14 Best Manual Toothbrushes (Review) In 2021
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We all dream of having beautiful, healthy teeth that feel as clean as they did when you stepped out of the dentist. The good news is that there are steps you can take to achieve this that do not involve a drastic make-over or expensive visits to the dentist every month.
Choosing the right toothbrush and using it in the right way every day will make a huge impact on your dental health, improving the condition of your gums and teeth, giving you fresher breath and a brighter smile. Here, we review the best manual toothbrush options available, plus highlight some key features to consider when buying a toothbrush. There may be many aspects that you hadn't realized were important before.
If you would like to consider an alternative to a manual toothbrush then take a look at our reviews for the best electric toothbrush.
1. Colgate 360°
Multi-action bristle design
Cheek and tongue cleaner
Our best choice for a manual toothbrush is the Colgate 360° Advanced Optic White Medium Toothbrush, which comes in a pack of two. This brush has multi-action bristles that are more effective than a standard flat design and has a cheek and tongue cleaner which will help remove even more bacteria from your mouth. The spiral polishing bristles are designed to help remove more stains and encourage your teeth to shine, to give you a naturally whiter smile. They don’t actually whiten your teeth so the name may be a little misleading.
The handle is comfortable and easy to hold with flexible finger grips to reduce slippage so you can be precise with your toothbrushing and tackle the hard to reach areas. The Colgate 360° Advance Optic is available in three colors and while we reviewed the medium bristles, it is also possible to get a soft version.
Cheek and tongue cleaner included
Doesn’t actually whiten your teeth
Split head design
The Oral-B Pulsar 3D White Advanced Soft Toothbrush combines the best features of an electric and manual toothbrush together. This is a battery-operated brush that will vibrate gently when you use it, making it more effective at breaking down and removing plaque. With the split head design, the bristles are able to get in-between your teeth and also moderate how much pressure is being applied to your teeth and gums.
With the soft, round-ended bristles, plus the split head, this is a good option if you want to protect your gums or suffer from sensitive teeth. You should note that with the Pulsar once the battery runs out, you will need to replace the whole brush, as the battery isn’t removable. However, it should last for a few months, when it is time to change your brush anyway.
Split head design
Great for sensitive teeth and gums
Round ended bristles
No tongue or cheek cleaner
Batteries can’t be replaced
Circular power bristles
Easy to grip handle
Cleaning tip bristles
Our budget pick for the best manual toothbrush is the six-pack of Colgate Extra Clean Soft Toothbrush. This is an excellent value for money option, great for replacing brushes for the whole family. It is designed with circular power bristles that work to scrub away stains, while the tip bristles, in a narrow arrangement, will make it easy to use when cleaning right around your back teeth. The handle is not ergonomically designed but it does have an easy to grip handle for added comfort.
Narrow tip to reach back teeth
Bristles are one length
Soft to medium brush head
BPA free bristles
Our best value pick is at the same time an environment-friendly alternative to a plastic toothbrush. The Nuduko Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrushes are worth looking at, in this pack you get ten brushes, and they are all made from bamboo plus have BPA free nylon bristles. The whole brush is 100% natural, and this includes the packaging.
The bamboo is a strong, reliable alternative to plastic and once disposed of, will break down fully in around six months. You will need to break off the bristles and put that section in the usual trash as only the handle is recyclable. There is nice added touch with these Nuduko brushes and that is they have the letter A, B, C, D, and E on the brushes and have either black or white bristles. This makes them easy to distinguish in a shared bathroom.
Good for the environment
Pack of ten
Very basic bristle design
Curved for hard to reach grooves
Soft brush head
The Oral-B Indicator Color Collection Manual Toothbrush is one of the best toothbrush options if you like a soft brush head without many additional features. The handle on this brush is pretty basic, and there are no accessories like a tongue scraper or a brush cap. However, the wave design makes it easy to use in the hard to reach areas, while being soft on your gums. The end-rounded bristles are soft on your teeth and gums.
If you often forget to change your brush regularly, then you will love the colour indicator feature. The blue section of the bristles will turn white over time, so when they have changed colour, you know it is time for a change. Switching your brush regularly is a quick way to improve your oral health.
One slight flaw with these toothbrushes Oral-B have made is in the colouring of the handles. Many customers have reported receiving multi-packs that are all one colour, which is not ideal for use in a family or shared bathroom.
Some multi-packs only have one color
No ergonomic handle
6. Colgate 360°
Soft brush head
Floss tip bristles
20,000 strokes per minute
The Colgate 360° Total Advanced Floss-Tip Sonic Battery Power Toothbrush is another cross over between an electric and manual toothbrush. This toothbrush operates with one AAA battery, which is replaceable, and it uses this battery power to brush at 20,000 strokes per minute. The floss-tipped bristles are said to provide a clean which is four times deeper than a regular flat brush. While it doesn’t replace the need to floss, it will help to destroy plaque more effectively.
There is also a tongue and cheek scraper with this model, so it is worth considering as one of the best toothbrushes for overall oral health. Although you can replace the battery on this Colgate model, the head is not replaceable, so you will need to dispose of the whole thing every few months.
High number of strokes
No replaceable head – need to dispose of the brush fully
Charcoal infused bristles
Tongue and cheek cleaner
With this manual toothbrush, Oral-B promises whiter teeth in two weeks thanks to the surface stain removal properties of charcoal. The Oral-B Charcoal Toothbrush Whitening Therapy has extra-long, power tip bristles that are designed to remove plaque and stains in hard to reach areas, and the gum massagers on the edge of the head will gently clean the gum line without causing any abrasions.
The Charcoal Toothbrush Whitening Therapy brushes have medium bristles and also a tongue and cheek cleaner on the head. There is also a ridged handle with cushioned grips although the handle is quite thin so may not be comfortable for everyone.
Limited evidence of a whitening effect
8. Boao Micro
20,000 soft micro-nano bristles
Designed for fragile teeth and gums
Wave bristle arrangement
If you are looking for a super-soft brush for use on fragile teeth or children’s teeth, then you could consider the Boao Micro Nano Toothbrush with Extra Soft Bristles for your best manual toothbrush. This has a small brush head, fitted with 20,000 super soft bristles, so it can reach tricky areas, rub around small teeth and effectively clean even the most fragile mouth. The wave design also helps to protect your gums while you brush the tooth surface so you can use it regularly without damaging your dental health.
These are cute brushes, with attractive colors and come in a pack of four. The brush surface is a little shorter than regular adult brushes so they probably won’t suit everyone. The Boao bristles will splay flat quite quickly if you press too hard as they are only designed for gentle brushing. The handle may also take some getting used to as there are no ergonomic enhancements or cushioning to make it comfortable.
Gentle on teeth
Ideal for small mouths
Not the best for use in large mouths
No ergonomic features
Bio-degradable handle and packaging
Charcoal infused bristles
The Isshah Biodegradable Bamboo & Charcoal Toothbrush is another option if you want to ditch plastic toothbrushes and save the environment while brushing your teeth. Made from fully biodegradable bamboo, these brushes have soft BPA-free nylon bristles that will effectively clean your teeth but will not scratch at any enamel or damage your gums. The bristles are charcoal infused to make stain removal easier.
Although these brushes come in a pack of four, each brush has its own packaging, which is all bio-degradable, and the handles are number 1-4, to help you identify which is yours if the whole family use the same design. As with other bamboo toothbrushes, the bristles are not bio-degradable, and the design is pretty simple, with no advanced arrangement for more efficient cleaning.
Good for the environment
Numbered to help identify your brush
No added features
10. Dental Expert
Slim brush head
Whitening, ultra-soft bristles
Works with or without charcoal toothpaste
The Dental Expert Charcoal Whitening Toothbrush is created to give you the same effects as when you use charcoal toothpaste. Activated charcoal is said to remove stains effectively while destroying bacteria, so you are left with whiter teeth. The bristles on this brush are ultra-fine, so will not aggravate your gums or create any further sensitivity even with regular use. The head is also slimmer than many other adult toothbrushes, so they are easy to maneuver around your back teeth. There is no wave or multi-level arrangement of the bristles.
You can use this brush with regular toothpaste, or for better whitening results, pair it with charcoal toothpaste. The Dental Expert brush has a great grip on the handle, making it easy to use, but you may find the feel of the bristles a bit unusual to start with.
No advanced bristle arrangement
Takes a while to get used to
11. Oral-B Clic
Replacement brush head
Our premium pick for the best manual toothbrush is the Oral-B Clic Manual Toothbrush with Magnetic Holder. This comes in black, white or chrome finishes and, at first glance, could be mistaken for a pen thanks to its sleek design. In this kit, you get a magnetic holder so you can store your brush hygienically in the bathroom, along with an ergonomic handle and two brush heads. As you can replace just the brush head, you will actually be saving 60% of plastic compared to changing a plastic brush every three months for two years. The head clips into place with the high precision ClicFit Mechanism, although the magnetic holder isn’t the most reliable.
The manufacturers have given a lot of attention to this brush, and the bristles are no exception. They are made with X-filament technology, which is the most advanced when it comes to plaque removal, and are angled in a crisscross pattern to give you maximum coverage per stroke. This is a very sophisticated soft brush – it is almost a shame to hide it in the bathroom!
Advanced bristle design
Saves plastic waste
Magnetic holder is temperamental
Extra soft toothbrush
Control support + soft microfine bristles
The Nimbus Microfine Toothbrush is another option for those who want extra-soft bristles to prevent receding gums and sensitive teeth. The head of this brush was designed by a periodontist to protect teeth and gums while still removing plaque. There are two sets of soft bristles; the long-tapered ones can reach into tricky areas while being incredibly soft; the shorter, support bristles help to enhance plaque removal. This combination makes it effective yet very gentle to use.
The Nimbus comes in a pack of five, multi-colored brushes and each one is individually wrapped. The handle is also made with a slight curve and several grips, making it easy to control even when wet. There is very little criticize with this brush, except it doesn’t have a cheek and tongue cleaner which would be a nice added feature.
Protects teeth and gums
Effective bristle design
May be too soft for some people
BPA free soft bristles
Designed for sensitive gums
Pack of eight
The Virgin Forest Biodegradable Bamboo Toothbrush is made from natural, sustainable bamboo and is recyclable. The bristles are made from BPA-free nylon and are some of the softer options out there, making them great for sensitive teeth and gums. In this kit you get four boxes, each containing two toothbrushes and all the packaging is biodegradable. Each brush head has different colored bristles, making them attractive but also easy to distinguish in a family bathroom.
These brushes are relatively slim, both in terms of the handle and head, and as the handle is entirely flat and wooden, it is not the most comfortable to hold.
Good for sensitive gums
Uncomfortable to hold
Flat bristle arrangement
Pack of two
Polished end-rounded bristles
Ergonomically design handle
The Oral-B Sensi-Soft Toothbrush makes it possible to clean teeth gently yet effectively. The bristles are ultra-soft and end-rounded so while you use them to give your teeth a good clean, they won’t damage your gums at all. The head is a little smaller than the average adult toothbrush but too large to use as a child’s brush. This size makes it easier to get right to the back of your mouth which will improve your overall oral health.
The handles on these are also ergonomically designed with curves, a flexible neck, and a comfortable grip. There are some reviews that state these bristles do not feel ultra-soft but this is often a personal preference and will also depend on the pressure you use when brushing.
Easy to tackle the whole mouth
Not soft enough for some people
Features To Consider With Manual Toothbrushes
The main accessory you will find with a manual toothbrush is the tongue cleaner or scrubber. This means that part of the head will have small indents, designed to scrape your tongue. These indents are softer on your tongue than the brush bristles, and the scrubber is especially useful if you ever have a coated tongue.
With the best manual toothbrush, bristles are made from nylon, and you will have the option of choosing soft, medium or hard bristles. While it is a personal choice on which type of bristle you prefer, most dentists will recommend a soft-bristled brush for best results. If you use a hard or even medium brush you can damage your gums and protective enamel if you brush too vigorously.
If you want to protect your teeth and gums enamel even further, you should select a toothbrush that has rounded bristle tips.
The design of the best manual toothbrush is ever-evolving in the search for the most effective way to remove plaque and enhance your oral health.
Firstly, you will need to consider the size of the brush head to ensure you can easily reach all your teeth. Usually, a head that is half an inch wide and one inch tall is the most effective. Larger options are available, but if you have a smaller mouth, you will find it hard to navigate these around the hard to reach areas at the back of your mouth.
Next, look at the design of the bristles as they do come in different arrangements. A block arrangement is the most common and affordable option, although it isn't always the most effective. A wavy pattern has the bristles arranged in the style of a wave which will help you to brush the gums around your teeth at the same time (you will still need to floss). A multi-level arrangement is one of the newer developments in toothbrushes, and it is when the bristles vary in length. This design is meant to remove bacteria, stains, and plaque more easily. Either the wave or the multi-level design is the most effective when cleaning your teeth.
Lastly, with the design of the best toothbrush, consider if you want an ergonomic handle which many models now have. You can choose grips that are comfortable and long enough for your particular hand shape.
With over three billion toothbrushes thrown out each year, their plastic construction makes them a prime contributor to landfills. However, many companies are now looking at ways to create eco-friendly alternatives.
Bamboo is the most popular option for a biodegradable brush, and BPA nylon bristles are also available. You won't get the variety of designs that you do with plastic models, but they will clean your teeth, improve your health, and protect the environment at the same time.
Your toothbrush can hold lots of bacteria at any one time, and it can pick up more bacteria just sitting in your bathroom. While it isn't possible to remove all the bacteria (which is why it is essential to regularly change your brush) you can buy models that come with headcovers. These will protect your bristles from the air around them and are especially useful if you are sharing a toothbrush holder. There are also various models of toothbrush sanitizers if you are really careful when it comes to your oral hygiene.
Even the best manual toothbrush needs to be replaced frequently to ensure they are effectively cleaning your teeth and gums and not harboring any bacteria. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three or four months, so it is not necessary to find a brush that lasts longer than this. If you are finding that the bristles get frayed in a month or two, then it might be because you use the wrong technique, or you could consider changing the brand. If the handle breaks in less than three months when brushing your teeth, then you should try to find a stronger model.
Manual Toothbrush FAQ
Q: Do manual toothbrushes clean your teeth as well as electric toothbrushes?
It is important to note that both a manual and an electric toothbrush can clean your teeth very effectively, provided you use them correctly (brushing your teeth for two minutes a day, twice a day).
There is evidence that electric toothbrushes are slightly more effective at reducing plaque than when a manual toothbrush is used for the same about of time. This is particularly true if the electric toothbrush is an oscillating powered one, which has a head that rotates in both directions. Studies have also determined that over many years, users who have continuously used an electric brush have better gum health.
However, there are also reports that continual use of powerful brushes may damage the tissue just below the tooth enamel, called dentin. This can cause more sensitive teeth. Manual brushes with rippled bristles cause the least damage to dentin.
The difference in the effectiveness of cleaning and the impact on your overall dental health is negligible between manual or powered brushes; the important thing is to use the right technique to brush thoroughly and regularly to preserve good oral health.
Q: How often should you replace your manual toothbrush?
Your toothbrush should be replaced at least every three or four months, or more if you notice the bristles are frayed as they will no longer be cleaning your teeth effectively.
Q: Are manual toothbrushes bad for the environment?
Manual toothbrushes are usually made of plastic and this, unfortunately, cannot be broken down when you throw it away. Some alternative materials are available, such as bamboo or bio-plastic which is biodegradable, although the bristles may not have the best design in terms of effectiveness.