Toothbrush Wars: Team Manual vs. Team Electric

Whether an infant, child, teen, or adult — teeth brushing is the foundation of good oral care and disease prevention. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that manual and electric toothbrushes are powerful tools for removing dental plaque, which causes tooth decay and disease.

Both electric and manual toothbrushes have their individual benefits. What’s more, the ADA puts a Seal of Acceptance on any toothbrush — manual or electric — that the esteemed organization deems safe and effective.

Keep reading below to know about the pros and cons, and determine which toothbrush might be best for you.

Manual Toothbrush Benefits

Manual toothbrushes have been around for centuries. In fact, the first mass-produced toothbrush dates back to the 1780s in England. While old-fashioned to some, they are still useful tools for cleaning your teeth and preventing the onset of gum disease. They also have several benefits, such as being:

  • Accessible. Manual toothbrushes of different sizes, colors, and designs are available at almost every grocery store, dollar store, gas station, or pharmacy.
  • Convenient. Unlike electric toothbrushes, this variety does not need batteries or a charger to function.
  • Affordable. Most manual toothbrushes are cost-friendly. You can often buy one for as little as $1 to $3. Sometimes, you can even get them for free at hotels.

Manual Toothbrush Drawbacks

In one study from Clinical Oral Investigations, the researchers found that people were more inclined to brushing too hard when using a manual toothbrush, as opposed to an electric one. Brushing too hard can be harmful to your teeth and gums.

Manual toothbrushes can also make it difficult to gauge whether you are brushing long enough since there is no built-in timer. Consider using your cellphone’s stopwatch to time your brushing sessions.

Electric Toothbrush Benefits

Unlike the manual option, electric toothbrushes have vibrating or rotating bristles that help remove oral plaque buildup from your gums and teeth. The pulsation allows for more efficient micro-movements every time you run your toothbrush across your pearly whites.

This revolutionary tool has several other benefits, including:

  • More efficient at removing plaque. Studies showed that electric toothbrushes clean away plaque and gingivitis more than manual toothbrushes. After three months of consistent use, there was a 21 percent reduction in plaque and another 11 percent for gum disease. Oscillating (rotating) toothbrushes, however, seem to work better than vibrating toothbrushes.
  • Built-in timers. As mentioned, one of the best features of an electric toothbrush is the built-in timer. It can help you brush your chompers long enough to separate stubborn plaque from your teeth and gums.
  • Promotes less waste. Because you only need to replace an electric toothbrush head every three to four months versus an entire manual toothbrush, it can be less wasteful, unless you use the single-use variety.
  • May improve the oral health of people with braces. A study found that electric toothbrushes were helpful for individuals with orthodontic appliances because it made brushing easier.
  • More manageable for people with mobility difficulties. Because electric toothbrushes vibrate or rotate, they do most of the work for you. They are accommodating for individuals with limited mobility, such as people with arthritis and carpal tunnel.
  • Safe for gums. Used correctly and carefully, an electric toothbrush should not hurt your gums, but instead, foster good overall oral health. Using soft-bristled electric toothbrushes can also help stop receding gums from worsening.

Electric Toothbrush Drawbacks

This tool also has its fair share of disadvantages. For starters, electric toothbrushes are more expensive compared to manual ones. Although some brands offer the device for around $15, prices for high-power electric toothbrushes can range for up to $300.

As for replacement brush heads, they usually come in packs of threes or multiples, which can cost between $10 and $45. Disposable electric toothbrushes can fetch between $5 to $8, plus the additional cost for batteries.

Finding the right replacement brush head for your particular device is not always easy or convenient. Not all stores carry electric toothbrushes and their accessories, and your local store might not have the correct brand to supply the brush head you need. While you have the option to purchase them online, not all e-commerce websites offer same-day shipping. And although you can stock up and have enough brush heads for an entire year, it adds to upfront costs.

Costs and accessibility aside, electric toothbrushes have a few more disadvantages. According to study A and study B, electric toothbrushes do not remove significant plaque in seniors. The results of these studies do not mean electric toothbrushes are ineffective, but rather, they might not be worth the added expense. Some seniors also disliked the vibrating feeling. Plus, electric toothbrushes create a tad more movement of saliva inside the mouth, which can get messy.

Last, although electric toothbrushes may produce less overall waste than manual ones, they are less eco-friendly since they require electricity or batteries.

Kids’ Zone: Manual vs. Electric Toothbrushes for Children

For kids, dental experts recommend using a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles. But keep in mind that neither a manual nor electric toothbrush is better for young ones. The same pros and cons of each type still apply.

Some parents are lucky, but the majority of children in this world are not interested in brushing their teeth. If, however, an electric toothbrush is more engaging to your child, investing in the tool might do more good than harm. After all, it can help your kids accomplish good oral cleaning practices and set healthy habits.

Young children, including toddlers, can safely use an electric toothbrush on their own. But your family dentist in Chandler, AZ recommends that you supervise your kids while brushing to ensure that they spit out their toothpaste instead of swallowing.

The Bottom Line

Both electric and manual toothbrushes are highly effective at cleaning teeth and gums, especially if you use proper techniques and brush long enough. Yet overall, an electric toothbrush may make brushing easier for you and your family, resulting in better plaque removal.

Talk with Kyrene Family Dentistry if you have questions about which toothbrush might be best for you and your kids. To schedule a consultation, call 480-705-9005 now.