Applying various agents to teeth requires items that are light in weight, inexpensive, disposable, and reasonably durable. There is nothing more frustrating than having brush bristles dislodge and become embedded in a restoration while you are doing it.
There are basically two choices for applying agents to teeth: brushes and applicator tips.
Applying etchants, bonding agents, and virtually any other liquid or gel can be done with either a brush or applicator tip. While the latter type of applicator has become very popular recently, especially with bonding agents that require "rubbing" or "scrubbing" against tooth surfaces to maximize their performance, the fact is these maneuvers (rubbing and scrubbing) are not executed very well with the typical applicator tip since they are not usually firm enough.
And the reason that there are numerous sizes of applicator tip heads is that one size doesn't fit all - some small preps cannot be accessed with larger heads, while trying to apply any medicament to a large area with a small head is just not very efficient. Lastly, applicator tips have a difficult time with doing their job in nooks and crannies such as narrow spaces between matrix bands and margins or even pits and fissures.
So the other alternative is a disposable brush, most of which are now mounted on the same type of plastic handle as the applicator tips. These work well for the most part, although some bristles on these brushes may not have been trimmed properly and dust can be a frequent contaminant. In addition, bending these brushes to the optimal angle may be difficult and rebound to a relatively straight profile is not uncommon.
While many manufacturers include brush handles and disposable brush tips with their materials, matching brush tips to handles becomes a laborious task at times. And cleaning and sterilizing the handles is a nuisance. We prefer disposable brushes, handles and all. Handles need to be bendable without significant rebound after bending.
Our evaluation showed that, under 10x magnification, some of the brushes had dust between the fibers. When they were exposed to air from the air/water syringe, the dust (not necessarily all of it) was blown off. You may want to do this on a regular basis, to make sure you are not introducing any contaminants from the brushes into your restorations.
Most of the brushes were cut at about a 45° angle, although they all had bristles of uneven lengths. Under the microscope, the bristles varied slightly as far as their gauge size. When used for a variety of purposes, they all possessed good durability.
Criteria for Brushes
Bristles Length, gauge, quantity, cleanliness. Relates to their effectiveness in applying materials. This was decided by viewing their heads under 10x magnification.
Length of handle Some may be too short to properly control, while overly long ones take up more room.
Bending characteristics Determine how easily they bend and whether they will stay bent or rebound. Each product was also bent into several configurations, each corresponding to a clinical situation.
Availability of colors Gives you the opportunity to assign different colors for different materials. For example, blue would always be etchant, red would be adhesive, etc.
Dispensing method A convenience factor - is it easy to get one when you need one?