Electric Toothbrushes vs. Manual Toothbrushes

So how are electric toothbrushes better, according to dentists who recommend them?  FirstAre Electric Toothbrushes Better? things first:  almost all dentists agree that consistent, thorough brushing with either a manual or electric toothbrush is sufficient to keep your teeth clean, prevent cavities, and maintain gum health, especially when combined with regular flossing.  But some dentists specifically recommend power toothbrushes, mainly because they increase the number of brush strokes you get during an average brushing (anywhere from 3,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute depending on the type), which can be very effective at removing plaque.  Especially in small crevices and hard-to-reach places.  There are a few advantages and disadvantages to electric toothbrushes, so to help you out, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons.

PROS of an electric toothbrush vs. a manual toothbrush:

  • A cleaner feeling.  The thing I most often hear people say about electric toothbrushes is that their teeth feel more ‘slick’ and clean after using one (something I myself have noticed as well) than they do after a traditional brushing. 
  • An abundance of features.  Even inexpensive ones usually have a timer or an automatic shut-off feature, so you can keep track of how long you’ve brushed without thinking about it.  More expensive models often let you control the exact amount of time.  You’ll also see features like pressure sensors (to keep you from damaging your gums by pressing too hard), ‘massage mode’, ‘sensitive mode’, and more.  Also, some electric toothbrushes have a variety of size options for replacement brush heads, so you can get small ones to reach tight spaces or for children to use.
  • Ease of use.  Power toothbrushes are good for people with disabilities, arthritis, injuries that make it difficult to brush manually, or people who avoid brushing (or brush poorly) because they dislike brushing with a manual toothbrush. 
  • Motivation for kids to brush.  Some kids more willingly comply with the daily tooth-brushing ritual if it involves something that makes noise, lights up, and gets the job done in less time and with less effort (some power toothbrushes are designed specifically for kids.)  It might also get their teeth cleaner than a manual brush, since kids aren’t known for their expert motor skills and thoroughness. 
  • Easier on gums.  If you tend to brush too hard, the pressure sensors on some electric toothbrushes can help keep you from it.  Usually they’re designed to stop the brush if you apply too much force. 

CONS of an electric toothbrush vs. a manual toothbrush:

  • Stiff bristles hard on gums?  Some electric toothbrushes don’t have options for bristle stiffness (so that’s something to look for if you shop for one), which can result in irritating your gums if you’re used to soft bristled toothbrushes.
  • Portability.  Some of the charging bases are bulky and aren’t ideal for travelling.  Most people work around this by using a manual brush or bringing a smaller, battery-powered toothbrush with them when they travel.  However, if you spend most of your time travelling, it may be a downside, especially if it loses its charge while unplugged between destinations, or requires an adapter for the different electrical outlets of another country.
  • Replacement brush head cost.  It’s a good idea to check the cost and availability of replacement heads for the particular toothbrush you’re buying beforehand, because it’s recommended you change them often, and some can get pricey - not to mention hard to find.  Consider buying a few backup brush heads (in case your model is discontinued) if you plan on using it a good long time. 
  • Charge time.  This isn’t a big disadvantage, but it’s something you should consider.  Sometimes it takes a while for an electric toothbrush to charge, and it can only be used for a certain amount of time before needing more charge time.  This usually isn’t an issue if your electric brush is for a single user, but if you plan on having one toothbrush base for multiple users (with their own brush heads), be sure to read how long a toothbrush can be used after being charged.  For example:  Can it do two 8-minute brushings after a 12 hour charge?  Or just one? 
  • Improper brushing technique.  There’s a possibility that, with an electric toothbrush, you might rely too much on the brush to do the work and not clean your teeth properly.  To avoid this, be thorough and conscientious when you brush, no matter what kind of toothbrush you’re using.  Any toothbrush will only work as well as you use it. 

If you decide to buy a power toothbrush, don’t let all the choices confuse you:  There are lots of price options.  Popular brands like Oral-B and Phillips are usually between $15 and $200.  Decide on what features you want, how many people will need to use it, a price range you’re comfortable with, and then maybe do a search for electric toothbrushes by popularity and read customer reviews.  Also, read the instructions thoroughly before using your toothbrush - most importantly, those relating to charging and maintaining a charge.  You don’t want to mess up the battery’s ability to hold a charge by not properly following instructions regarding how long and often to charge it.