Does Using An Electric Toothbrush Really Make a Difference? | Nashville Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Jody Jones, DDS (2024)

The ads for electric toothbrushes boast that they remove more plaque than a regular toothbrush. Is this true? Does using an electric toothbrush really make that much difference?

The Oral Health Foundation did a study that showed electric toothbrushes do make a difference. A decade-long study found a 22% reduction in gum recession and an 18% reduction in tooth decay with electric toothbrush users.

Another study resulted in similar findings. Sixty young adults were divided into two groups and assigned electric or manual toothbrushes for six weeks. To qualify, the participants must have good oral health, moderate bleeding when a probe was used, and sufficient dexterity to properly brush their teeth. Dentists examined the participants at the end of the first, second, and sixth weeks. By the end of the study, those using manual toothbrushes had twice the plaque of those using electric toothbrushes.

How Electric Toothbrushes Work

Electric toothbrushes come in various styles and designs, but they use one of two toothbrush heads. Some are round with clusters of bristles in the interior and outer rings. The others are rectangular or oval, like a traditional toothbrush head. They provide different actions.

  1. Back-and-forth oscillation mimics the motion a manual toothbrush uses with a semi-rectangular head that moves back and forth across the surface of the teeth.
  2. Circular rotations have the round brush head moving either counterclockwise or clockwise and never changing direction.
  3. Counter oscillation is a round head, but some of the tufts of bristles move counterclockwise while the others move clockwise.
  4. Ionic toothbrushes are a newer entry and have a brush head similar to a manual toothbrush, but the device gives off an ionic charge to prevent plaque formation.
  5. Rotation-oscillation is a round toothbrush head that spins back and forth in half circles.
  6. Sonic toothbrushes use high frequencies to vibrate the toothbrush’s bristles for effective cleaning.
  7. Ultrasonic toothbrushes use even higher frequencies to get the bristles to vibrate and effectively break up plaque.

The brush head is one component to consider when choosing the best toothbrush, but there’s also the power source. Batteries power some electric toothbrushes’ motors, and others are rechargeable.

Battery-powered toothbrushes may be less expensive, but you’ll have to pay for new batteries. Rechargeable toothbrushes have a charging base that recharges the lithium battery between uses.

Depending on the toothbrush’s power, the motor may only allow for a few thousand movements per minute or millions of movements per minute. Which is best? Research is ongoing, but several experts believe rotation-oscillation is more effective at cleaning the teeth and gums.

Tips for Buying an Electric Toothbrush

What should you look for when shopping for a toothbrush? Much of this comes down to your personal preference. Ask yourself these questions to choose the right toothbrush for your needs.

Is It Comfortable to Hold?

Comfort is the most crucial consideration. Make sure you like the feel of the handle and how it fits in your hand. If you purchase an electric toothbrush and find it bulky and difficult to hold for two minutes, you’re unlikely to use it properly, if you even use it at all.

Before buying an electric toothbrush, check out display models in stores and feel the handles to find one that fits your hand and feels comfortable. It should be lightweight and easy to grasp. Button placement needs to be convenient to your thumb placement. If your hand cramps up while holding it, try something else.

How Do You Clean It?

Keeping your toothbrush clean is essential for infection control. Washing the handle and toothbrush head helps keep germs away. Is that something you know you’ll do after each use? Some also add UV storage cases and use the power of UV to kill bacteria.

How Much Can You Invest?

If you’re on a budget, you need to limit your selection to those you can afford. When shopping for the best price, look for rebates and sales to help you save money. Be sure you research the cost of replacement brush heads. It would be best to replace the head on your electric toothbrush every three months. If the replacement heads cost $21 for three heads, you’re spending $7 each time. That’s more affordable than replacement heads that are two for $25.

Cheaper isn’t always best, but the most expensive electric toothbrush isn’t always the right fit. Read reviews, look at demo models in stores, and research the oral care features that matter the most.

What Features Benefit You?

Many electric toothbrushes have additional features to clean your teeth and gums sufficiently. Consider models that add features that benefit your lifestyle and oral care habits. For example, you never seem to brush your teeth for the full two minutes. Look for brushes that signal when you’ve spent 30 seconds on each quadrant of your mouth. The toothbrush will buzz when you’ve finished 30 seconds on the lower right, so you know to move to the lower left.

Toothbrushes may pair with apps that provide feedback regarding the areas where you didn’t brush for long enough, enabling you to turn the toothbrush back on to go over the tooth surfaces you missed. Sometimes, those apps award points for proper brushing, and you can cash in those points for replacement brush heads and other rewards.

Do you floss as effectively as you should? A water flosser propels a high-pressure stream of water between the teeth and along the gum line to break up and remove plaque. These toothbrushes are newer, but a flossing electric toothbrush is beneficial if you’re often told you should floss more. The downfall is that the water line for the toothbrush is connected to the water reservoir, so you can’t move far when you’re brushing your teeth.

What cleaning settings are available? Many electric toothbrushes have settings for different cleaning routines, including tongue scraping, whitening, regular cleaning, and sensitivity. If you have sensitive teeth and gums, a standard cleaning setting can be painful and prevent you from using your new toothbrush. Look for models with sensitive settings.

Does your dentist warn you about brushing too hard? Look for electric toothbrushes with pressure sensors that monitor how hard you brush. If you’re pushing down too hard, an audible alert goes off, or the toothbrush pauses to get you to stop.

Ask Your Dental Team for Advice

Dentists and dental hygienists work with patients all day long and have exceptional insight into what works best and what isn’t as effective. If you’re considering an electric toothbrush, ask for input. A smaller jaw may mean a round head fits better than a larger, traditional brush head.

Knowing where you commonly don’t brush thoroughly helps. If you’re often missing the back lower corner of your molars, a smaller brush head with a decent extension enables you to reach that area better. Your dental hygienist knows what mouth areas are most problematic for you and points you in the right direction.

Remember That Electric Toothbrushes Are Not a Substitute for Regular Dental Visits

Even the best electric toothbrush won’t remove every speck of plaque. Everyone has hard-to-reach areas or grooves where plaque hides. It’s imperative that you see a dentist for regular exams and cleanings. What do you do if you’re too anxious to go?

The fear of a dentist is not uncommon. Around four out of ten people experience dental anxiety. You’re not alone. We understand and work with you to ensure your cleaning and examination go smoothly. Talk to Dr. Jody Jones’ team about sedation dentistry and techniques that make your visits to our office stress-free.

Does Using An Electric Toothbrush Really Make a Difference? | Nashville Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Jody Jones, DDS (2024)


Do dentists really recommend electric toothbrushes? ›

They found that sonic toothbrushes reduce the signs of periodontal disease and the number of teeth lost. Other studies have concluded that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual ones at removing plaque, one of the main culprits of cavities and gum disease.

Do electric toothbrushes make a big difference? ›

A review of studies showed that, in general, electric toothbrushes do decrease more plaque and gingivitis than manual toothbrushes. After three months of use, plaque was reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent. Oscillating (rotating) toothbrushes seem to work better than just vibrating toothbrushes.

Why you shouldn't use an electric toothbrush? ›

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One found that electric toothbrushes were more likely than manual to abrade dentin—the tissue directly below the tooth's enamel, which can become exposed when enamel wears away or gums recede. Abrasions to the dentin increase tooth sensitivity and can hike cavity risks.

Does the ADA recommend electric toothbrushes? ›

Either manual or powered toothbrushes can be used effectively. A product earns the ADA Seal of Acceptance by providing scientific evidence that demonstrates safety and efficacy, which the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates according to objective requirements.

What are the disadvantages of an electric toothbrush? ›

They are more expensive compared to manual toothbrushes, making them less accessible to everyone. Electric toothbrushes are also fragile and require a lot of care to prevent damage. Although you have to charge them, overcharging, dropping, or damaging the batteries can mean the end of your electric toothbrush.

What is the best toothpaste according to dentists? ›

The Top Toothpastes
  • Colgate Total. ...
  • Crest Pro-Health. ...
  • Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste. ...
  • Arm and Hammer Dental Care Advance Cleaning Mint Toothpaste w/Baking Soda. ...
  • Tom's of Maine Natural Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste. ...
  • Crest Tartar Protection. ...
  • Tom's of Maine Simply White Clean Mint Toothpaste.

Do expensive electric toothbrushes work better? ›

Expensive electric toothbrushes often have more powerful brushing technology, resulting in superior cleaning performance.

Is an electric toothbrush better for receding gums? ›

Brushing with receding gums requires a gentle yet effective approach to maintain oral hygiene without exacerbating the condition. Electric toothbrushes offer valuable benefits for individuals with receding gums, providing precise cleaning action and customizable settings to accommodate varying oral health needs.

Do you brush your teeth differently with an electric toothbrush? ›

When using an electric toothbrush it is not necessary to press hard or scrub while brushing. Instead, gently guide the brush along as it scrubs.

Is it bad to use an electric toothbrush every day? ›

Absolutely! Using an electric toothbrush every day is generally recommended and can be beneficial for maintaining good oral hygiene. The consistent use of an electric toothbrush helps remove plaque effectively, reaches difficult-to-reach areas, and promotes better overall cleaning compared to manual brushing.

Are you supposed to brush back and forth with an electric toothbrush? ›

Gently and lightly pull the brush along the gum line, allowing the vibrations to clean the area thoroughly. There's no need to vigorously brush back and forth as you would with a manual toothbrush.

What is the #1 dentist recommended electric toothbrush? ›

As the most gentle electric toothbrush that offered a near-instantaneous brighter smile with each use, the Philips Sonicare 4100 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush is the clear-cut winner among this list. Not only is it fairly priced between $35 and $50 on the market but its quality is second to none.

What do dentists say about electric toothbrushes? ›

Manual Toothbrush Efficacy. A 2021 Meta-Analysis has shown that electric toothbrushes are more efficient than manual ones at removing plaque and bacteria from teeth and gums, preventing cavities and gum disease. The primary goal of brushing your teeth is to eliminate debris and plaque.

Which is better, Oral-B or sonicare? ›

Nearly equal. Oral B works by oscillating and rotating while Sonicare vibrates. Both are equally effective as long as vibrations/oscillations occur at 31,000+ vibrations/oscillations per minute.

Are electric toothbrushes better or worse for your teeth? ›

Now, they're more popular than ever. But do they really make a difference in cleaning your teeth? Actually, yes: Electric toothbrushes are generally considered more effective at removing plaque and keeping teeth clean than manual toothbrushes.

Is it better to use a manual or electric toothbrush? ›

Benefits of an Electric Toothbrush

Removes more plaque –electric toothbrushes remove up to 70% more plaque than manual toothbrushes in hard-to-reach places*. Good for your gums – an 11-year study of electric vs. manual toothbrush use found that electric toothbrushes resulted in 22% less gum recession.

Is my electric toothbrush damaging my gums? ›

Scrubbing back and forth with an electric toothbrush can irritate and wear away at your gums over time, resulting in receding gums. Instead, simply guide your toothbrush along your teeth at a 45 degree angle to your gums – the ideal angle for sweeping away plaque from the gum line.

Is it better to use a toothbrush or electric toothbrush? ›

Electric toothbrushes have been shown to remove more plaque than a manual, delivering a more complete clean. 1 Plaque bacteria can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss if not removed properly. Electric toothbrushes are far more effective at removing plaque, limiting its damaging effects on oral health.

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