Reviewed by Dr. Izbel Aksit.
Electric toothbrushes have become quite popular in recent years. Many people feel that they’re better able to clean their teeth using its vibrating/rotating motion. Even more and more dentists are also recommending them. But does it matter what kind of brush you use, or is it just a tech fad? An electric or manual toothbrush has become the debate of the moment.
According to a survey by Oral Health Foundation and Oral-B in 2020, 67% (34 million) of Brits use an electric toothbrush. Almost 12 million made the switch in the last 5 years. The reason is that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning the teeth than manual brushes. Moreover, interestingly, almost 27% decided to get one after their dentist advised them to do so. But why and what exactly makes electric toothbrushes so much better?
Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Which is better?
Let’s compare the characteristics of the two to find out which one’s better at each. That should give us a clear answer.
Which one delivers the better results of an electric or manual toothbrush? One study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology in 2019 that took place over a span of 11 years showed that those who use electric toothbrushes had reduced incidence of tooth loss and gum recession.
Another review showed that the “oscillating” action of the electric toothbrushes made them better in reducing plaque and gingivitis (gum disease). Even among peers, it is the electric toothbrush with an oscillating (rotating) head that does a better job (electric toothbrush bristles vibrate or oscillate). In a comparison study between a sonic (vibrating) brush and oscillating brush, it was found that the latter was better at removing plaque and gingivitis.
Clearly, an electric toothbrush, preferably with a rotating head, is the better choice here. It works better by enveloping the tooth from all sides, thus effectively removing plaque. The bristles of most electric toothbrushes are also finer making it easier for them to reach the spots that are inaccessible to a manual toothbrush.
Timers & Pressure Sensors
Something that people commonly struggle with is pressure. They think if they go hard with a manual brush, it will do a better job of cleaning the teeth. Actually, that ends up doing more harm than good. Brushing too hard can wear the enamel, which can lead to tooth decay. Moreover, it can cause gum recession.
Many people can’t figure out the correct pressure to apply when brushing. That’s a common problem with manual toothbrushes. And it isn’t something you should take lightly. For a while, electric toothbrushes presented a similar problem until they started coming out with pressure sensors. If these smart toothbrushes detect that you’re applying too much pressure, they will “take action” to stop you from doing so.
Then they also come with timers. Many people don’t brush their teeth for the recommended 2-minutes. They don’t get into all the corners for cleaning. But with timers, the toothbrush will notify you when you’ve optimally brushed an area in the mouth, so it’s time to move on to the other one. Again, electric toothbrushes are the better choice here.
It’s always good to be more environmentally conscious. Now, electric brushes aren’t exactly sustainable. However, unlike manual brushes, they do produce less waste. They’re made of plastic. However, they have detachable body parts.
Once the bristles are frayed beyond measure, you can simply replace the head. So, half the body stays and doesn’t go to waste. However, this is only possible if you’re not using the single-use electric toothbrush. So electric or manual toothbrush? Electric toothbrushes are still better here.
People with mobility issues, such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, De Quervain, or trigger finger, can use electric toothbrush more easily. Similarly, those with developmental disabilities, such as Dupuytren’s contracture or cleft hand. Using a small-headed electric toothbrush, you can easily clean the hard-to-reach area of the mouth.
One downside of the electric toothbrush can be that it needs to be charged. However, really if you do it promptly, it shouldn’t be an issue. Of course, this isn’t something you even have to bother about with a regular manual toothbrush. Still, the scales seem to tip in favour of an electric brush.
Manual toothbrushes are more accessible. You can find them in almost any general store. Coming across a good electric toothbrush or really any electric toothbrush at all isn’t as easy. Carrying around an electric brush while travelling is also a bit of a hassle since you’d have to charge it to use it. So, in these times, a manual toothbrush is better since the health of your teeth and gums depends on brushing, doesn’t matter electric or manual.
Another problem with electric toothbrushes is that if you’re using one of a specific brand, you may find its lack of accessibility inconvenient. You may not find a head for your electric toothbrush in just about any store. This can cause problems for you when you promptly need a new toothbrush.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), you should replace your brush after every 3-4 months. However, if the bristles are frayed, then it’s time to replace the brush. It’s important that you do so because the bristles won’t clean your teeth properly otherwise.
Having finer and shorter bristles, electric toothbrushes fray more easily than manual ones. Moreover, if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment, the bristles will bend out even more quickly. So, you’ll have to incur more replacement costs with electric brushes. If you’re hesitant about that, you should consider using a manual toothbrush.
Can You Use Electric Toothbrushes After Dental Treatments?
That depends on the kind of dental treatment you’ve had. Let’s get into the details.
Right after the dental implant surgery, you should not brush, as it can cause bleeding. Even when you do, you have to be very gentle. In most cases, it is perfectly safe to use an electric toothbrush after the patient has healed from dental implant placement.
You should not use an electric toothbrush while your socket is still healing. After around 2 weeks, you should be good but talk to your doctor before using it.
Dental Crowns and Veneers
Can Children Use Electric Toothbrushes?
Yes, children can use an electric toothbrush. Sometimes, many times, children run away from the act of brushing their teeth since they find it boring and tedious. Here, electric toothbrushes can be more engaging for children. With these, they may actually want to brush, thinking it’s a fun activity.
So, for your child’s good oral cleaning, you can consider an electric toothbrush for them. Since children don’t exactly know what brushing properly means, an electric brush can clean their teeth better. However, the child should be at least 3 or older and know that they don’t have to bite on the toothbrush itself or enjoy eating the toothpaste. It can cause safety concerns in younger children.
Wrapping Up the Discussion
At the end of the debate of electric or manual toothbrushes, we can say electric toothbrushes take first place. But do not stop brushing your teeth simply if you don’t have an electric one. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), whether you use manual or electric brushes, it doesn’t matter to your teeth; what matters is that you’re keeping your mouth (tongue, gums, and teeth) clean!
And don’t just brush once, do it twice for two minutes. And then use mouthwash and floss. You’ll be doing yourself a favour. Doesn’t matter which one you’re using; make sure the technique is right. If the bristles are bent out of shape, change the brush as it won’t do its job effectively. And lastly, use fluoride toothpaste as it can better protect your teeth from decay and caries.