When it comes to keeping teeth clean and plaque free, electric toothbrushes are a popular choice today. But with electric toothbrushes being more than triple the cost of a manual brush, can traditional toothbrushes do an adequate job of maintaining your oral health?

Let’s take a look at the differences between the two and whether or not one type of toothbrush is really better than the other.

Manual Toothbrushes

Most dentists give away manual toothbrushes to their patients after a cleaning. These brushes have been proven to be effective and are still used by a wide number of patients of all ages. 

Some of the advantages of a manual toothbrush include:

  • They are inexpensive to purchase or replace
  • They are easy to travel with
  • They are good for toddlers and children
  • They allow for better control of pressure on the teeth and gums

The purpose of a toothbrush is to remove plaque and stimulate the gums, which you can do easily with a manual toothbrush as long as you know how to use it properly. Make sure to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle at the gum line and use soft vertical or circular strokes to brush the teeth. 

Always cover all surfaces of the teeth, especially the inner surfaces (which are often missed), and brush gently so that you don’t erode the tooth enamel. You should use a manual toothbrush for at least two minutes twice a day (three times a day is better).

Electric Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes can be as simple as a basic rotating brush, or can be very fancy with pressure indicators and timers. There are two types of electric toothbrushes on the market:

  • Rechargeable electric toothbrushes – these brushes have a changeable head that is replaced every three months; they may use oscillating-rotating cleaning technology or sonic technology.
  • Battery-operated power toothbrushes – these brushes look a lot like regular toothbrushes and have just enough vibration to enhance your cleaning; they are appropriate for people who are wary of electric toothbrushes or are hesitant to pay the higher price tag.

Electric toothbrushes generate anywhere from 6,000 to 30,000 strokes per minute, which means it takes less time to clean the teeth with this type of brush. And because the brush itself provides the cleaning action (rather than manual strokes with a traditional toothbrush), you simply need to move the brush along the surface of the teeth to do the job. 

These brushes come in adult versions as well as kid-friendly styles and designs. However some people dislike the vibrations or power stroke actions, and some children are a bit sensitive to the sensations. So they are not for everyone.

Is a Powered Toothbrush Better?

The American Dental Association (ADA) says that manual toothbrushes can be just as effective at cleaning away plaque and helping prevent gum disease as electric ones. 

But it’s also worth noting some of the advantages that have been documented for electric toothbrushes in different clinical studies. These advantages may be due to the brush’s ability to compensate for human difficulties (i.e. arthritis, motor disabilities, improper brushing technique) or because of built-in technology like timers and replacement indicators:

  • In one study by Braun Oral-B on more than 16,000 patients, electric powered toothbrushes had a positive effect on the oral health of more than 80 percent of the patients who participated in the study. 
  • Another independent study in 2005 found that electric toothbrushes with oscillating-rotating technology “removed more plaque and reduced gingivitis more effectively than manual brushes in the short and long-term.”

So are electric toothbrushes always better? Not necessarily. At the end of the day the key to preventing tooth decay lies in whether or not the patient uses the toothbrush properly, not which type of toothbrush is selected. 

So whatever brush you choose to use, just make sure you learn to use it correctly.

Written by: Dr. Yahya Mansour