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Electric Toothbrushes Vs. Manual: Which is better?

Updated on January 30, 2011

If you stopped the average person on the street and asked them which was better for your teeth, the electric toothbrush or the old-fashioned manual, they’d probably guess electric. And they’d probably give you that answer whether they’d tried them both or not. Why? Well, because we’re conditioned to think the most expensive option is always the best. And always the healthiest. That, and many dentists recommend them, so why wouldn’t you assume there was a single best answer? In my personal opinion, manual toothbrushes are far, far better than electric, and yes, I’ve used both. I used a manual until I was 25, and then started using an electric Oral B, which I used until I was 30.

I’ve never been a fanatical toothbrusher, I just brush like any normal person would. But within a year I started to notice my teeth yellowing. I also noticed they just didn’t seem as clean, no matter how long I brushed for. A year ago, I decided to go back to manual and I was instantly amazed by the difference. I will never use an electric toothbrush again, and I mean this sincerely. My teeth are just more clean after brushing the old-fashioned way. Honestly. Which means dental visits are far less painful when using the manual. See the following reasons for why.

  • Most electric toothbrushes are crap at cleaning the tongue.

Especially the kind with the circular head. Those really don’t do anyone any favors. Brushing the tongue is really important for, hopefully, obvious reasons, and the manual does it quickly and effectively. As a bonus, they also clean the inside of your cheek. Yes, some electric brushes come with tongue cleaners - but that's just an extra step most people don't feel like taking anyway. 

  • Electric toothbrushes just spin the gunk around.

I guess that sounds strange, but it’s the best description I can think of. Brushing manually tends to move the gick onto the brush – electric toothbrushes are often so compact that they aren’t flexible enough to get under it. Instead they just swirl it around. If you want to test this, eat a bagel with really thick cream cheese, and make sure you get your teeth nice and icky from it. Sounds gross, but serves a purpose. Brush with the electric toothbrush as you normally would. When finished, gently scrape your fingernail down the front and see if anything remains. If not, your electric brush is probably ok. If you still have gick, repeat the test with a manual brush and you’ll probably toss that electric soon after. 

  • Manual toothbrushes are more flexible.

You just can’t maneuver an electric the way you can a manual toothbrush. You can’t bend it a bit and get the bristles between those annoying back teeth. The bristles on the circular electric toothbrushes are close fitting and compact and pretty much move as an unit. The inner bristles will never touch your teeth, that’s how inflexible they are. How can you expect to clean hard to reach places with one of those? 

  • Electric toothbrushes are a pain to travel with.

I can’t tell you how many times I thought mine was charged when I left, and then had to hunt down a manual in the hotel drugstore. Manual toothbrushes you just pop in a case, shove in your bag and use when you feel like it. Electric toothbrushes are prima donnas who need special care and attention. Very annoying! 

  • Manual toothbrushes come in a bigger variety.

You can get super soft and super small in manual – good luck finding either in electric. Oh, you can get the Disney kind, and look like a complete moron when you’re traveling, just because God gave you a tiny mouth. But hey, you get over the embarrassment over time. Or you learn to hide the stupid thing. If you think your electric toothbrush is leaving you minty fresh, I suggest you try brushing manual for one day and see if you notice a difference -you might be surprised at the difference.

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