Toothbrushing – Manual versus Electric


In considering whether manual or electric brushing is the better way to brush teeth, remember first: brushing teeth any way is better than not brushing teeth at all. Both technologies are effective at removing plaque and reducing the opportunity for harmful bacteria to assist in forming dental cavities.

Advantages of Manual Toothbrushes

While they are low-tech and have been around for a long time, manual toothbrushes remain an effective means of cleaning teeth.

Manual toothbrushes are widely available and inexpensive. Virtually any pharmacy, as well as groceries and variety stores, will have manual toothbrushes available. Many dentists also give toothbrushes away for free to patients.

Finally, being manual, manual toothbrushes are always ready for use with no need for charging, access to electricity, or batteries.

Disadvantages of Manual Toothbrushes

A significant drawback to manual toothbrushes is that they don’t enforce proper brushing technique. People using a manual toothbrush might brush for too long, or not long enough. Also, people often tend to press too hard when using a manual toothbrush, or to brush only parallel to the gum line, potentially hurting gums and teeth.

Children in particular are less likely to use a manual toothbrush properly in the ways just mentioned.

Advantages of Electric Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes operate by rotating or vibrating the brush head at high speed: faster than can be done by manual brushing. This added speed means that electric toothbrushes, properly used, are more effective at removing plaque than manual brushes. Studies done over three months show that electric brushing removes about 21 percent more plaque than manual brushing, and reduces gingivitis by about 11 percent compared to manual brushing.

Between rotating and vibrating electric brushes, rotating brushes appear to have a marginal advantage in reducing plaque.

Electric toothbrushes also eliminate brushing that is hard on the gums, such as when happens when a manual toothbrush is used incorrectly.

For those with limited mobility, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritic constraints, and cognitive challenges electric tooth brushes are usually easier to use.

Most electric toothbrushes have a built-in timer that guides the user to brush for an appropriate length of time, and to evenly distribute their brushing throughout their mouth.

When the head of an electric toothbrush is finished, the waste is relatively little compared to disposing of a complete manual toothbrush.

Disadvantages of Electric Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes can vary quite widely in price but will be more expensive than manual toothbrushes. They do however have replaceable heads. However, electric toothbrush heads are proprietary designs and vary from one type or manufacturer to another. This can lead to incompatibilities within a family using differing sorts of toothbrushes. More importantly, some toothbrush manufacturers take advantage of their captive market to sell replacement brush heads at exorbitant prices. in addition to being expensive, highly priced replacement heads might lead some to continue to use heads long beyond their useful life. Disposable electric toothbrushes also exist, but do not represent an economical approach to tooth brushing.

Sourcing replacement heads for your electric toothbrush might entail buying online as not all types of replacement head are carried in all stores.

Rechargeable electric toothbrushes are more expensive than corded types, but are more convenient and adaptable to short term travel to locations with incompatible voltages and sockets.

Other Considerations

When choosing a toothbrush of any sort, ensure that you are picking one with soft bristles. Some also include a tongue brush, which is also useful.

Make sure that you are choosing an appropriately-sized toothbrush. This consideration applies particularly to toothbrushes for children. Whether the toothbrush is manual or electric, children should be supervised when brushing to ensure that they are brushing correctly, for the right length of time, and that they are not swallowing the toothpaste. Parents with very young children will probably undertake to do the brushing themselves until tier child is old enough to manage brushing themselves.

The brush head of any toothbrush will wear out and should be replaced every three or four months to guarantee it’s operating at its most effective.

Remember that toothbrushes are tools, and the important thing is how they are used. The choice of type of toothbrush will matter less than following good brushing technique and flossing and brushing regularly. Your dentist can help you to choose the right toothbrush for your needs.

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