionals recommend soft-bristled toothbrushes for most people. Medium and hard bristles are great for removing plaque and food particles, but they can also harm the enamel or gums, especially if you brush too hard. Soft bristles still give you an excellent clean, without the added risk. Ask your dentist if you’re unsure which is the best option for you.
How often should I replace my toothbrush?
Manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads typically last around 3–4 months. However, look for damaged or frayed bristles, a bad smell, or an unclean feeling on your teeth after brushing as signs that you need a new brush. You should also replace your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head after being sick, or if someone else uses it.
Where should I keep my toothbrush?
Whenever you’re not using your toothbrush, store it in an upright toothbrush holder away from other brushes. Place your holder out in the open, where it can air dry, and away from the toilet if possible.
How should I clean my toothbrush?
Rinsing it thoroughly with hot water and rubbing the bristles with your thumb after each cleaning, then letting it air dry, is effective for most people. But if you want to take it even further, you can use antiseptic mouthwash, denture cleaner, UV sanitizers, or a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Follow the directions carefully with any cleaner, and don’t soak it for longer than 15 minutes in mouthwash or the peroxide solution.