Though we all learned how to brush our teeth as kids (and have presumably been doing it twice a day, every day, ever since), there’s so much more to know about caring for your teeth — especially as the number of products that claim to clean, whiten, or straighten your teeth grows. You may have asked yourself many of these questions, maybe even while brushing your teeth or swishing mouthwash, like: Should I finally make a switch to an electric toothbrush? What is a water pick, and is it better for my gums than dental floss? Is tooth jewelry a good idea? (And, while we’re at it, how do I brush my dog’s teeth?)
To answer these questions about oral hygiene, and many more, this week, we’re taking a deep dive into everything you need to take better care of your teeth (and gums and tongue), from dental floss and fluoride-free toothpaste to toothpicks and tongue scrapers. Welcome to Teeth Week at the Strategist.
Though writer Hilary Reid admits to being electric-toothbrush-averse, she tested six toothbrushes from direct-to-consumer brands including Goby and Bruush. She thought the vibration of the Quip was a little strong but would recommend it as a good “lightweight electric toothbrush, one to bring on a trip, or even one to just freshen up with after work.”
Though she describes this futuristic, self-cleaning toothbrush as decidedly fugly, “designed to look like a space station — cool if you’re a fifth-grader, maybe? — complete with an unsubtle, Star Trek–y celestial logo on the front,” Rachel Rosenbilt swears by the Aura Sonic Toothbrush System to keep her teeth clean. She says, “The 40,000-stroke-per-minute sonic contraption leaves my teeth and gums feeling so satisfyingly, professionally clean, I actually skipped a couple dental appointments (don’t judge).”
With over 6,000 reviews, this Oral-B electric toothbrush is the one we’ve deemed best reviewed on Amazon. “This toothbrush leaves my teeth feeling like they’ve been power-washed,” one satisfied reviewer writes. However, if you’re looking for something that’s less expensive or got a more niche function, we found nine other highly reviewed electric toothbrushes on Amazon.
We talked with dentists to get their picks for the best electric toothbrushes, and dentist Jonathan Levine recommended this Arm and Hammer option for those seeking a less-expensive but effective electric toothbrush. He calls it “a good starting point, good for travel, and better than manual.”
This manual toothbrush with silver bristles, according to writer Frances Dodds, can “whisk away the early formations of plaque in deep crevices that a regular toothbrush can’t reach, and from surfaces that floss wouldn’t reach either (unless you’re doing a heavy-duty, reach-every-angle floss job).”
If you’ve ever wondered what toothbrushes the Strategist’s editors use to keep their teeth clean, morning and night, we’ve got the answer. Some go for functional, electric toothbrushes, like the Quip or Philips Sonicare, but associate editor Katy Schneider admits, “I use these Swiss Curaprox toothbrushes because I love they way they look.”
Dentists recommend that you start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as their first tooth erupts, which means you’ll want a good baby toothbrush — like this one with a small head and soft bristles.
Once you have the right toothbrush, you’ll probably want a toothbrush holder. We found some well-reviewed options on Amazon, including this stylish stainless-steel one from OXO that also has a lid to keep bristles away from bathroom germs.
If you’re looking for a natural toothpaste that can whiten, is flavored with mint from the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and is cruelty-free, the toothpaste from Hello should fit the bill. But we also asked dentists about some other fluoride-free natural options.
Jen Doll describes Opalescence whitening toothpaste as the “blingiest tube I’ve ever seen,” and claims it helps keep her teeth shining, too. “Unlike traditional whitening toothpastes that use peroxide, Opalescence removes surface stains (up to two shades in a month) by scrubbing them away with silica. But — and this is key — it’s not so abrasive that you can’t use it every day,” she explains.”
The packaging of this bright-pink toothpaste “makes it look like something a cheerful WWI-era nurse would have in her supply kit” and the flavor, according to Angela Serratore, has “something pleasingly herbal medicine–y about it: Fernet Branca spiked with the most delicate whisper of spearmint.” But it turns out Euthymol toothpaste has a veritable cult following and is a fancy European toothpaste that’s more unique than Marvis.
This fluoride-free, red toothpaste from Weleda “evokes the aftertaste I imagine one would get after chewing on some mint leaves,” writes Margaret Rhodes, but the reason she switched to it was to get clear skin, after suffering from likely fluoride-caused rash on her chin. “After a couple weeks of almost au natural brushing, my skin cleared up. I don’t fully understand how — after all, it’s not like you put toothpaste on your face — but for a perioral-dermatitis-free, antibiotic-free existence, I don’t need to.”
With over 1,000 reviews, this fluoride-free toothpaste from Jason is our pick for the best-rated, less-expensive toothpaste on Amazon. The mint-vanilla flavor is divisive but, according to one reviewer, “It took me back to being a kid when I looked forward to brushing my teeth because of the awesome flavors they had.”
If you’re looking for a good baby toothpaste, you do want a formula that’s full of fluoride, to help fight cavities. Four dentists we spoke with specifically recommended this toothpaste from Tom’s of Maine because it’s got a mild flavor and is ADA-approved and preservative-free — in addition to being formulated with fluoride. But if strawberry isn’t your kid’s favorite flavor, there are plenty of other picks.
Since alcoholic mouthwash can unintentionally worsen bad breath, dentist Alan MacDavid recommends alcohol-free mouthwash options that contain the bacteria-killing compound CPC, like Colgate Enamel Health Mouthwash. (Nora O’Malley, owner and beverage director at Lois wine bar, also recommends it for wine-stain prevention.) However, if you’re looking for an alcohol-free mouthwash that does a little something extra, ask dentists to share some other options.
Best water flossers, toothpicks and dental floss
On a hunt to figure out if water flossers actually work, writer Liza Corsillo talked with 16 dentists and dental hygienists. Thirteen of them recommended the Waterpik. Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, an orthodontist at New York’s Dr. Smiles, says, “this product switches from brushing to flossing to both, and it removes the harmful bacteria and debris deep between teeth and below the gum line that traditional brushing and dental floss can’t reach.”
There are many dentist-approved flossing alternatives for the floss-phobic among us, but Elizabeth Gumport swears by these Stim-U-Dent Plaque Removers. These tiny wooden sticks gently remove plaque and massage your gums, she explains: “The wood is soft, and somehow feels gentler than nylon string, and the whole process is more straightforward. There’s no wrapping anything around your fingers or sliding back and forth — just a little back-and-forth motion and you’re done.” (The design is so good, in fact, there’s a pack of them in the Smithsonian.)
Self-proclaimed toothpick enthusiast (and Strategist columnist) Chris Black never leaves the house without his minty toothpicks from Tea Tree Therapy. These birchwood toothpicks are the only thing that has helped curb his lifelong nail-biting habit. Plus, he notes, “the tea-tree oil’s natural antiseptic qualities provide fresh breath while killing bacteria.”
Daniel Pembrey’s dentist recommended these “tiny bristle-covered rods called interdental brushes, which, despite sounding kind of like a medieval torture device” are a more comfortable alternative to flossing. (Designer, photographer, and collector Jean Pigozzi is also a fan of these little picks.)
Best stain-preventing and teeth-whitening products
Curious about Kendall Jenner’s tooth-whitening pen, Gabriella Fuller put it to the test (along with the other products from the Jenner-backed Moon oral-care line) and found it to be kind to sensitive teeth: “Where Crest Whitestrips are too painful for me to use, the pen is perfectly gentle, and the vanilla-mint flavor isn’t bad.”
“After a few consecutive days of brushing with powder then toothpaste, my teeth appeared to go from a coffee-stained beige to a shinier ivory,” writes Robin Reetz about this whitening powder, made with charcoal and bentonite clay. “And after repeating this routine every day for two weeks, all remnants of that beige color were gone, and a co-worker actually complimented me on how white my teeth looked.”
If you’ve ever wanted a “Tide pen for your teeth,” Dr. Victoria Veytsman, of Cosmetic Dental Studios, recommends this Philips Sonicare Zoom Whitening Touch-up Pen. “You can literally click it a few times and paint on teeth. This will help keep stains from settling in,” which is especially handy when you’re drinking a lot of red wine. If whitening isn’t your thing, we asked prodigious wine drinkers and dentists to share some of their other ways to get rid of and prevent red wine stains on your teeth.
“I see results that are almost as good with the Opalescence Go as I do with custom bleaching trays, and many times I tell patients to try the kit and save money,” says New York cosmetic dentist Edward A. Alvarez in this roundup of the best teeth-whitening products.
Other dental accessories
“If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of tongue cleaning, you can’t beat a metal tongue scraper like this one,” concludes Hilary Reid, after surveying dentists, dental hygienists, and otolaryngologists for recommendations on how to clean your tongue.
Crystal Martin is now a veteran wearer of invisible aligners, and she offers lots of tips to others dealing with clear aligners, like using one of these pouches to store her tray before eating at a restaurant: “I like the mesh because it gives the tray some air; I’ve found they don’t really dry when stored in a sealed plastic container, and that they can get stinky (like anything that’s wet and stored in an enclosed space).”
To help parents looking for some kind of relief for their teething baby, we talked with pediatricians, pediatric dentists, and baby-gear experts to find teethers and other things for teething babies that are both safe and effective — like the perennially popular Sophie La Girafe or this trompe l’oiel piece of kale.
Puppies can also teethe, and to find solutions to soothe these four-legged baby animals, we talked with vets and other dog experts about the best treats and toys for teething puppies. The most-recommended pick was bully sticks, which we call the “ultimate chew toy.”
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