“It feels like my teeth are wearing sweaters” is a thing I’ve been saying to people for ages. A few years ago, my teeth became so sensitive to refined sugar that after just one bite of an almond croissant they’d don what felt like Shetland-wool turtlenecks. It sounds cute, but the sensation of your teeth being swaddled in a thick outer layer is gross — especially when that outer layer is actually gunk, and when it happens multiple times a day. In an attempt to remedy this, I bought the most rugged toothbrushes I could find (Colgate’s “Extra Clean Full Head FIRM” brushes, which I always thought sounded vaguely pornographic, thus heightening the dirtiness I felt about my whole oral situation). They kept that sweater feeling at bay, but I needed to use them three times a day. When I finally told my dentist about my predicament and chosen solution, he broke some bad news. “You’re scrubbing off your enamel with abrasive brushing, which is why your teeth are becoming more sensitive,” he said. “And your gums are receding.”
He put me on a strict soft-bristle-brush regimen that, while better for my enamel, increased my brushing to an average of six times a day (in addition to flossing at least twice). Whenever I indulged in a co-worker’s birthday cupcakes, I’d scurry off to the bathroom moments later, toothbrush in tow; if someone suggested dessert at dinner, I’d pray the restaurant’s bathroom had especially sturdy paper towels that I could fashion into a makeshift finger brush. But a few months ago, when a pack of soft-bristle brushes arrived at my doorstep, compliments of my boyfriend’s dad, Tom, I discovered one that actually helped reduce my six-times-a-day habit. Like me, Tom had recently had the soft-brush conversation with his dentist, and he found himself underwhelmed with the options. Then, on a visit to Earth Fare (a crunchy Asheville-based health-food store near his home in Charlotte), he saw these brushes, which he said reminded him of little hairbrushes with bristles made out of horsehair that he had as a kid. The first time he used the toothbrush, he told me, it felt amazing: “It was soft on my gums, but the bristles wrapped around my teeth.”
My first time brushing with one of Doctor Plotka’s Mouthwatchers (whose website notes their namesake creator’s 40 years of dental work in the Boston area) was more or less exactly as Tom described. The toothbrush’s “two-tiered revolutionary flossing bristles” — a fancy way of saying some bristles are longer than others — really did envelop my teeth. And although I wouldn’t suggest using this toothbrush as a substitute for daily flossing, I think a big reason it helps my teeth stay sweater-less for longer is because those bristles 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).
The toothbrush’s superior cleaning ability, according to the brand, is also partly thanks to its “proprietary silver bristle technology,” which purportedly eliminates 99.9 percent of bacteria that gather on the brush in a six-hour period. For my particular issue, this benefit is likely secondary, though it makes sense that scrubbing a dirty mouth with a dirty toothbrush might not clean it as well, since you’re basically swapping bacteria back and forth and rinsing. Whether it’s the longer bristles, the silver bristles, or both, the most important thing is that since I started using the Mouthwatchers, I’m back to brushing just twice a day — except for when I get particularly into a bag of candy (then it’s more like three). Still, I’m very happy to have my teeth sweaters in storage for the foreseeable future.
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