PUBLISHED: 6:01 PM on Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Brushing still necessary despite technology

AMARILLO, Texas - Nobody wants to go to the dentist. It's not fun. It's gonna hurt no matter what the kindly gentleman with the high-pitched, whirring little gadget in his hand says.

To avoid these excursions, responsible moms teach us from an early age to brush our teeth regularly and to floss them. The rule of thumb used to be three times a day or after every meal, but busy folks might have trouble sticking to this regimen. Besides that, who eats three times a day?

To that end, technology has developed better and more efficient toothbrushes, just like the mousetrap. (Not to confuse teeth with mice, but you get the picture.)

It's a tough choice picking out the brush that suits you. There are long ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones.

There are angled bristles, straight bristles, soft bristles. And all you want to do is brush your teeth for a minute or two in the morning. Right?

For those of us who could use a little encouragement to keep brushing past the one-minute mark, experts say electric toothbrushes are worth the investment. There is nothing better than a motorized toothbrush with bristles that move back and forth while spinning, according to information in an article by Dana Sullivan in Health magazine.

The tooth scrubbers range in price from more than $100 to about $7, with makes and models in between.

"We highly recommend them," said Mary Dunlap, dental hygienist at Dr.'s Houston, Vlosich and Short's office. "In fact, we carry them in our office. The spin type don't do as good a job.

"The electric ones do a better job, and we tend to use them longer because it feels better and gives us a smoother tooth. And, it brushes correctly. They also have a timer on them. Ours run between $65 and $125."

Steve McDaniel, pharmacist at Southpark Pharmacy, likes the Sonicare models. They are a little more expensive, but are worth it, he said.

"They seem to be the ones people like the best. It's the one I started using," McDaniel said. "I really like it. It's a super fast brush. A dentist gave one to a friend of mine as a startup kit, and he recommended it to me. I highly recommend them. Mine retails for about $85."

If that's a little steep for your taste, there are models in the $6 to $20 dollar range recommended by Health magazine.

Oral-B Advance power 950 TX at $20 sits on a plug-in charger that holds a charge for five days. You can take it on an overnight trip and leave the charger at home. A timer lets you know when you have brushed for the recommended two minutes.

The Colgate Motion and Crest SpinBrush Classic, at $6 each, require two AA batteries that last about two months. Replacements for both models are available in a two-pack for $6. Not a bad investment to help ensure oral health.

They're also good for folks who have restricted use of their hands or arms and for children who might be motivated to brush longer with a fun-to-use electric brush.

Experts say you should supervise small children while they brush, and make sure they use only a small amount of toothpaste, since kids are more likely than adults to swallow the paste, according to information from Consumer Search.

Oh, that flossing thing? It's another story.

Important Features

Reviews say to look for the following when choosing an electric toothbrush:

Since oral-health experts recommend brushing for two minutes, a timer that either signals or turns off the unit after the suggested two minutes is a plus.

Some electric toothbrushes, like the Sonicare and Braun Oral-B, come with a signal that beeps every 30 seconds, indicating that it's time to switch to a different quadrant of the mouth.

A built-in, rechargeable battery is convenient and eliminates the cost of frequent battery changes.

A brush should deliver enough power for at least one week of brushing on a full charge.

Brush heads should be replaced every three to four months, so choose a brand and model that have replacement heads at a reasonable price.