Electric Toothbrush vs. Manual Toothbrush… Which is Better???

Many of our patients ask us which is better: an electric toothbrush or manual toothbrush? Like most things in life, it depends. Hopefully this will give you a little insight in to what is the best toothbrush for you.

Advantages of an electric toothbrush:

  • Most electric toothbrushes have a timer that is based on quadrants in the mouth. Each quadrant of teeth is given 30-45 seconds until the toothbrush “buzzes” telling you to move on to the next quadrant. This is a strong advantage of the electric toothbrush in that it makes sure you are brushing your teeth for the a full 2-3 minutes.
  • Electric toothbrushes are great for those with limited manual dexterity. A manual toothbrush requires accurate manipulation of the brush head to clean all teeth adequately, whereas an electric toothbrush does the work for you if you can hold it on all surfaces of your teeth.
  • Electric toothbrushes either vibrate or rotate at a higher speed so you’re getting more strokes per minute, which can remove more plaque when used correctly.
  • Some of the newer more advance electric toothbrushes are actually “smart” toothbrushes that sync with your “smart” phone to tell you which areas you didn’t brush long enough, placed too much pressure, or may have missed.
  • Many times patients, especially kids, are more motivated to use a “fun” electric toothbrush than a manual one. This increases compliance and overall oral health.

Advantages of a manual toothbrush:

  • Cost is the number one advantage of a manual toothbrush. Many electric toothbrushes can cost upwards of $100 to get the initial motor. Replacement brush heads for electric toothbrushes also tend to be more expensive than a manual toothbrush.
  • As a dentist I appreciate the increased tactile sense I can get out of a manual toothbrush compared to an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are powered which is great because they do the work for you as you move tooth to tooth but I still appreciate the “feel” I get from a high quality manual toothbrush. This may be the weird dentist coming out in me though so take this with a grain of salt.

“So Dr. Sullivan, what type of toothbrush do you actually use?”

I honestly use both manual and electric toothbrushes. At the office I use a manual toothbrush. At home I usually use my Philips Sonicare, but sometimes a manual. Really my only requirement when using a toothbrush is that it has a soft brush head. A soft brush head does a great job getting your teeth clean while not causing damage to your gums.
Electric toothbrushes do a great job with many advantages for a lot of our patients, but manual toothbrushes used correctly are still very effective. Pick your favorite soft bristle toothbrush, electric or manual, and brush 2-3 minutes at least 2 times per day… And of course, don’t forget to floss!

-Dr. Matthew Sullivan

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