Walk in the dental care aisle at any drugstore and you’ll be greeted by an assortment of tooth brushes in every design, color and price range you can imagine. All destined to keep your teeth cleaner and free of dental plaque. Occasionally, I’m asked which is better, a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. So here’s a brief lowdown on the electric toothbrush vs manual toothbrush, pros and cons debate, and why you might choose one over the other:
1. Which is better at removing plaque: a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush?
Based on a review of 56 published studies in 2014 by Cochrane, an independent international research organization, the advantages of electric toothbrushes outweighed those found in manual toothbrushes. The Cochrane research team found that electric toothbrushes removed 21 percent more plaque than their manual counterparts after 3 months of use. The team also saw a reduction of gingivitis or gum inflammation by 11 percent.
To be clear, the Cochrane team did not look at the individual brush heads, that’s for another study. If you have receding gums or sensitive teeth, regardless of whether you’re using manual or electric, choose a tooth brush head with soft bristles and a small head to reach the tough, tight spots, like the back of your molars.
Another advantage to electric toothbrushes they can help if you have conditions that prevent you from holding and moving toothbrushes around your teeth and tongue such as arthritis or pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. Small children also benefit because electric or battery-powered toothbrushes are not only fun for them, but require less dexterity.
2. I have receding gums because I sometimes brush too hard. What’s better for excessive tooth brushing?
If you attack the plaque vigorously, some electric models might be for you. Excessive tooth brushing can cause your gum line to recede. To prevent gum recession when using a manual toothbrush always use a light touch. Many electric toothbrush models come with a built-in sensor that glows or signals any time you hold the toothbrush tightly against your teeth. A big plus if you happen to be heavy handed.
According to a study on the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, there is no more tooth and gum abrasion with electric toothbrushes than with manual toothbrushes because it does the work for you thanks to the oscillating head and the revolving and rotating bristles. Some electric toothbrush heads move as fast as 4200 times a minute, making it ideal for plaque removal. Many electric models have built-in timers that keep people brushing for the required 2 minutes; a major benefit to removing plaque and oral bacteria.
3. Do expensive electric toothbrushes do a better job than less expensive battery-operated models?
According to a recent article in RDH magazine on the Five Common Misconceptions about Power Toothbrushes , several studies revealed that battery-operated toothbrushes costing $10 performed as well or better in removing plaque than the expensive electronic models.
Battery-operated toothbrushes that require double-AA batteries can run you anywhere from $5 to $25. Rechargeable toothbrushes can run into the triple digits depending on the number of bells and whistles it comes with like timers that keep you brushing for 2 minutes to sensors that tell you when you’re brushing too hard. Some models now come with a sanitizer for the brush heads.
While electric toothbrushes do cost more, let’s not forget the additional costs of brush heads. Just like your manual tooth brush, electric toothbrush heads should be replaced every 3 months.
At the end of the day, it’s basically what you feel comfortable spending. Some feel a battery-powered toothbrush is all they need. If you suffer from gum recession or gingivitis you might benefit from the timers and sensors found on the more expensive models.
4. Do I really need to replace my manual toothbrush with an electric toothbrush?
Actually, no. If at every dental check-up you come away with no significant problems, then continue using a manual toothbrush. If it works for you and your dental exams are perfect why change what works. However, if you have gingivitis, an electric toothbrush might be the perfect investment for great oral and dental health.
Our dentists think the toothbrush you use every day, twice a day for 2 minutes at every brushing is ultimately the best choice. Our goal is to get you brushing and keep you brushing for better dental health.