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Comparing Manual and Electric Toothbrushes

In recent years, you may have noticed a rise in the popularity of powered toothbrushes. With all the hype, they may seem like the clear-cut choice. But are they really?

Most dentists agree that a manual toothbrush can offer the same level of cleanliness as a powered toothbrush, if used appropriately. The ease of power toothbrushes is the real divider. Electric toothbrushes, with their various options in style, brush heads, and modes (like whitening, sensitivity, and deep cleaning), make thorough cleaning seem simple—but, some of these are nothing more than sales gimmicks and marketing wizardry, just like the type of box they come in or whether or not they connect to your phone through Bluetooth technology.  After all, who really needs your toothbrush to connect with their toothbrush?  Some electric brushes even come equipped with a timer which sounds an alert when too much time is being spent brushing one area—the timer even goes off if you just leave the brush running outside of your mouth on the counter, so the usefulness of that feature is questionable as well. Vibrations based on time offer suggestions when to move the toothbrush to a different area of the mouth—which is quite accurate if everyone has the same size, shape, position, and number of teeth in each quadrant.  While clearly sarcasm is used here to illustrate features that manufacturers employ to sell their electric toothbrushes, they can be very helpful for many people.  For example, electric toothbrushes are ideal for those who have disabilities or dexterity issues, for those who have periodontal disease, and for anyone who likes the way their teeth feel when they use them.  Because there are many brands and features of electric toothbrushes, many of which can actually be harmful when used in the wrong situation, it is always best to discuss using an electric toothbrush with your dental professional so that the most appropriate device can be selected based on professional advice and instruction.

Ultimately, choosing between a manual or an electric toothbrush is up to the user, but it is best when the choice is made after discussion with your dentist or dental hygienist. When considering effectiveness, there is no solid evidence that one is better than the other—it comes down, rather, to personal preference and which bells and whistles you like and are willing to pay for.  However, we have found that a simple, rotary-style toothbrush with customizable replaceable heads for a modest cost of less than $50 that we offer in our practice is just as effective—if not more so—than other models made by the same brand that are sold at major retailers with more “features” and much more elaborate packaging. Manual toothbrushes are inexpensive, travel-friendly, and don’t require charging or batteries. They will, however, require a little more work than electric toothbrushes to achieve the same level of cleanliness.  However, neither manual or electric toothbrushes will work if they are not used appropriately.

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