Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes: Which to prescribe? (2024)

Patients often ask our advice when it comes to choosing the right toothbrush. One of the most frequent questions we hear is: which is better, electric or manual? In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits of each and discuss which toothbrush to recommend to your patients based on their individual oral health needs.

Electric toothbrushes

Much of the electric toothbrush’s movement comes from the powered brush head, so they can be easier to use (and more effective). That includes for patients with limited mobility and manual dexterity. These may include the elderly, young children and individuals with joint problems like arthritis or carpal tunnel, impaired motor skills or developmental disabilities.

Another benefit of electric toothbrushes is that they can encourage more effective brushing habits. The current recommendation is to brush twice daily for two minutes, but patients can often fall short of the mark. Many electric toothbrushes feature timers to encourage the correct brushing duration, along with 30-second “spacing” notifications to ensure equal attention to all four quadrants of the mouth. Some also feature pressure sensors, which alert the user when they’re brushing too hard. This can be especially beneficial for patients at risk of enamel or dentin loss and/or gingival abrasion.

Many electric toothbrushes can now be paired with smartphone apps to increase the effectiveness of brushing even further. The hum brush and the Colgate Smart Electronic Toothbrush E1 both connect to smartphone apps that track toothbrushing activity. As well as sending brushing reminders to the user’s phone, they feature smart sensor technology to track how much of the mouth is covered and highlight neglected areas. They also use “gamification”, turning toothbrushing into a fun game and rewarding users for positive brushing habits, and coach patients on brushing.

It can be difficult to properly clean around orthodontic brackets, wires and other fixtures, putting orthodontic patients at higher risk of developing carious lesions and gingival inflammation. An electric toothbrush can help them to achieve a more effective clean than a manual toothbrush and reduce their risk of oral health complications. As we also know, some of our younger patients can be reluctant brushers! Children often find electric toothbrushes much more fun to use, especially those that feature fun colors or favorite characters.

So does that mean you should always recommend an electric toothbrush to all of your patients? Not necessarily. Let's look now at manual toothbrushes more closely.

Manual toothbrushes

There are a number of reasons an electric toothbrush may not be suitable for a patient, for example:

  • They can’t afford it.

  • They don’t like the sensation of a powered brush.

  • They’re simply happy with their manual toothbrush and doing a great job!

Whatever their reason, the are many options to choose from. The American Dental Association (ADA) confirms that manual and electric toothbrushes are effective.

For general oral health, a manual toothbrush with soft bristles is recommended by the ADA. Examples include the Colgate 360 Toothbrush which has soft tapered bristles and soft rubber polishing cups. With a chunkier, ergonomically designed handle and soft grips, the Colgate 360 is easy to use and also an ideal manual recommendation for patients with limited mobility or dexterity. This brush also features a cheek and tongue cleaner and a raised cleaning tip. For patients with gingival inflammation, you might wish to recommend an ultra-soft manual toothbrush to minimize irritation. One such brush is the Colgate Gum Health Manual Toothbrush, proven to deliver 300% better gum health improvement compared to a regular flat-trimmed brush.

Patients with smaller mouths and/or crowded dentition can find it harder to clean tight spaces effectively. A manual brush like the Colgate Slim Soft can help, with a smaller head and slimmer bristles to clean harder-to-reach areas of the mouth.

Orthodontic patients can benefit from a toothbrush with a smaller head and U-shaped bristles, like the Colgate Slim Soft Ortho. This design makes it much easier to maneuver around brackets and wires for a more effective clean.

For your younger patients a specially designed manual toothbrush with a chunky, easy-grip handle, a small head, and extra-soft bristles is helpful. To encourage brushing, Colgate offers a range of fun, colorful toothbrushes featuring popular characters like Batman and Minions brushes.

Last but not least, the Colgate Magik Toothbrush is a new option for children. It is a manual brush and also connects to an augmented reality app, turning toothbrushing into a rewarding, interactive experience with games and rewards. Parents can supervise brushing habits through the app's parental dashboard.

Whichever toothbrush you recommend to your patients, the most important thing is to ensure that they’re educated on proper oral hygiene practices. Used correctly, both manual and electric toothbrushes can support positive long-term oral health, so ask your patients about their brushing habits, recommend brushes that will work for a particular patient, and make sure patients are getting the most out of their toothbrush.

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes: Which to prescribe? (2024)


Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes: Which to prescribe? ›

The American Dental Association (ADA) confirms that manual and electric toothbrushes are effective. For general oral health, a manual toothbrush with soft bristles is recommended by the ADA. Examples include the Colgate

Palmolive is an American multinational brand of a line of products produced by Colgate-Palmolive. The Palmolive brand grew from one product, Palmolive bar soap. Made of coconut, palm and olive oils, Palmolive bar soap was introduced in 1898. Originally, the bar soap floated like Procter & Gamble's Ivory bar soap.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Palmolive_(brand)
360 Toothbrush which has soft tapered bristles and soft rubber polishing cups.

Do dentists recommend electric toothbrushes vs manual? ›

"The better your oral care routine is, the less treatment you'll end up needing." Dentists agree that overall, electric toothbrushes are superior to manual ones. "Because electric brushes have a rotation, they essentially force the toothpaste in more difficult-to-reach areas, which is where cavities start," says Dr.

Do doctors recommend electric toothbrush? ›

Dental Professional Recommendations

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using an electric toothbrush – or a manual one that has the ADA Seal of Approval – for all children as soon as their first tooth erupts.

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.

Do studies say electric or manual toothbrush is better? ›

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.

What is the disadvantage of using an electric toothbrush? ›

The Cons of Electric Toothbrushes

Higher Cost- Battery-powered toothbrushes are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. They also require replacement heads, which can be quite pricey. Higher Risk of Damage- Because of their electronics, they are at a higher risk of damage if dropped or falling in the water.

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.

Is electric better than manual toothbrush pros and cons? ›

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.

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? ›

Studies show that electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning your teeth than manual toothbrushes do, which can help prevent cavities and gum disease.

Do dentists recommend Oral-B or sonicare? ›

Sonicare's heads are large and flat compared to Oral-B's small round brushes, and they're long-lasting, according to Wellspring Dental dentist Mandy Nebel, who prefers Sonicare over other brands. This specific model — one of two from the brand accepted by the ADA — is a more entry-level Sonicare.

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.

Which type of toothbrush is recommended by dental professionals? ›

"I always recommend that everyone uses soft bristle toothbrushes," says Dr. Horowitz. Not only do soft bristles clean just as well as more rigid bristles, but they also help prevent complications to the teeth and gums.

What does the ADA say about electric vs manual toothbrush? ›

The American Dental Association (ADA) confirms that manual and electric toothbrushes are effective. For general oral health, a manual toothbrush with soft bristles is recommended by the ADA. Examples include the Colgate 360 Toothbrush which has soft tapered bristles and soft rubber polishing cups.

Why are manual toothbrushes better? ›

One of the critical advantages of manual toothbrushes is the level of control they offer. You can adjust the pressure and angle to target specific areas of your mouth. This precision control allows for a more thorough and effective cleaning, especially in hard-to-reach places like the back of your molars.

Is manual toothbrush good enough? ›

The key to preventing tooth decay, say experts, lies in the way a toothbrush -- electric or otherwise -- is used. "If you are a wonderful brusher and a wonderful flosser ... then the manual toothbrushes are just great," says Kimberly Harms, DDS, an ADA consumer advisor who is also a dentist in Farmington, Minn.

How much of a difference do electric toothbrushes make? ›

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.

Are manual toothbrushes better for gums? ›

While many studies have shown electric toothbrushes to be more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes, many have also shown manual and electric toothbrushes to be equally effective at maintaining optimal gum and dental health. It's the cleaning habits you create with your toothbrush that really matter.

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