How To Choose The Right Oral Care Products For Myself

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Everyone’s oral hygiene armamentarium should be personalized to their unique needs and dental conditions. In other words, your oral care product selection should be geared towards what is best for your mouth and not someone else’s.

We’re here to help you choose what is best for your mouth, teeth, and gums so that you can prevent cavities and gum disease. Tooth loss can impact the quality of your life by affecting the way you eat and how you speak.

Toothbrush selection

In regards to toothbrush selection, the American Dental Association (ADA) has only one strict recommendation and that is to use a soft bristled brush.

Reach soft bristled toothbrush

Whether you choose a manual brush or an electric powered toothbrush is up to your preference. The ADA says that both of them will be effective in removing plaque and cleaning your teeth.

However, our recommendation here at afterva is to choose an electric over a manual toothbrush. Perhaps you’ll agree with us once you understand the recommended tooth brushing technique called the “bass technique” or “modified bass technique.”

Key Points:

  • Use a soft bristled brush only.
  • Manual or electric brushes are both effective.
  • Our recommendation is to opt for an electric powered toothbrush.

Soft bristled brush

Using a soft toothbrush will minimize occurrences of soft tissue damage to the mouth. Aggressive brushing with a hard toothbrush can lead to gum recession and enamel abrasions.

Studies have shown that while a harder brush can remove plaque more effectively, it does come with potential soft tissue damage. Unfortunately, this damage to the gums and teeth are irreversible so it is safer to use a soft bristled brush rather than a hard one.

As a matter of fact, Colgate one of the most prominent toothbrush manufacturer also clearly states that you should use a soft brush.

Manual vs Electric toothbrushes

Skill requiredYesNone
Safety mechanismNonePressure sensor
Brushing timerNone2 min timer
Replacement interval3-4 months3-4 months
Manual toothbrush vs Electric toothbrush

Our recommendation

Our recommendation is to use an electric powered brush because brushing the correct way with the bass or modified bass technique requires a LOT of skill. It is a lot easier to simply let the electric brush do the work for you.

Watch the video below from the ADA on how to brush your teeth. They demonstrate using the bass technique.


Let us summarize for you on how to brush with the bass technique:

  • Aim toothbrush at 45 degree angle towards gum line.
  • Short back and forth gentle motions for 2-3 teeth at a time.
  • Do this for all of your teeth.

If you wanted to upgrade your technique, you can use the modified bass technique. After you do the bass technique you want to use a sweeping motion from the gum line towards the tip of your tooth.

Do you really have time to do this and do you really want to spend mental energy doing this? We don’t and that is why we use an electric toothbrush rather than a manual one.

Toothpaste selection

In regards to toothpaste selection, you definitely want one with a remineralization agent that can prevent and even reverse cavities. That should be the basic and all around choice for most people to start with.

Menagerie of toothpastes
Menagerie of toothpastes

However, some people may have additional needs or desires such as teeth whitening or teeth sensitivity. In order to accommodate those, you should seek a different type of toothpaste which has additional ingredients which can do those.

Key Points:

  • Choose a toothpaste with remineralization capabilities.
  • For whitening, choose one with hydrogen peroxide.
  • For sensitivity, choose one with a desensitizing agent.

We will explain in detail what ingredients you should look for, for your unique oral needs.

Cavity prevention and reversing ingredients

The only two toothpaste ingredients which can prevent and reverse tooth decay are fluoride (F) and hydroxyapatite (HAP). However, only fluoride is currently recognized by the ADA as an anti-cavity agent.

While hydroxyapatite was discovered and patented by NASA in the late 1960s, it has not been recognized as an anti-cavity agent yet due to other reasons. It has been in use in Japan since then but has recently re-emerged in the US markets within the last decade as a trendy new toothpaste ingredient. It’s currently being marketed as a fluoride-free alternative.

Toothpaste ingredients that do NOT remineralize teeth:

  • Charcoal
  • Xylitol
  • Herbal toothpastes
  • Baking soda

If you’re using one of the above toothpastes and it does not contain fluoride or hydroxyapatite, you’re missing out on a huge benefit.

Demineralization vs Remineralization

The cavity formation process is called demineralization while the cavity reversal process is called remineralization.

demineralization remineralization of teeth
Credit: Sangi Co

How fluoride remineralizes teeth:

  • Carious tooth structure which has been damaged will readily take up fluoride.
  • Fluoride embedded in enamel initiates remineralization by drawing calciums and phosphates back into the tooth.

How hydroxyapatite remineralizes teeth:

  • Directly replace missing and damaged tooth structure by inserting itself into demineralized lesions.
  • Indirectly replace missing or damaged tooth structure by serving as a mineral reservoir which can provide calcium and phosphate to repair cavities naturally.
tooth remineralization schema with hydroxyapatite
Credit: Lijie Chen, Suma Al-Bayatee, Zohaib Khurshid, Amin Shavandi, Paul Brunton and Jithendra Ratnayake

Unfortunately, no other toothpaste ingredient can remineralize enamel like how fluoride and hydroxyapatite can. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that your toothpaste has one of them.

Teeth whitening ingredients

The only toothpaste ingredient which can chemically bleach your teeth by oxidizing stains is hydrogen peroxide. The more shelf stable version of it is called carbamide peroxide but it is a precursor to hydrogen peroxide (HP).

How hydrogen peroxide whitens teeth:

  1. Hydrogen peroxide ultimately degrades into oxygen and water but the intermediary reactions product powerful oxidizing free radicals.
  2. The free radicals transform double bonds from stain molecules into single bonds.
  3. This transformation from double to single bond makes the stains appear lighter (whiter).
Hydrogen peroxide oxidation of double bonds
Credit: Clifton Carey

All other toothpastes that do NOT contain peroxide will not be able to chemically oxidize nor bleach your teeth. Yes, we are looking at you Mr. Charcoal toothpaste.

You are correct in thinking that most “whitening toothpastes” do not contain peroxide but yet they have the whitening label on them. Well, they do whiten your teeth but not in the way that you think it does.

Teeth desensitizing ingredients

Sensitive toothpastes can desensitize your teeth because they contain desensitizing ingredients. Without these desensitizers, they would just be a normal dentrifice.

Two sensodyne toothpastes - stannous fluoride and potassium nitrate

Toothpaste desensitizing agents:

Your toothpaste must contain one of the above in order for them to have a sensitive toothpaste label on them.

Ingredients to avoid

An often overlooked factor in choosing the best sensitive toothpaste is ingredients that you should avoid. What these do is make the sensitivity potentially worse so you don’t want them in your sensitive toothpaste.

Ingredients that make teeth sensitivity worse:

  • Hydrogen peroxide. A common side effect of teeth whitening is teeth sensitivity. If you want to desensitize your chompers, you should avoid peroxide like the plague.
  • Pyrophosphates. These are added to toothpastes as pH adjusters and also for tartar control. Unfortunately the tartar formation mechanism is also crucial for your teeth to desensitize itself. Therefore, this is a double edged sword.
colgate pro series peroxide toothpaste next to bottle of hdyrogen peroxide

Floss selection

In regards to floss selection, you should choose the one that will encourage you to floss. This is completely up to your personal preference. Perhaps you like how the texture feels or you like how it is flavored, whatever will make you want to floss more is the right product for you.

However, if you’re unable to use traditional floss you should explore alternative options.

Manual dexterity issues

Some individuals are not as adept at using dental string floss.

  • Large fingers with a small mouth.
  • Older folks who’ve had declines in hand eye coordination.

If this is the case you may want to try a water flosser or maybe the interdental brushes which are both easier to use. They require less manual dexterity.


If you’re in the middle of orthodontic treatment especially with braces, you won’t be able to floss normally. A better option would be a water flosser, floss threaders, proxy brushes or superfloss.

Dental bridges

A dental bridge are tooth caps that are connected together which prevent you from flossing. While they’re an option for restoring missing teeth, the downside is the loss of the ability to floss.

OralB Superfloss unopened package

For tooth cap bridges you should use a water flosser, floss threaders, proxy brushes or superfloss.

You don’t like flossing

The last group of people are those who simply don’t like flossing and they’re not very inclined to do it. If this is you, perhaps you should try an alternative that you may like more. Typically the water flosser is the best alternative for these individuals.

Waterpik-water flosser on bathroom sink
Waterpik Water Flosser

Mouthwash selection

In regards to mouthwash selection, the ADA states that mouthwash is a helpful addition to but not a replacement for brushing and flossing.

They make a distinction between cosmetic mouthwashes and therapeutic ones.

  • Therapeutic mouth rinses help reduce or control plaque, gingivitis, bad breath, and tooth decay.
  • Cosmetic mouthwashes do none of the above.

As you may have guessed, if you wanted to maximize your oral health you should strive to choose a therapeutic rinse over a non-therapeutic one.

Types of therapeutic mouthwashes:

  • Cetylpyridinium chloride.
  • Chlorhexidine (RX only).
  • Essential oils (includes Listerine).
  • Fluoride.
  • Peroxide.
Listerine - Cool Mint

According to the ADA, it’s helpful to use mouthwash twice a day and the order you use it in depends on the product’s direction for use.


Selecting the best oral care product for your mouth is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make in regards to your oral health. You’ll be using these products day in and day out so you might as well choose the most effective ones for your mouth.

Choosing oral care products is a part of the oral health basics trifecta, which also includes dental care tips and designing an oral hygiene routine.


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A lot of nuances cannot be detected without an in-person clinical exam, which means it is near impossible to diagnose and treat virtually.

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