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Electric vs Manual Toothbrush

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Gemma Wheeler

(GDC Number: 259369)

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 vs Manual Toothbrush 1

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 NHS, British Dental Association and the American Dental Association all agrees 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.

Electric vs Manual Toothbrush 2

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
Electric vs Manual Toothbrush 3

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 per cent 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.

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 travelling

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

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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.

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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5 thoughts on “Electric vs Manual Toothbrush”

  1. I have just brought myself a Oral B Tooth Brush the green handle. My comment to you is inside the box’s was the one year warranty. When you open the paper it’s got the list. Of tooth brushes my question to you is by the side of the brush is a little box what each tooth brush does for you it’s this little box I can’t understand what it means cross action above that is. Three symbols can. You please tell me what they mean I can’t fine anywhere on your website does it say what they mean. Please email me and let me know thank you yours sincerely Gail Bicknell

    • Hi Gali.

      Thanks for the comment. Oral-B don’t typically sell brushes with green handles now. I think you might have one of the ‘TriZone’ series models, where the brush head sweeps in a side to side action.
      The box should say specifically what model it is. Can you share this with me?
      As a separate company to Oral-B we have no control over the manual, so I don’t know specifically what you are referring to until I know which model you have. CrossAction is the name of a particular style of brush head that Oral-B offers. More detail on the Oral-B brush heads is available here. I hope this helps.

  2. I totally disagree with similar and the above article stating that electric is better than manual for “one” reason and one reason only…..If you put too much pressure on a electric toothbrush the head/brush stops rotating/oscillating so essentially the brushing and cleaning has “stopped” with the recipient not realising. This obviously can not happen with a manual brush.

    • Hi Graham.

      I am not sure we suggest electric is better for 1 reason only?!

      With an electric brush, you would have to apply a lot of pressure to stop the brush head moving entirely.

      Brushes with pressure sensors built in will slow the motion of the brush head, but don’t usually completely stop all the movement completely.

      Often, brushes that slow the motion of the brush head will have some form of alert system (usually a red light) to alert the user they are brushing too hard. Not to mention the sound will change also.

      Most would then realise that too much pressure is being applied.

      Whilst this cannot happen in the same way with a manual brush, I do think that reducing the brush head movement is a good thing.

      Brushing too hard or with too much pressure is damaging to the teeth and gums. Therefore it is done with the right intention.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. Electric toothbrushes have become so cheap when on discount that it simply doesn’t make sense to buy manual toothbrush anymore unless you really can’t afford it at the moment.

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