Consumer Reports

Unlocking the Secrets to Cleaner, Healthier Teeth

Remember to brush for at least 2 minutes

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It’s something many of us dread: trips to the dentist. While regular office visits are important, there’s a lot you can do at home to make the clean-and-check a lot less annoying. But with so many options for brushes, flosses, and toothpaste, what to choose can be confusing. Consumer Reports reveals what really matters in unlocking the secrets to cleaner, healthier teeth.

You’ve heard the advice for years: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss. But when it comes to how to most effectively do that, it gets a bit more complicated. Manual or electric toothbrush? Soft or hard bristles? String or water flosser? And let’s not even get started on the unending options for toothpaste. What to choose?

A lot of the time the right choice really depends on what you like and what you’ll actually use. But some products and strategies do have clear advantages over others.

In the battle of manual vs. electric toothbrushes, research suggests that electric toothbrushes have a slight edge when it comes to cleaning away plaque. They can also be a great option if you have braces or dexterity limitations. Still, it’s possible to do a great job cleaning your teeth with a manual brush.

No matter which kind of toothbrush you choose, opt for one with soft bristles because hard ones are more likely to damage your gums and enamel.

In Consumer Reports' tests, the Oral-B iO 7 series got top scores for cleaning and battery performance.

Now for the toothpaste: Be sure to look for one that contains fluoride. If you want whitening toothpaste, the ADA Seal of Acceptance is a good sign that it won’t damage your enamel.

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And for people who hate flossing with string, will a water flosser get the job done? Water flossers like those made by Waterpik are good at removing food and other debris from your teeth, though they can’t quite match string floss when it comes to scraping away bacteria. Still, using a water flosser is much better than not flossing at all. So choose either and floss once a day.

And one last tip: Remember to brush for at least 2 minutes. It might surprise you, but the American Dental Association says most people brush for less than half of that time.

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