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Winter Park Family Dentistry and Prosthodontics

Are Electric Toothbrushes Better Than Manual Brushes?

Is An Electric Toothbrush Better Than a Manual Toothbrush? 

Most studies will show that electric (powered) toothbrushes clean more effectively than manual toothbrushes.  So should everyone pitch their trusty manual brush? NO! The vast majority of our patients have adequate home care with traditional  manual toothbrushes.  


Electric (powered) toothbrushes have built in features that make home care more intuitive:

1. Timers- Reminds you how long to brush each part "quadrant" of your mouth.

2. Pressure indicators- preventing you from brushing too aggresively, overbrushing can be very damaging to teeth and lead to recession and sensitivity

3. Oscillating head (Braun Oral-B): Using a circular bristle design that spins back and forth removing plaque and tarter. 

4. Sonic wave technology (Philips-Sonicare brand): Use sonic waves to remove plaque and tarter.

5. Color Indicators:  Tell you when to replace the head of the brush.  

6. Inter-changable bristle design: Allows for different bristle designs for different parts of your mouth. 


Toothbrush Wars: Manual Versus Electric

The key to healthy teeth, in addition to your semiannual dental checkups and following a nutritious diet, is good oral hygiene. Every dentist will recommend brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. “Don’t forget to floss!” I remind my patients. So you visit the store in search of the best toothbrush that will keep your pearly whites clean. But then you find yourself standing in the middle of the aisle staring at a myriad of toothbrushes – purple, green, kid size, electric, even ones that sing. Which one should you buy? I recommend buying a toothbrush that you will use regularly (and that displays the ADA Seal of Acceptance).  Believe it or not, both manual and electric toothbrushes can thoroughly clean your teeth. There are, however, patients who do benefit from powered toothbrushes. If you experience difficulty using a manual toothbrush due to health issues, you may find a powered one easier to use. If brushing your teeth is easy and fun, the less likely you are to skip on the cleaning! 

Periodontal Disease Patients

To prevent and slow down periodontal disease damage, studies show that soft head toothbrushes are more effective. In one study, for example, individuals who used a soft toothbrush had less exposed tooth below the gum line, while hard brush users had more damage to their gums. There are other studies that suggest a rotation- oscillation toothbrush (where the bristles circulate and move back and forth) is more effective than a manual toothbrush. And if a periodontal patient is suffering from severe arthritis or other mobility issues, a powered toothbrush feels easier to use, allowing the patient to brush regularly. Overall, however, there is no significant difference between powered and manual toothbrushes in preventing gum disease. It’s proper brushing, flossing, and annual dental cleanings that may prevent tooth and gum damage. Even advanced periodontitis can be slowed down with proper care. This is why finding a toothbrush that feels more convenient for you is important in maintaining a healthy smile.  

Orthodontic Patients

My hygienists and I remind our patients that maintaining good oral hygiene is a challenge during ortho treatment. The reason? Brackets and archwires often trap food particles, making it extremely important to brush your teeth thoroughly and frequently. However, the horizontal archwires tend to obstruct the normal path of the bristle. Here is where an electric oscillating-rotating toothbrush comes to the rescue! Picking an oscillating-rotating toothbrush will significantly improve plaque levels and gingival bleeding, because it can loosen and remove trapped food. But make sure you use a special, orthodontic toothbrush head. Even if you choose a manual brush, the ortho head is ideal because it gently and effectively cleans around the ortho appliances. Its “V” shaped bristles can maneuver with ease around brackets and wires, helping keep teeth and gums clean. I recommend an Oral-B electric toothbrush with an orthodontic toothbrush head. For best results, guide the brush to all parts of your mouth to reach each tooth.

Pediatric Patients

Getting your toddler to brush his or her teeth can be a challenge. This is why it is important to pick a toothbrush that will boost your child’s interest in regular brushing. Remember, to get gunk out, you must brush for two minutes, twice a day! Manual toothbrushes get the job done because they reach multiple teeth at once. Electric toothbrushes may do a more thorough job because they clean one tooth at a time, but the patient must have patience. Whether you select a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure you pick one with the ADA Seal of Approval. I also recommend a soft head with rounded bristles, and, of course, a child-sized brush head and handle. Choosing a toothbrush that plays music may not be a bad idea. Brushing your teeth should be a fun activity, so if your child wants a glow-in-the-dark, music-playing toothbrush, I say, “Go for it!”


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