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When it comes to using a manual toothbrush, a soft nylon brush tends to work best for most gum and teeth types. If you know your teeth and gums are more sensitive, you should look for a brush that is labeled as having extra soft bristles.

That being said, how you brush your teeth—and how often you brush them—has a larger impact on your oral health than the brush itself. With a manual toothbrush, you should always brush teeth in a circular motion with the bristles angled toward the gums, versus a motion where you scrub horizontally back and forth.

An electric toothbrush will almost always be more effective than a manual brush because the brushing motion and speed is quicker and more consistent. Budget-friendly electric toothbrushes can still be extremely effective—you don’t need all the bells and whistles to find an electric toothbrush that does the trick. If you have issues with dexterity, look for an electric brush with a smaller brush head, which may be easier to control. To brush with an electric toothbrush, glide the brush over all surface areas of your teeth, taking 30 seconds for each quadrant of your mouth. You don’t need to scrub along with the electric brush.

The only surefire way to remove bacteria and food from between your teeth is by scraping floss up and down between them. Traditional string floss is the most effective here. Water flossers shoot water between and around the teeth but don’t have the same mechanical action of scraping off bacteria. That said, it is better to use a water flosser than to skip flossing altogether. Water flossers can also be extremely useful for people with braces, bridges, or other orthodontia.

If the contacts, or spaces between your teeth, are tight together, you may want to opt for a wax floss as it’s slightly more lubricated than non-waxed floss.

Oral Care for Sensitive Teeth and Gums

Sensitive teeth and gums will burn or tingle after eating foods that are particularly cold or after using certain mouthwashes and toothpastes. Sensitive gums may be inflamed, swollen, or redder than usual. There are times when some moderate sensitivity is normal, like in the few seconds after rinsing out a mouthwash or flossing. But if that feeling extends for longer—like hours—or your gum tissue has a lingering soreness, you may be dealing with a more significant dental issue. If you ever experience extreme oral pain or discomfort, or if something with your teeth, tongue, or gums seems off for you, see a dentist immediately.

If your teeth are feeling sensitive, especially after being triggered by something like an at-home whitening treatment or a certain food or drink, rub a pea-size amount of sensitive toothpaste on your teeth before bed to help treat the sensitivity. You can do this nightly for 7 to 10 days. If you’re experiencing painful or uncomfortable prolonged sensitivity, see your dentist.

Ingredients to look for:

  1. Fluoride will help strengthen teeth and combat sensitivity. While anyone can benefit from fluoride, it’s especially helpful for people who are prone to cavities or are looking to prevent them. You can find both toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain fluoride.
  2. Potassium nitrate can help counteract sensitivity, especially when it’s included as an additive in whitening products.