It’s the age-old question: are electric toothbrushes better than manual ones? Is one more effective at removing plaque than the other? You might think it comes down to personal preference, but research does point to one over the other. Which one do you ask? Let’s examine the pros and cons of each and see what we find.
Pros & Cons of Manual Toothbrushes
Manual toothbrushes have been around for eons. Mostly everyone is familiar with its basic shape and purpose. But just like everything in life, manual toothbrushes have advantages and disadvantages.
The first manual toothbrush was mass-produced by William Addis in England way back in 1780. You can’t argue with its staying power. Manual toothbrushes are easy and familiar. They are affordable, only costing a few dollars each, and you can find them anywhere. From the biggest department store to the smallest corner market. Your dentist probably gives you a new toothbrush every time you go for your semi-annual cleaning. Accessibility is important as everyone needs to do what they can to protect their oral health.
A manual toothbrush is also small and portable. It doesn’t take up much room on your bathroom counter and easily fits into a purse or backpack for travel purposes. In short, a manual brush is manageable for almost everyone, which makes good oral health easier to achieve.
Let’s face it – using a manual toothbrush takes some work. You need to make sure you are holding the brush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth the entire time. Plus, a certain circular/back and forth motion works best to remove plaque and protect yourself from tooth decay and gum disease. You also have to be mindful that you aren’t brushing too hard when using a manual toothbrush. Brushing your teeth with too much pressure can damage your teeth and gums.
While we are on the topic of being mindful, it’s very easy to shortchange yourself when brushing with a manual toothbrush. The ADA recommends people should be brushing their teeth for a full two minutes twice daily. That can seem like a long time when you’re just standing there, so keep an eye on the clock or set a timer next time you brush to ensure your putting your time in.
The bottom line: As long as you are brushing your teeth twice a day following the American Dental Association recommendations, manual brushes do an excellent job cleaning your teeth.
Pros & Cons of Electric Toothbrushes
Electric toothbrushes have come a long way since the first one was made in the United States back in 1939. While there a lot of benefits to using an electric toothbrush, nothing is foolproof.
In general, electric toothbrushes are very user-friendly. The brush head on an electric toothbrush automatically uses the correct motion to clean your teeth properly. As long as you hold the brush correctly against your teeth, you are good to go.
Because using an electric toothbrush takes the guesswork out of cleaning your teeth, they are much more effective for plaque removal. One study by Consumer Reports found that electric toothbrushes remove 21% more plaque than manual ones. This is especially true if you have braces because the vibrating feature of an electric toothbrush makes it easier to get to those hard-to-reach places.
Another helpful feature of most electric toothbrushes is the timers. Most electric toothbrushes will tell you when your two minutes are up to make sure you are brushing for the full recommended time. Some even have intermittent vibrations at regular intervals, so you know when to move to a new quadrant of your mouth. And of course, the biggest pro is that using an electric toothbrush is just plain fun!
The biggest drawback to an electric toothbrush is cost. You need to purchase the brush itself, which can run anywhere from $25 – $400 depending on how many bells and whistles you want. Replacement brush heads also cost more than buying a manual toothbrush, which might put it out of reach for many. Another disadvantage is that the toothbrushes themselves don’t last forever. The battery can stop keeping a charge, and the technology will go out of date, requiring regular upgrades. They also don’t travel as easily. You can toss a manual toothbrush in your bag and go, but with an electric brush, you will need the toothbrush, charger, and maybe even fresh brush heads. That takes up a lot of extra space in your suitcase!
Key takeaway: Compared to a manual brush, electric toothbrushes remove more plaque, reducing your risk of gingivitis and keeping your teeth and gums healthy. But you’ll have to weigh the features and benefits compared to a manual toothbrush.
What to Look for When Choosing a Toothbrush
When shopping for a manual toothbrush or an electric one, there are certain things you should look for when choosing your brush. Both manual and electric brushes should have soft bristles and fit well inside your mouth. If the brush head is too big, it will be difficult to reach all the way to the back molars, where plaque tends to build up and cause trouble. When shopping for an electric toothbrush, think about the features you want in your brush. Some brushes (like Sonicare) use sonic technology, while Oral B uses a special oscillating feature, both of which do an excellent job breaking down and removing plaque.
Most important is that whatever toothbrush you choose has the ADA Seal of Approval. This Seal is more than just a marketing tool. Brushes that earn the ADA Seal have been tested to ensure that:
- The bristles have tips that are safe for use on all parts of your mouth.
- The handle is sturdy enough for daily use.
- The bristles remain intact during recommended use.
- The toothbrush reduces plaque and treats early-stage gum disease
So be sure to look for that American Dental Association Seal of Approval!
So Which is Better?
Whether you prefer to use an electric toothbrush or a manual one, the better brush is the one you’re going to use. Electric brushes have a scientific advantage when it comes to plaque removal, and dental professionals will tell you they help you do a better job with your overall oral health. But those that use a manual toothbrush sometimes find they’re easier to replace and generally more convenient. In the end, choosing to go manual or electric is a personal choice. What’s most important is that you follow the advice of your dentist, replace your brush every three months and follow a regular oral health routine.