Brushing is the most important way to keep your teeth healthy. It prevents tooth decay, keeps gums healthy and gives you fresh breath. But does it matter whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush?
Most of us assume that simply because electric toothbrushes are powered and have much faster movements, they are automatically better. That’s just halfway right.
What Research Says
For years, researchers have been trying to find out whether electric toothbrushes offer any distinctive advantages over good old manual toothbrushes. Findings so far suggest that they do have several benefits though not in all situations.
One of the biggest studies is by the Cochrane Oral Health Group. They did a meta-analysis of 56 studies between 1964 and 2011.
They found that compared to manual types, electric toothbrushes reduce plaque by around 11% after one to three months of use and 23% after three months of use. Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, is reduced by 6% after one to three months and 11% after three months of using an electric toothbrush compared to a manual one.
A few other studies have however not shown any added benefits of using an electric toothbrush for people with good dental health.
What Users Say
There are however many benefits of electric toothbrushes that science doesn’t capture and they are just as important. These are benefits many users would attest to.
1. Easier brushing especially for those with dexterity problems
The electric toothbrush was invented specifically for persons with reduced motor skills. But people noticed just how much easier it made brushing. Thus the powered toothbrush became a widespread device in many homes.
While you have to move a manual toothbrush up and down and sideways, an electric toothbrush makes all those movements on its own. You just need to guide it along your teeth and gums and it does the rest.
2. Better cleaning and improved dental health
Electric toothbrushes move thousands of times faster than a manual toothbrush. Ultrasonic toothbrushes can make over a million movements every minute.
This is why electric toothbrushes are better at removing plaque. Their rapid oscillations and vibrations easily break up plaque and bacteria. These toothbrushes are also better able to reach deeper between teeth to get rid of any debris stuck there.
Most users report significantly improved dental health when they start using an electric toothbrush. Those with gingivitis experience an improvement and teeth generally feel cleaner.
3. Fresher breath
One change people notice when they switch to a powered toothbrush is that their breath smells better. This is simply because an electric toothbrush is better at removing bacteria, plaque and stuck bits of food that often contribute to a bad breath.
It’s important to note that this is only true for mild cases. If you have halitosis (chronic bad breath) simply using an electric toothbrush may not help. Talk to your dentist about a more effective cure.
Electric toothbrushes provide a level of versatility that manual brushes cannot match. This is especially the case with modern brands that come packed with more features than ever.
For instance, most electric toothbrushes now come with several cleaning modes including gum care, tongue cleaning, sensitive teeth and others. And even if your toothbrush lacks them, you can buy different types of brush heads such as soft-bristled heads for sensitive teeth and heads with extra thin bristles for cleaning tight teeth.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Electric Toothbrushes?
An obvious one that comes to mind is the cost. A good quality electric toothbrush will cost quite a few pennies more than a manual one. The brush heads themselves are also not cheap. Considering you have to keep replacing the heads, electric toothbrushes tend to be quite pricey in the long run.
Then there is the issue with the battery. You have to keep recharging the toothbrush. Luckily, most electric toothbrushes come with a charging base that also acts as a holder. So the toothbrush is always ready to use.
But if you are planning to travel for more than a few days, I’d recommend bringing along a manual toothbrush. But there are some electric toothbrushes that can last as long as three weeks.
Looking at both scientific findings and opinions from users, it is worth it investing in an electric toothbrush. It is not a magic solution to all your dental problems but it will help a great deal.