Here's what you need to know before buying an electric toothbrush for kids:

Proper oral hygiene is an important element to any child's overall health, but is an electric toothbrush for kids the total solution to clean teeth? That depends on several factors, which I'll discuss in length in this article. But know this: No toothbrush - be it electric or otherwise - is effective unless it's actually used regularly and correctly.

Best Electric Toothbrush For Kids?

Don't make the mistake of thinking that children can use an electric toothbrush for adults, because you could actually do more harm than good, or possibly even cause injury. Make sure the product is small enough for the child's mouth, and comes with plenty of safety devices to minimize the risk of injury.

There are a wide variety of electric toothbrushes for kids over at Amazon. You'll notice how they are designed differently than adult units. They're smaller, safer and often times branded with likeable cartoon characters to help make brushing fun. (*Note: Amazon is a great place to find cheap electric toothbrushes for kids and adults, as they usually have the lowest prices online or offline).

What Is The Advantage Of An Electric Toothbrush?

It's assumed that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning teeth than standard toothbrushes, because the additional "action" caused by an electronic motor turning the bristles scrubs the surface of the teeth more thoroughly and penetrates the dimples in the tooth crowns and reaches farther into the spaces between the teeth. Notice I said "Assumed." That wasn't an accident. To date, I have found no major study that supports or denounces this claim, and from what I can tell the American Dental Association hasn't chimed in, either.

So they're debunked, right? No point in buying one?

Not so fast.

While they're no definitive clinical research that indicates that an electric toothbrush is better than a standard one, there are a few other factors to keep in minds, especially as they relate to kids. Here are just a few:

They Make Brushing Fun

Kids typically aren't excited about brushing their teeth. It just doesn't have the same appeal as playing with toys, watching cartoons or coloring. As a result, the effort they put into this daily "chore" is often lack-luster at best. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely. But will it prevent cavities to the maximum potential? Probably not.

But if your child likes using an electric toothbrush, or they have an electric toothbrush with cartoon characters on it that they love, it might add that extra element of fun. This could result in more thorough brushing, a cleaner mouth and better oral hygiene.

They Develop A Healthy Habit

Kids, just like adults, are creatures of habit. And if they are introduced to a toothbrush that makes brushing fun and exciting, it could actually help foster a healthy, life-long habit and commitment to clean teeth.

Case in point: A friend of mine's son refuses to go to sleep until he's brushed his teeth with his Spiderman electric toothbrush. Even if it's just a nap. Even though he's barely out of his toddler years, he's already developed a habit that will carry on throughout his life, so long as his parents keep reinforcing the "fun" part of it.

Types Of Electric Toothbrushes For Children

A handful of the leading dental companies make some very popular children's electric toothbrushes, and many of them come with great reviews. I won't go into excruciating detail about each and every one, because new ones come on the market all the time, and others are discontinued. But look around, talk to your dentist and ask plenty of questions; he or she should help you find the perfect one.

That said, many parents have reported great experiences with the following products:

  • Philips Sonicare For Kids
  • Spinbrush For Kids
  • Colgate Kids Powered Toothbrushes
  • G-U-M Powered Toothbrush by Crayola

Between these four manufacturers, you'll find "general" looking products, but also electric toothbrushes featuring some of your children's favorite cartoon characters, such as:

  • Spongebob Squarepants electric toothbrush
  • Thomas The Train electric toothbrush
  • Dora The Explorer electric toothbrush
  • Hello Kitty electric toothbrush
  • And many, many more

Every powered toothbrush sells replacement brushes, or "heads," so you won't need to buy an entirely new unit when the bristles get too worn out. As far as batteries, some run on AA batteries ("double A's), some on AAA ("triple A's), some even run on 9v batteries. I personally like the ones that come with either rechargeable batteries, or an internal battery that recharges automatically when you put it in a special docking station.

Teaching Your Children How To Brush Their Teeth

Whether you go with an electric toothbrush or not, teaching your kids the importance of proper brushing is very important. Make sure they spend plenty of time working all angles of the top, bottom and front teeth, paying special attention to where the gums meet the teeth. Brushing too hard can sometimes be counter productive, as it can actually wear down the tooth enamel, but brushing too softly might not be effective enough.

Be sure they spit the toothpaste out in the sink and don't swallow it. Toothpaste isn't healthy if consumed. Even children's toothpaste, which is specifically formulated to be easier on the digestive system should it accidentally get swallowed, should be spit out.

While not in the scope of this article, it's also important to teach them how to floss. Dental floss is just as important as a toothbrush as it relates to a happy mouth, so be sure to instill a habit that includes dental flossing at least once per day, if not even more frequently. Mint or bubble gum flavored dental floss for kids might help them enjoy flossing more than the non flavored varieties.

Remember, it's the habit of brushing effectively and often that will ultimately keep your child's smile bright and happy, not the brush itself. So while an electric toothbrush for kids is a great start, it's the habits they build that will last a lifetime.