What is a Firm Toothbrush?

Grayson Millar

A toothbrush is a small brush used for cleaning, or brushing, the teeth. The length of a toothbrush is essential for proper dental hygiene, as it allows the user to reach areas of his or her mouth that are difficult to access without its use. As opposed to a soft toothbrush, a firm toothbrush features stiff, resistant bristles that apply more pressure to the teeth and gums. Consequently, a firm toothbrush is often advised against by dental professionals owing to the abrasive potential of the harder bristles.

A firm toothbrush can damage the gums and enamel if not used correctly.
A firm toothbrush can damage the gums and enamel if not used correctly.

Most toothbrushes are composed of bristles grouped together that are positioned on a smaller extended portion of a longer, thicker handle. There are a wide variety of toothbrushes available that feature bristles of different levels of stiffness. Bristles also vary in terms of size, density, and purpose. Within a single toothbrush, two or more types of bristles may be positioned next to one another to utilize the capabilities of both.

Soft, not firm, bristles are recommended for most people.
Soft, not firm, bristles are recommended for most people.

A firm toothbrush has the stiffest, most resistant bristles, and the order of stiffness descends from firm to medium and to soft and extra soft. The strong, resistant bristles of a firm toothbrush may be abrasive, and regular use can cause damage to the sensitive gums and tooth enamel. As a result, most dentists recommend the use of toothbrushes with soft bristles. However, in certain cases use of a firm toothbrush may be suggested for those with strong tooth enamel and healthy gums or to temporarily aid in the cure of certain dental conditions. In general, a soft toothbrush is recommended by the majority of dentists unless they specifically suggest otherwise during consultation.

As with other grades of bristles, firm bristles are available in most of the varied types of toothbrushes produced. Widely manufactured disposable toothbrushes are ordinarily sold in models that feature each of the levels of bristle firmness: firm, medium, and soft, as well as extra soft in many cases. Higher grade rechargeable or electric toothbrushes will often provide a spectrum of changeable heads, which generally includes at least a few different bristle strengths. A battery-operated toothbrush, available widely in stores, is usually packaged with only one changeable head and consequently only one density of bristles. The manufacturers of these models, however, ordinarily produce replacement heads for purchase that allow users to switch between soft and firm bristles.

Higher grade electric toothbrushes provide heads with a variety of bristle types.
Higher grade electric toothbrushes provide heads with a variety of bristle types.

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Discussion Comments


@turquoise-- Actually, many people prefer firm toothbrushes. But maybe because dentists recommend soft brushes, many stores have stopped selling firm brushes or have them in limited stock.

I've also been using a firm toothbrush for a long time. I agree that it's not best for people with sensitive gums. I don't have sensitive gums, so firm works best for me. I feel like the bristles get into the creases between teeth better.

I wish stores started stocking them regularly again. Last month, I actually had to order a toothbrush online. I don't know why everyone is acting like no one uses firm toothbrushes.


@turquoise-- I can't use a firm toothbrush at all. I have sensitive teeth and gums and firm brushes irritate my mouth. I tried a firm toothbrush once. I was traveling and forgot my brush. The pharmacy I stopped at before reaching the hotel only had firm brushes remaining so I had to pick one up. The brush made my gums bleed and my teeth felt very sensitive afterward.

I went to a different pharmacy the next day and bought a soft brush.


Most people don't like firm toothbrushes but I've been using them for years. I've tried medium and soft brushes too but I don't feel that those clean as well. My teeth and mouth feel so much cleaner after using a firm toothbrush. It seems like firm bristles are much better at removing build-up on teeth.

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