Electric Toothbrush or the Traditional Toothbrush?

THE TOOTHBRUSH: One of the most essential, efficient tools of modern society! But as technology continues to evolve, patients consistently ask us whether it is better to use an electric toothbrush or a manual one.

According to various dental authorities and recent Consumer Reports, both electric and manual toothbrushes are equally effective as long as you brush your teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes, twice a day. However, an analysis completed regarding different studies published over the past few years by Cochrane, an international evidence-based research organization, discovered that electric models may be slightly better. Here’s why.

Compared with manual toothbrushes, electric tooth brushes reduce dental plaque by more than 20 percent, and when gingivitis (i.e., inflammation of the gums) is present, an additional 11 percent improvement was noted after three months of use. Those were the findings of the Cochrane team.

According to Consumer Reports dental adviser Jay W. Friedman, D.D.S., M.P.H., if you don’t currently have gingivitis, “it really doesn’t matter which brush you use.” And in terms of plaque, “we really don’t know that it matters if a little more or less plaque is removed,” he says. An electric toothbrush may help, however, if you have arthritis or a dexterity problem that makes thorough brushing difficult, Friedman notes.

Whichever toothbrush you decide to use, don’t get carried away with brushing. “Excessive brushing with manual or electric has its risks,” Friedman says. “Too much pressure and too frequent brushing can abrade enamel, or the root if the gum has receded.” This abrasion, he says, can cause teeth to become hypersensitive to hot and/or cold.

It is important to point out, however, that electric tooth brushes are growing in popularity. Some of them are, notably, kid-friendly: The toothbrush handle may be the shape of a racing car, a mermaid, a cell phone, or its color may resemble army camouflage.

Many patients are now asking their dentists about these mechanical tools so much that the American Dental Association (ADA) has issued several news releases on the matter.

The ADA agrees with the Cochrane findings that manual toothbrushes can be just as effective as powered ones. The key to preventing tooth decay, say the ADA experts, lies in the way a toothbrush, electric or manual, is used.

"If you are a wonderful brusher and a wonderful flosser, then the manual toothbrushes are just great," says Kimberly Harms, DDS, an ADA consumer advisor. However, she says powered devices can help people who have trouble physically moving their brushes around their mouth to clean all teeth surfaces. These may include anyone with a motor disability or arthritis.

Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of the two and find out which type of toothbrush is better

Manual Toothbrush Pros
  • Thoroughly clean teeth with proper brushing technique. Brushing only takes 2 minutes and you can most definitely keep your teeth at a grade A+ level with a manual toothbrush.
  • Multiple toothbrush styles, bristles, heads and colors to choose from. You have the ability to choose soft bristles if you have sensitive gums, and a smaller head if you have a smaller mouth. Some brands even make special prints on toothbrushes for children. Regardless, you’ll never be lacking options with manual toothbrushes.
  • Easy to travel with. All you need is a toothbrush case and you’re all set to go for your trip. No need to worry about batteries or charging outlets.
  • Inexpensive and often free when you make a trip to your dentist. Keep in mind that you should discard your toothbrush after about 3 months of use.

Manual Toothbrush Cons

  • More work.
  • No timer. Manual toothbrushes require you to guess how long your brushing session will last (unless you set a two-minute timer).

Electric Toothbrush Pros
  • Easy to use. With a powered toothbrush, all you need to do is place the toothbrush at a 45° angle and let the toothbrush do all the work.
  • Less work for better results. Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning your mouth and removing plaque and gingivitis.
  • More fun to use for children. Children like to take the easy way out on chores. If a child never brushes their teeth because they don’t want to, try having them use an electric toothbrush. It’s less work, it tickles their teeth, and the timer will let them know they’re all done! It’s a lot easier (and more fun).
  • Built in timer. Electric toothbrushes use a built in timer that stops the toothbrush once two minutes are up; no more guessing!.

Electric Toothbrush Cons

  • Charging. You’ll either have to charge your toothbrush or replace its batteries.
  • Cost. Electric toothbrushes cost significantly more than a manual toothbrush. There are several types of powered toothbrushes but be prepared to pay more than you usually do.
  • Not as easy to travel with. Traveling with an electric toothbrush can be a hassle. They are bulky and bringing a charger along doesn’t help with room constraints.
  • Easy to break. Dropping your toothbrush can be fatal. You have to be more careful whenever using an electric toothbrush.
  • Some studies show that electric toothbrushes remove statistically significant more plaque compared to manual toothbrushes and are better at fighting gum disease. Despite the studies, your oral health will remain healthy (despite which type of toothbrush you use) as long as you consistently take care of your teeth. If you are on the fence of buying a powered toothbrush, talk to Dr. Guerra the next time you come in for a dental visit.



Are you still undecided whether to use an electric or manual toothbrush?

For all your dental health needs, including guidance on which type of tooth brush would be better for you, Dr. Guerra is here for you. Call us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Adrian Guerra, DDS at our North Palm Beach office at 561-844-6146.

A Little Bit of History

There was a time when toothbrushes were considered luxury items.

According to the ADA, wealthy Europeans in the Middle Ages used twigs made of sweet-smelling wood to clean their teeth. Then, in 1498, the emperor of China developed a device with hog bristles placed in a bone handle. This type of toothbrush became so popular that in Europe even the common folk used it. The price of hog bristles was so steep, however, that a whole family would share the same toothbrush to cut costs. As you are no doubt aware, modern society's obsession with cleanliness has made it unthinkable to share toothbrushes in modern times.

Leading up to modern times

The modern toothbrush as we know it today was invented in the late 1930s. Several updates and upgrades have been added to the toothbrush of that era, but the original concept has never changed. Yet in the 1990s, electric toothbrushes came to be a popular alternative to the traditional, manual style. Is one of these toothbrushes “better” than the other?