Are you wondering what the types of toothbrush bristles are? This article will satisfy your curiosity. Read through to find out more!

History of Toothbrush Bristles

The toothbrush has been existing for more than 5000 years now. It was discovered around 3500BC. Since its discovery, the bristles of your toothbrush have gone a long way.

Frayed ends of twigs were the first known “bristles”. These twigs were called “chew sticks”. Pieces of evidence prove that ancient Babylonians, Greeks, Chinese, Romans, and Egyptians used it to clean their teeth.

The Chinese invented the first real bristles. It was around the 1400s when they used pig’s hair to clean their teeth. These pig hairs were hollowed onto bamboos or animal bones. In the 17th century, The Chinese exported these toothbrushes to Europe. But Europeans found the bristles too firm. Because of that, they used softer alternatives like horsehair or feathers.

In 1935, DuPont Company invented nylon. Production of nylon-bristled toothbrushes started around 1938. Until today, most toothbrush companies use nylon in making bristles.

What is Nylon?

Nylon is strong and flexible synthetic fiber. It doesn’t break down with certain ingredients found in toothpaste. This makes the usability life of toothbrushes longer. Nylon bristles are more sanitary as well compared to animals’ hairs.

However, most toothbrushes have nylon-6 bristles, which are not biodegradable. This makes it environmentally unfriendly.

What are the Types of Toothbrush Bristles?

The main types of bristles are extra soft, soft, medium, and hard bristles. Toothbrush bristles also vary in size, shape, and length. The most recommended by dentists is the soft-bristled toothbrush. However, the perfect toothbrush for you depends on your oral care need.

Extra Soft Bristles

Extra soft bristles are the finest among all types of bristles. These bristles are gentle on the teeth and gums. It will not cause any tooth or gum abrasion.

This type of bristle is perfect for people with sensitive teeth or gums. It is also best for people who just had dental procedures like implants or braces. If you experience pain when using the soft toothbrush, it’s time to switch to extra soft ones.

If you’re switching from medium or soft to extra soft bristles, you might feel like your teeth are not as clean. This is because your gums are not used to it. But don’t let that fool you. Either type of bristle is effective in removing plaque.

Soft Bristles

This is the most recommended type of toothbrush bristle. Soft bristles are firm enough to remove plaque but still soft enough not to cause abrasion. This type of bristle is safe for both children and adults as well. It can clean near the gums without causing gum irritation or recession.

It is still possible for people to damage their teeth and gums when using a soft-bristled toothbrush. This happens when they brush too hard. However, the possibility is much less compared to using a medium or hard-bristled toothbrush

Medium Bristles

Medium-bristled toothbrushes are thicker and firmer compared to soft-bristled ones. If you apply too much pressure when brushing, this bristle causes abrasion. This leads to more serious issues like tooth sensitivity and gum infection in the long run.

Clinical studies showed that this type of bristles removes more plaque. Many people also prefer this because of the “clean’ feeling they get. But plaque removal is not a significant factor. As long as you brush properly, your teeth will get the same cleaning. In the long run, medium bristles do more harm than good.

Hard Bristles

A hard-bristled toothbrush is not recommended for everyday use. It is too firm and can harm your natural teeth. It can cause gum recession as well.

You can use a hard-bristled toothbrush when removing stains on your teeth. But only do this occasionally. This type of bristle is best used for cleaning stained dentures as well.

Height of Toothbrush Bristles

The height of toothbrush bristles varies depending on their purpose and design. Some bristles have equal heights while some are alternated long and short. Unequal bristle heights are used to reach between the gums and uneven surfaces of the teeth. Additionally, electric toothbrushes use shorter bristles.

Tips of Toothbrush Bristles

Most toothbrush bristles have rounded tips. These tips are gentle on your gums and teeth. But some extra-soft toothbrushes are achieved by splitting the bristles. This creates feather-like ends.

Patterns of Toothbrush Bristles

Bristle patterns determine what kind of cleaning you will get.

  • Block – Block bristles have equal bristle heights that are neatly arranged. This is the standard and most common bristle pattern.
  • V-shape or wavy – This type has uneven bristle heights. These are arranged in a way that forms a wavy or V-shape pattern. It is best used for cleaning adjacent tooth surfaces.
  • Cup-shaped – In this type, the bristles are arranged in a circular or cup shape. It is designed to clean around the teeth and along the gum line.
  • Multi-level – This type has unequal bristle heights as well. But these are not specially arranged. This pattern is designed to clean hard-to-reach areas and uneven surfaces of the mouth.

Colors of Toothbrush Bristles

The common colors of toothbrush bristles are white and off-white. Some manufacturers also use different colors for each height of bristle. Another brand also has bristles that change in color or fade when it’s time to be replaced.

There are black-colored bristles as well. These bristles have activated charcoal. It is intended to whiten teeth and remove bacteria in a way that a normal bristle can’t.

When using a charcoal toothbrush, you are applying the charcoal directly to your teeth. Charcoal helps remove stains. As a result, you get whiter and healthy-looking teeth. It also has antibacterial properties. This property can give you fresher breath and a lower risk of bacterial infection.


Toothbrush bristles come in different stiffness, heights, patterns, and colors. Types of bristles include extra soft, soft, medium, and hard. The soft-bristled toothbrush is the most recommended because it has enough firmness. It effectively cleans the teeth without causing any damage.

When choosing a color or pattern of bristles, you must consider your oral health care need. Different patterns and colors have different purposes.

Whichever toothbrush bristle you use, the best way to take care of your teeth is by brushing twice a day, two minutes each.