There's a dizzying amount of science to keep up with when you're a parent, and now you can add the weighing the benefits of silicone toothbrushes to the list. But are silicone toothbrushes worth the hype? And more importantly, are they worthy of your child's pearly whites, or yours? Here's what some top dentists have to say.
First off, the new silicone toothbrushes are in fact too new for much research to shed light on their efficacy. Since silicone provides for universally soft bristles, the one quality dentists unquestionably recommend for teeth, their novelty doesn't necessarily count as a strike against them, though. "The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) does not have a specific recommendation for the different types of toothbrushes for children, aside from a soft-bristled brush," says AAPD president Dr. Joe Castellano of Castellano & Carpenter Dental Associates in Laredo, Texas. "There needs to be more in-depth research done, but at this point they [the silicone brushes] do seem to be as effective as traditional brushes."
Beyond this official position, there are more than a few benefits that silicone definitively brings to the table, even in the early going: "Silicone brushes seem to be as effective in removing plaque as nylon toothbrushes, and may be a little easier on the gums, especially in those who have a tendency to brush with a lot of force," says Dr. Susan Tavana, AAPD National Spokesperson and President of the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, who practices out of the offices of Dr. Greg Rabitz in Willow Glen and Los Gatos, California.
With silicone, you can start kids in on the brushing habit earlier, with fun and adaptable styles like those from The Brushies, below. Their adorbs set of four finger puppet-like silicone brushes is intended for the littlest among us and comes with a read-along book to incentivize your kids. These are designed to help in massaging infants' gums while teething as well, and while this may sound a little odd, pet parents will be familiar with the design from brushing fur babies' teeth — unsurprisingly, it translates quite well to squirmy human little ones!
Also beneficial for the youngest among us, who'll be faced with the consequences of climate change, Dr. Tavana also appreciates the earth-friendly angle of these new tools: Silicone is much more durable than nylon, so these brushes will by default last longer than the traditional toothbrush, not piling up in landfills like their cousins. Then there's the germ factor — silicone simply doesn't give them a place to hide, unlike nylon and other materials that are the basis of traditional brushes. "Overall, I am thrilled to see the dental industry shift towards materials that have the same efficacy as nylon brushes, with some possible benefits the nylon brushes may not have," says Dr. Tavana. "Just like medicine, dentistry is constantly evolving."
Dr. Tavana also prefers an electric toothbrush for her patients, and many of the leaders in the silicone toothbrush category are electric models.
At the end of the day, Dr. Castello emphasizes that securing good dental for our kids revolves around the same thing today that it always has: Technique and proper ongoing care. "While toothbrushes of any type help keep the teeth and gums healthy, good oral hygiene habits come from the parents and regular visits to the pediatric dentist," he concludes. "Proper encouragement and supervision by the parent, along with routine evaluation and instruction from a pediatric dental team is paramount in helping the child have a lifetime free of dental decay."
Here's the bottom line: With silicone's softness, literally impenetrable germ resistance, and eco-friendly appeal, these toothbrushes are a breakthrough fo sho — definitely not a flash in the pan. However, stick to the basics to ensure a healthy set of choppers now and into the future for your little ones.
If you'd like to check out your silicone options for yourself, there are a few models for the whole family, such as the Foreo Issa, above, which comes in both a sensitive model and a silicone-PBT polymer blend for those who want something a little firmer. Dentists advise that in this instance, the same principles apply to adult tooth and gum health as for kids, and that the silicone toothbrushes may in some cases be even more helpful for adults, especially for heading off gum erosion in those who are aggressive brushers.
Whether or not you swap out your traditional nylon toothbrush for a silicone option or not, just make sure you're not forgetting to floss.