The holidays are a time of giving, and many people buy toothbrushes to give as stocking stuffers or a present. Toothbrushes can be a fun gift because they are available with so many interesting and fun designs, especially for kids. While the way a toothbrush looks does not have an impact on oral health, the type of toothbrush you choose could make a difference. You may wonder if it is worth it to pay extra money to buy an electric toothbrush. It doesn’t matter if you use a manual or electric toothbrush if you carefully clean all the surfaces of your teeth, right? As you decide which toothbrush to buy, we want to help you understand whether electric toothbrushes are really any better than manual toothbrushes.
Both electric and manual toothbrushes can be used effectively according to the American Dental Association. With proper technique, it is possible to get teeth clean with either type. However, many studies show that over time, electric toothbrushes are better at controlling plaque and gingivitis (1, 2). This is because electric toothbrushes do have a few distinct advantages over manual toothbrushes which make it easier to clean your teeth and keep your mouth healthy.
1. An electric toothbrush delivers far more brush strokes per minute. When focusing, the average person can brush around 300 strokes per minute. Think about how many times your thoughts drift off or you get distracted and finish brushing your teeth without paying attention. Did you keep up the pace and brush as quickly as normal? Probably not. The number of brush strokes per minute created by a child who is easily distracted and still learning coordination may be even lower than that.
In contrast, electric toothbrushes deliver between 3,000 and 40,000 strokes per minute. All you have to do is hold it over your tooth and remember to move it over each surface of every tooth. Even if you have the slowest electric toothbrush that delivers around 3,000 strokes per minute, that is 10 times more than the average person can do on their own with a manual toothbrush.
More strokes per minute equal a far superior clean in much less time. This is great news, especially for children who may get distracted, or whose arm and hand may get tired by the end of their brushing time. It also makes it easier to keep your teeth clean while you have braces or other orthodontic appliances (3).
2. People tend to use less pressure when brushing with an electric toothbrush, which is actually better for your teeth and gums (4). When you use too much pressure while brushing it is abrasive to your teeth and gums. This can cause erosion, especially in a tooth that is already vulnerable.
When gums are damaged by brushing too hard, it allows the bacteria that naturally occur in your mouth to enter your bloodstream. In healthy people, this usually is not a problem, because the immune system can eliminate the bacteria fairly easily. However, in some people, once the bacteria enter the bloodstream it can cause or worsen health problems such as infective endocarditis, respiratory infections, diabetes, dementia, infertility, and pregnancy complications.
3. You do not need to use a back and forth motion while brushing with an electric toothbrush. Slow deliberate motion creates effective cleaning even in areas that are tough to reach. This is beneficial in quite a few situations. It makes brushing easier for people who have an exaggerated gag reflex, a developmental disability, arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Although it is possible to clean your teeth sufficiently with a manual toothbrush, electric toothbrushes make it far easier. As Dr. Culp points out,
“With kids, time is of the essence. When using an electric toothbrush, the object is simply to put the brush at the right place on your tooth and let it go to town. My experience tells me that the electric is the way to go when it comes to the day-to-day reality.”
Tips for brushing teeth effectively.
Children have a difficult time brushing effectively until around the age of eight. It is important for an adult to continue brushing their teeth until they are old enough to do a great job. Check out this article for tips on teaching your kids how to brush.
First, choose a soft-bristle brush. Young children may benefit from extra-soft bristles. Hard and medium bristles can injure gums and wear down teeth, especially when used with too much force.
Pick a brush that is the right size. A 2-year-old, 10-year-old, and adult each have different sized mouths, and each needs a toothbrush that fits.
Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums, so it can remove plaque that forms under the edge of the gums. This is a vital step in preventing gingivitis.
Gently brush all tooth surfaces.
When using an electric toothbrush, the technique is a bit different than brushing with a manual toothbrush. If your toothbrush has an oscillating head, hold the brush in place on each surface of each tooth for a couple of seconds. Other electric brushes may require a different technique, so be sure to read and follow the instructions included with your toothbrush.
In addition to the teeth and gums, it is a good idea to brush the tongue and cheeks. Bacteria hide everywhere, and the more thoroughly you clean the mouth the more germs and food debris will be eliminated. This will not only keep your mouth and teeth healthier but also help your breath stay fresher!
The most important thing is to be diligent about brushing twice and flossing once every day.
Finally, replace your toothbrush, or the toothbrush head every three to four months. If the bristles get worn out sooner, replace it. Worn out bristles are not as effective at cleaning.
Whatever type of toothbrushes you choose for your family, you are investing in a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. We are privileged to be your child’s dental home and help you provide them with the healthiest smile possible. Our office will be closed December 24 - 26, and December 30 – January 1, but we look forward to seeing you at your next appointment. From all of us at Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics, we hope you have the happiest of holidays!
Call Us at (480) 759-1119
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
1. Kulkarni, P., Singh, D. K., & Jalaluddin, M. (2017). Comparison of Efficacy of Manual and Powered Toothbrushes in Plaque Control and Gingival Inflammation: A Clinical Study among the Population of East Indian Region. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 7(4), 168–174. doi:10.4103/jispcd.JISPCD_133_17
2. Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, Deery C, Walmsley AD, Robinson PG, Glenny AM. Powered versus manual toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD002281. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002281.pub3.
3. Heintze SD, Jost-Brinkmann PG, Loundos J. Effectiveness of three different types of electric toothbrushes compared with a manual technique in orthodontic patients. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 1996;110:630–8.
4. Wiegand, A., Burkhard, J.P.M., Eggmann, F. et al. Brushing force of manual and sonic toothbrushes affects dental hard tissue abrasion. Clin Oral Invest 17, 815–822 (2013) doi:10.1007/s00784-012-0788-z
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