Electric Toothbrush versus Manual Which is Better savina dental clinics malta gozo

Brushing your teeth is key to good oral care and preventing teeth and gum problems. According to the ADA (American Dental Association), both manual and electric toothbrushes are great at removing oral plaque that causes periodontal disease and tooth decay.

However, they each have their pros and cons. The ADA approves the use of any toothbrush, whether manual or electric as long as it’s effective and safe. Here is what you need to know about both types, including their pros and cons to help you decide which is ideal for you.

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Overview of an electric toothbrush

These are modern toothbrushes that can do a lot more than clean your teeth. Some premium electric toothbrushes come with a 2-minute timer to ensure that you brush your teeth for two minutes and warn you when you press too hard against your teeth to avoid teeth problems.

Below are the pros and cons to expect.

What to look for in an electric toothbrush

When choosing an electric toothbrush, consider the following:

Stroke motion

Oscillating/rotating toothbrush

This type of electric toothbrush has bristles running in circles around the teeth. With their circular motion, the bristles remove plaque from all angles.

These brush types produce 7,500 brush strokes every minute, which is a big deal compared to manual brushes.

Ultrasonic/sonic toothbrush

Ultrasonic toothbrushes provide superior speeds of up to 5000 strokes a minute plus vibrations which move the head backwards and forward, allowing you to get all plaque and food particles stuck between your teeth. While it’s effective, it’s not recommended for individuals with sensitive gums or those healing from dental procedures.

Brush heads

The power of an electric brush is in its head. Here are some brush head features to consider:

  • Bristle texture – electric brushes have varying bristles designed for different sensitivities, including soft, extra soft, and medium qualities
  • Small head toothbrush – some electric toothbrushes are designed to cater to specific age groups from toddlers to adults

Special electric toothbrush features:

  • Timers – dentists recommend brushing your teeth for a minimum of two minutes. Unfortunately, this might be difficult to track when using manual toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes have built-in timers that track brushing time to ensure you adhere to a brushing routine.
  • Quad pacers – some electric toothbrushes include a feature to help brushing the upper, lower, left, and right parts of your mouth to give you an even and efficient clean.
  • Cleaning modes – some electric toothbrushes have high-speed whitening and polishing modes that ensure efficient cleaning after consuming different foods. Moreover, they allow you to switch settings depending on your sensitivity.
  • Tongue fresheners – some brush heads have tongue fresheners and cleaners that help in controlling bad breath.
  • Travel friendly – some electric brushes come in storage cases that are ideal for carrying around when travelling

Benefits of an electric toothbrush

Studies reveal that electric toothbrushes have the upper hand over manual toothbrushes in maintaining good oral health. But even then, it’s important to discuss their pros and cons with your dentist. Here are some benefits of using an electric toothbrush

  • Effective at reducing gingivitis and plaque compared to manual toothbrushes – in 2019, an 11-year German study revealed that patients who used electric toothbrushes have better oral health, including less tooth loss and gum disease than patients who used manual brushes.
  • Better gum health – in a 2017 review, orthodontic patients were found to have better gum health. They experienced less bleeding and inflammation when they used electric toothbrushes than with manual toothbrushes.
  • Great for kids – a small 2013 study revealed that electric toothbrushes are better for removing plaque for kids than manual toothbrushes.
  • Better for the older population – electric toothbrushes are good for the senior generation because they have easy-to-hold handles, and the built-in vibration mechanism gets the job done without vigorous hand and arm movements. Electric toothbrushes also come in handy for people with arthritis.
  • Extra features – some electric toothbrushes have superior features which help you track brushing and overall oral health. Some include smartphone apps, sensors, and timers that help users count down the recommended two-minute brush time.
  • Waste reduction – although you need to replace the head of an electric toothbrush after a couple of months, like with a manual toothbrush, instead of disposing of the entire toothbrush, you only discard the head, which reduces plastic waste.

The downsides of an electric toothbrush

  • Cost – electric toothbrushes can cost up to €200, making them more expensive than manual toothbrushes. Their heads cost between €7 and €10. Though this is affordable, the cost rises significantly when you replace it four times a year as recommended.
  • Loud – they are noisier than manual toothbrushes, which can be annoying to some people.
  • Too much force – they can be abrasive to individuals with sensitive gums. Oral tissue damage can lead to infections.

Overview of a manual toothbrush

Though electric toothbrushes are growing in popularity, most consumers still use manual brushes. They are cheaper, readily available, and easy to use. They get the job done well enough.

What to look for in a manual toothbrush

Generally, manual toothbrushes are a lot less expensive than electric toothbrushes. However, studies show that they aren’t always effective at reducing gingivitis and plaque. If you need a manual toothbrush, consider one that has a compact head that can reach the back teeth. Also, go for medium bristles instead of hard bristles as they can damage your gums. Soft bristle brushes are used for specific cases only

Benefits of a manual toothbrush

  • Portable – it’s easy to carry your manual toothbrush to work or use when travelling.
  • Inexpensive – the average manual toothbrush cost under $10
  • Widely available – manual toothbrushes are sold at most groceries and pharmacies
  • No batteries – they don’t need batteries to work, so they don’t contribute to battery waste

The downsides of a manual toothbrush

  • Miss the hard-to-reach spots – with a large head, it’s difficult to reach the back teeth for proper cleaning. However, with a compact toothbrush and proper use, a manual toothbrush can be effective.
  • Creates plastic waste – toothbrushes should be replaced quarterly or when you notice signs of fraying on the bristles. Discarding toothbrushes leads to plastic waste.
  • Their bristles can be more abrasive compared to electric brushes – if you brush too hard with a manual toothbrush or use a bristle that’s too stiff, you may not realize when damage is done. Electric toothbrushes have warning alarms that go off when you apply too much pressure.
  • Not ideal for certain groups of people – experts say individuals with disabilities and the elderly can have difficulty brushing with manual toothbrushes because of dexterity problems.

So which is better?

Both electric and manual toothbrushes can clean your teeth effectively when used right. Generally, electric toothbrushes are easier to use and remove plaque better and more efficiently while manual toothbrushes are cheaper and widely available.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.