Electric or Manual Toothbrush?

by: Dr. Tom Swanlund

A recent poll on Sootoday.com showed that out of 1369 people who responded, 73% voted manual toothbrush over electric. This was not a scientific poll or study but it did show what the majority of the sootoday.com readers were using most.

We have come a long way with toothbrushes. Nowadays, walking down the aisle at Shopper's Drug Mart or Walmart can make you dizzy with the variety of dental supplies available.
When it comes to toothbrushes, the main rule is soft-bristle brushes are best. Reason being soft-bristled toothbrushes will not harm the gum and will clean just as well as a hard-bristled toothbrush. Brushing technique and time using the toothbrush are two other important factors in acquiring a healthy and plaque-free mouth.

Manual brushes can be good if used properly. Technique according to the individuals' oral condition is important. If someone has gum recession, gum disease, or other factors, modification of brush technique is key to maximizing plaque removal. It is also important to apply the correct pressure so as not to create damage on both the teeth and the gums. Your dental hygienist will review this to ensure you are using the brush properly.

Electric toothbrushes are divided into two types; battery- operated and rechargeable electric.
Battery-operated toothbrushes are slightly more effective than manual when used properly. These brushes are not extremely powerful, but often the rotating action will help remove sticky plaque. These brushes have the downside of having a bulky brush head and often many children and adults start out with these but then switch to a rechargeable electric when they find the brush needs to be thrown away when the battery dies. These are a good start, but for optimal plaque/stain removal, improvement in gum health, and long-term use, a rechargeable electric is the best choice.

Rechargeable electric toothbrushes are the ultimate choice in toothbrushes. Sonicare and Braun/Oral B are two that come to mind when recommending a brush to a patient. These brushes have been studied immensely over the years and demonstrate superior efficacy compared to manual or battery-operated toothbrushes. Plaque and stain removal is superior due to the oscillating/rotational action of the brush head during use. These brushes can be used in both children and adults as they make both small and large brush heads. The technique for these brushes is very simple, you let the brush do the work and you place it where you want to clean. No scrubbing, circles or sweeping is required. Once again, make sure your pressure is light! Anyone can benefit from a rechargeable electric toothbrush, just ask your oral healthcare professional what they recommend.

A healthy plaque-free mouth is the ultimate goal with tooth brushing so remember; 
1. Brush 2-3x per day for two minutes at a time.
2. Soft-bristled brushes only!
3. Use good techniques taught to you by a dental hygienist.
4. Use fluoridated toothpaste with your toothbrush.
5. Gently brush your tongue after completing your teeth.