Most people know that brushing daily is important to maintain dental health, but what might come as a surprise is the fact that the toothbrush one uses can do damage to the gums and teeth if not used properly. An extra firm toothbrush, combined with a too-hard brushing motion, can wear away at the gumline and tooth enamel, causing mild to serious problems. To avoid such damage, one might consider changing his or her brushing motion and using an extra soft toothbrush, which is a brush with softer, gentler bristles that will not wear away at the gumline as quickly.
Most dentists recommend a soft or extra soft toothbrush anyway to avoid such problems. Because a person should brush his or her teeth twice a day, the steady motion against the tooth and gums must be gentle enough not to do damage but firm enough to clean the teeth and gums. An extra soft toothbrush can clean teeth and gums without damaging enamel or the gums. While some adults can still safely use a firm or medium toothbrush, an extra soft toothbrush is appropriate for most people, and especially for children, whose gums and teeth can be more sensitive to damage.
The point of an extra soft toothbrush — or any other toothbrush, for that matter — is to clean away plaque from the teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria that can be harmful to tooth enamel. Certain foods can cause plaque, as can sugary liquids. The plaque coats the tooth, and without proper brushing, it can eat away at tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. Plaque can also damage the gums, causing them to become red, irritated, or swollen. This can promote receding gumlines, tooth decay, and other serious problems in the mouth. Using an extra soft toothbrush will help clean plaque away from the gums without doing damage to the sensitive tissue.
Historically, toothbrushes were made of animal hairs, but today synthetic fibers are used. This allows the manufacturers to more accurately control the firmness of the bristles, and mass production is more easily accomplished. The extra soft toothbrush has come a long way since other teeth-cleaning methods throughout history, such as the very hard chewstick or the Islamic miswak. These versions of tooth-cleaning tools were basically just sticks that the user chewed on or used to pick objects from the teeth. These methods could be harsh on the mouth and teeth, whereas the extra soft toothbrush does the job without doing damage or causing discomfort.