Electric vs Manual Toothbrush

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 83940)

electric vs manual toothbrush

Electric or manual, both toothbrushes are designed to help remove plaque, bacteria and debris from our teeth and gums to help keep them clean and healthy.

A debate that has been going on for years and will continue to rumble on is whether electric toothbrushes are better than manual toothbrushes.

Are electric toothbrushes better?

So, getting straight to the point then of whether an electric brush is better or not.

The short answer is YES, and electric toothbrush IS better than a manual toothbrush when it comes to effectively cleaning your teeth.

Although, a manual brush is perfectly adequate, if used correctly.

However, I am sure you want to know a little more and understand why this is.  Along with perhaps understanding why many still advise just stick with a regular manual toothbrush.

Electric toothbrush cleaning teeth

A brief history of the toothbrush

The toothbrush first existed in 3500BC

Yet, despite centuries of existence, it was not until the 1800’s that they became commonplace as medical sciences evolved to understand the benefits and manufacturing processes matured to allow for mass production.

Today, they are a part of our lives from a very early age. You more than likely recall your parents nagging you to brush your teeth.  Perhaps you are you that nagging parent?!

Advice from the American Dental Association, British Dental Association, and the NHS all agree that brushing twice a day for at least 2 minutes is important. (NHS & American Dental Association)

With such a global stance on this approach, the first advice any dental professional will give in regards to improving your oral health is this.

As such, brushing your teeth twice a day with a toothbrush be that manual or electric is most important, not what type of brush.

Dentists would rather you brush twice a day with a manual brush than brush once a day with an electric one.

Toothpaste on a manual toothbrush

Despite thousands of years of history to the toothbrush, it is within the last century that the electric toothbrush has been introduced, thanks to the invention of, you guessed it, electricity.

Benefits of an electric toothbrush

My article on the benefits of electric toothbrushes goes into much greater detail on each benefit, but the key reasons why opting for an electric toothbrush is worth considering is as follows.

  • Consistent power delivery for a dentist like clean
  • Can remove up to 100% more plaque than a manual brush
  • Reduces tooth decay and improves gum health
  • Can help eliminate bad breath
  • Timers and pacers to encourage a 2 minute clean
  • Various cleaning modes
  • Different brush heads – Differing styles to achieve differing results
  • Fading bristles – Reminding you when to change your brush head
  • Value added features – Travel cases, apps & more
  • Fun and engaging – Reduces the boredom to ensure a proper clean
  • Internal or removable batteries – 5 days to 6 months battery life
  • Relatively low lifetime cost
  • Confidence – Cleaner, healthier teeth boost your self satisfaction

Whilst electric toothbrushes offer consistent power delivery and a host of features that can improve how effective our tooth brushing regime is, nothing can actually beat regular cleaning, with the right technique.

Professor Damien Walmsley is the British Dental Associations Scientific Adviser and he says: ‘Independent research has found there is a 21 percent reduction in plaque for those assessed three months after switching to a powered brush rather than if they had simply stuck with a manual brush.’ (This Money)

Walmsley’s claims are backed up by clinical studies (1 & 2) which show that electric toothbrushes are a better option.

More recently an impressive 11 year study, undertaken by Pitchika et al assesed the long term effects of the power toothbrush.  The results from the 2,819 participants was published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontolgy. If we ignore the clinical jargon, the study found that long term use of an electric toothbrush reduces means healthier teeth and gums and an increased number of teeth retained compared to those using a manual toothbrush.

Despite this, simply brushing your teeth correctly is one of the best things you can do.

And it is this stance, of focusing on brushing regularly, with the right approach, rather than focusing on a manual or electric toothbrush, that the American Dental Association takes. It offers a seal of acceptance to both manual and electric toothbrushes.

Naturally, there are some negatives to owning or acquiring an electric toothbrush, notably:

  • Initial cost – More expensive than a manual brush
  • Short battery life and need to re-charge
  • Cost of replacement heads – Equivalent to the cost of a manual brush
  • Not always travel friendly – Varying support for voltages and protection to handles and heads when traveling

Whether the benefits outweigh the negatives is up to you to decide.

Range of electric toothbrushes slightly out of focus

Electric toothbrush vs manual argument concluded

Clinical studies and the Scientific Adviser to the British Dental Association amongst others agree that electric toothbrushes are better.

I have heard first hand how many who have switched have noticed improvements.

Just $50 can get you a capable electric toothbrush, will you be switching?

Whilst simply cleaning your teeth regularly and properly with any brush is the most important thing, the benefits an electric toothbrush offers can really help your oral hygiene routine long term.

Jon Love

About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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