Electric vs. Manual – The Great Toothbrush Debate


When it comes to toothbrushes the decision for most comes down to the following; manual or electric. Manual brushes offer most of us a level of comfort that comes from years of use and muscle memory while others have grown so fond of their electric brushes that any manual brush found in there house is reserved for cleaning bathroom grout. This clear dichotomy in the toothbrush world raises various questions; is the price difference between the two products warranted? Does all that oscillating and vibrating really rid our mouths of plaque that manual brushing just can’t get to? What is oscillating anyway?


As always we aim to provide the knowledge you need to make the best decision for you and your loved ones. In today’s post we will answer the questions above as well as others in comparing the differences and pros vs cons of both manual and electric toothbrushes.


All By Myself – The Manual Alternative


The tried and tested option. Most of us learnt the ins and outs of brushing with a manual toothbrush in hand. Definitely the more popular of both alternatives, the effectiveness of manual toothbrushes comes down to the brushing technique and attention to detail of its user. Manual brushing allows for a level of tactile control that cannot be achieved with an electric device. This is due to the fact that there is a direct relation between how you are moving the brush along with where and with what force you are manipulating it. You can literally feel every exact motion of your brushing in your hand and in your mouth.


The most effective brushing technique, manual or otherwise is to angle the bristles at a 45 degree angle at the gum line, where the gum meets the crown of the tooth – the Modified Stillman Technique. This area along with the spaces between your teeth is where food builds up and bacteria create plaque. Small deliberate circles moving tooth to tooth is the best way to remove buildup and clean the entire tooth surface. Moving methodically from right to left, top to bottom, outside to inside ensures that every part of your teeth get the appropriate cleaning. Manual toothbrushes also remove buildup from your cheeks and tongue directly and indirectly. Taking the time to brush or scrape your tongue goes a long way in keeping a clean and fresh mouth as it is prime real estate for bacteria.


Modified Stillman Technique Brush Position

Modified Stillman Technique Brush Position


To be completely honest, someone who practices good brushing technique with a soft bristled tooth brush twice a day for at least two minutes, flosses daily, uses mouthwash and attends regular dental appointments can achieve their desired dental results with a manual toothbrush. This is because the standard toothbrush, like the standard pen will produce an end result that is as good as its user’s proficiency. The most important thing is that you are not brushing too hard as this practice can wear away at the enamel and gums creating recession. Other advantages a manual brush presents are a wide variety of sizes, shapes and types as well as the fact that they never need a charge or power supply.


The Electric Alternative


As with other devices that have seen electric powered alternatives compete with old mainstays, the advantages offered by electric toothbrushes hinges almost exclusively on technology features. Though far more expensive than standard brushes (think $200), electric brushes are popular with those who enjoy built in brushing timers, self cleaning compartments and brush heads that move so fast the movement can barely be seen. One thing that should not be ignored is the fact that all electric brushes are not created equal. Higher end brushes like the Philips Sonicare and soon to be released Kolibree Smart Toothbrush warrant their elevated prices. If you are opting to invest in such a brush, go for the more reputable and tried products and brands.


So who would benefit most from upgrading to an electric toothbrush? The truth is it is likely to be the oldest and youngest members of your family. People who suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other movement related ailments would benefit greatly as electric toothbrushes do most of the movement and brushing work themselves through head movement and oscillation. Oscillation is simply a regular movement back and forth like a pendulum. Some parents find that having their children brush with an electric brush results in a more engaged and effective brushing experience day in and day out. This could be the result of several things including built in timers, head movement that eliminates poor brushing technique and a coolness factor that kids feel when operating an electric brush.


It must be noted that electric brushes do not clean the cheeks and tongue as effectively as manual brushes and are only effective when charged and functioning.


What does it all mean?


Electric toothbrushes serve users better if they have issues brushing their own teeth or have poor brushing technique. Beyond that, regular brushing with good technique twice daily for at least two minutes combined with flossing, mouthwash and dental treatments are an optimal means of cleaning and caring for your teeth. If you decide to go for an electric brush for whatever reason, research the products well for the sake of your dollars invested. Brushes or brush heads should be changed every 3 months and the softer the bristle the better. Happy brushing to all.


Sources: ABC, WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Denticheck

Photos: DentalCareMatters, Medical Dictionary


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