Electric Toothbrushes: Fact or Myth?

Are electric toothbrushes really better for your teeth?

With hundreds of toothbrush options available in stores, many consumers may be wondering if electric toothbrushes really are better for your teeth. While some individuals swear by the efficiency of electric toothbrushes, many dentists seem to agree—the way you brush your teeth matters much more than the type of toothbrush you choose to use. If you establish good brushing habits by brushing often enough, for long enough, and are able to clean all surfaces of your teeth, you can find success with both manual and electric toothbrushes.

Different types of toothbrushes

There are three main types of toothbrushes available for purchase:

1) Manual: These toothbrushes are the most basic models available. They typically have a plastic, solid-colored handle, and have bristles on the brush head. Manual toothbrushes are cheap, widely-available, and used by the majority of brushers.

2) Battery-powered: Operated by AA batteries, these toothbrushes are the in-between option for consumers. Battery-powered toothbrushes are more powerful than manual toothbrushes, as they vibrate slightly to help users better use all surfaces of their teeth.

3) Electric: Electric toothbrushes are rechargeable and plug into the wall. These brushes use various types of cleaning technologies, and are often equipped with timers, pressure sensors, and whitening capabilities.

There are pros and cons associated with each type of toothbrush, including cost, availability, and durability. If your brushing technique is correct, however, it will not matter which type of toothbrush you choose to use. While extra features or a fancier brush head can be attractive, they do not automatically contribute to better brushing.

Benefits of manual toothbrushes

The everydayhealth.com article, “Choosing a Toothbrush: Manual vs. Electric,” quotes dentist and associate professor John Ictech-Cassis as saying:

“The idea of a toothbrush is to remove plaque and to stimulate the gums. Most toothbrushes will keep the teeth clean if you know how to use them. There are many advantages to the manual toothbrush. We’ve been using this toothbrush for many years. It has a good track record.”

Some of the advantages of the manual toothbrush that Dr. Ictech-Cassis discussed include its cost and availability, its ease to travel with and pack in a suitcase, and the fact that manual toothbrushes allow you to be more in control of the pressure placed on teeth and gums. Dr. Ictech-Cassis’ words would suggest that your basic, manual toothbrush can be every bit as thorough as an expensive model.

Benefits of electric toothbrushes

One webmd.com article, however, argued in favor of electric brushing for certain individuals. The article quoted dentist and ADA consumer advisor Kimberly Harms:

“If you are a wonderful brusher and a wonderful flosser, then manual toothbrushes are just great.”

Harms went on to discuss how people who have trouble physically moving their brushes around or who are unable to reach all teeth surfaces, such as patients with arthritis, may benefit from the use of an electric toothbrush.

The article also cited a March 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association that described the effects electric toothbrushes had on over 16,000 patients. The dental professionals monitoring the progress of these patients reported that the electric toothbrush had a positive effect on the oral health of more than 80% of the patients.
Our recommendation

As your family-friendly dentist in Medford, Oregon, our Bear Creek Pediatric Dentistry team wants to help ensure you and your family are protecting your teeth as much as possible. While the choice of manual vs. electric toothbrush may largely be a personal preference, it is possible you could achieve better brushing by switching toothbrushes. Schedule an appointment to visit our office today, and we will discuss your best toothbrush options with you!

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