- There’s plenty to be said for the classic manual toothbrush: It can’t run out of batteries, and it’s compact, lightweight, and portable.
- The Oral-B Pro-Health All-in-One Soft Bristle Toothbrush is our top pick because its myriad bristle types and built-in tongue, cheek, and gum cleaners leave your whole mouth clean and fresh.
Ubiquitous though they may be, the humble modern toothbrush is nothing to be taken for granted. Up until the middle of the 20th century, many toothbrushes were still being made with hog bristles. Today, many toothbrushes pack more technology into a slender cylinder than was present in a midcentury automobile or aircraft.
But even in the days of the high-tech electric toothbrush, there is yet room at the table for the classic manual toothbrush, too. Some people simply prefer the feel and the function of a manual toothbrush, swearing by its oral cleaning abilities. Other people might have teeth or gums too sensitive for a motorized, electric brush. The traveler might choose a manual toothbrush because it can’t run out of power. And then there’s always the need to have a few spare toothbrushes on hand for those impromptu sleepovers or for the house guest who forgets to pack a toothbrush.
There’s also the fact that manual toothbrushes cost a fraction of the price of electric toothbrushes and are usually cheaper even than just the replacement heads electric options require.
We chose a variety of manual toothbrushes, from the low-cost disposable brush to keep on hand for guests to the Cadillac-level manual toothbrush that the classic oral hygiene aficionado. Read on in the slides below for our top picks.
Here are the best manual toothbrushes you can buy:
- Best toothbrush overall: Oral-B Pro-Health All-in-One Soft Bristle Toothbrush
- Best disposable toothbrush: SmileMakers Pre-Pasted Disposable Toothbrushes
- Best low-cost toothbrush: Colgate Premier Extra Clean Toothbrushes
- Best toothbrush for toddlers: Fridababy SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush
Updated by Lisa Sabatini on 10/28/2019: Updated links, prices, and text.
The best toothbrush overall
Thanks to the multiple types of bristles and other cleaning surfaces of the Oral-B Pro-Health All-in-One Soft Bristle Toothbrush, every stroke of this brush is maximally productive.
Truth be told, I made the switch to an electric toothbrush about four years ago. When I travel, though, it’s an Oral-B Pro-Health Toothbrush that comes along with me. This toothbrush has a broad, long head that allows for excellent coverage over the tops and sides of your teeth, so you’re not going to miss any surface area as long as you hit all the right angles while using it. However, it’s not the size but rather what the toothbrush does for those surfaces of your mouth that sets it apart.
The Oral-B Pro-Health All-in-One Soft Bristle Toothbrush features bristles positioned at different angles, so as you alternately push and pull the brush, you will fit different areas of each tooth. Alongside the bristles are soft rubber gum stimulators that can help massage the connective tissue of your gums, stimulating blood flow to rejuvenate the gums. On the side of the brush head are raised bumps that can serve as cheek and tongue cleaners, loosening plaque built up on these soft parts of the mouth.
The overall benefits of this carefully designed toothbrush include the removal of plaque and freshened breath in the short term, and reduced stain visibility and protection against gum disease over time. Yes, this is the most expensive option on our list, but it still costs a lot less than a battery-powered toothbrush, and it works like a charm.
Pros: Varied bristle pattern, cheek and tongue cleaner, indicator bristles change color when replacement needed
Cons: Pricey for a manual toothbrush
The best disposable toothbrush
With a SmileMakers Pre-Pasted Disposable Toothbrush, all you need is water to have a great tooth-cleaning session because the toothpaste is preloaded onto these single-use brushes.
Is a disposable toothbrush going to clean your teeth as well as one designed to be used for months at a time? Not so much. But is it about a hundred times better than not cleaning your teeth at all? Absolutely.
You probably won’t use these toothbrushes regularly, but rather will keep them at the ready for unexpected occasions. After you get a 144-pack of SmileMakers Pre-Pasted Disposable Toothbrushes, you can keep a dozen or so tucked into the linen closet and ready for house guests. You can also tuck a few into your glove box and stick a couple more in your briefcase. Leave some at work, and stash a few more in an emergency kit. You’ll still be left with plenty of pre-pasted toothbrushes at the ready, and toothbrushes that actually have rather soft bristles and sturdy, textured handles that work together to make the brushing experience much better than you’d expect.
With more than 230 reviews posted on Amazon, the SmileMakers Pre-Pasted Disposable Toothbrushes is listed as Amazon’s Choice for “prepasted toothbrushes individually wrapped.” I must note, though, that many customers who were satisfied with the construction of the toothbrushes still complained about the diminutive amount of toothpaste that came on each brush. You can always just add more, of course.
Pros: Excellent convenience, affordable price, individually wrapped units
Cons: Not enough paste on the brushes
The best low-cost toothbrush
When ordered in a 12-pack, the Colgate Premier Extra Clean Toothbrush is a real bargain.
A Colgate Premier Extra Clean Toothbrush has a long, broad head with bristles of varying length and angles so that the overall shape of the toothbrush provides maximum coverage. On the backside of the brush head is a textured surface you can use as a tongue and cheek scraper to remove plaque adhering to these soft surfaces of the mouth. The firm plastic handles have a slight curve near the brush head that makes applying pressure and proper positioning easy, and the handles are textured for grip down below.
And that’s about all there is to say about the design of these toothbrushes, which are well-made but not marvels of modern oral hygiene technology. They are, however, really inexpensive. While these toothbrushes are about 12 times less expensive than the priciest model on our list, they are certainly not 12 times less effective. The low price makes the Colgate Premier Extra Clean Toothbrush a great choice for a large family, as does the fact that they come in four different colors, which helps everyone keep their toothbrush separated.
Pros: Great low price tag, handles come in different colors, tongue scraper on back of head
Cons: Bristles too hard, handles a bit small
The best toothbrush for toddlers
The unique tri-sided design of the Fridababy SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush allows a caregiver to clean all sides of a young child’s teeth with a single pass of the brush.
The Fridababy SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush has four things going for it that make it a great choice for brushing a little kid’s teeth. First and foremost, that tri-sided design helps brush the top and both sides of a child’s teeth at the same time, meaning more coverage in less time, which any parent with a fussy child will tell you is a real positive.
Second, the soft but sturdy bristles of this toddler toothbrush are designed to bend but not to break off when bitten down on, so you don’t have to worry about your kid ingesting or choking on loose bits of bristle. Third, the handle is made of a soft material that won’t hurt little teeth or gums. And finally, the toothbrush is sized perfectly for a small mouth. Try using an adult-size toothbrush in a kid’s mouth even once and you’ll see how important that is.
A review from EntirelyBaby called the Fridababy SmileFrida Toddler Toothbrush a great way to “cut down on the time [parents] have to spend” on the often fraught task of brushing a young kid’s teeth,” adding that the safety factor of “bristles [that] will bend, not break” was quite welcome.
Pros: Multisided brush design, bristles won’t break off, soft and ergonomic handle
Cons: Hard to brush up and down or in circular pattern