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Brushing Your Teeth - Electric or Manual Toothbrushes

Updated on September 30, 2012

Manual vs. Electric Toothbrushes

Some people prefer manual toothbrushes.
Some people prefer manual toothbrushes. | Source
Some people prefer electric toothbrushes.
Some people prefer electric toothbrushes. | Source

Manual and Electric Toothbrushes

According to the American Dental Association, manual toothbrushes work just as well as electric ones. The most important thing, when brushing your teeth is how the toothbrush, manual or electric is used. When used properly, both will prevent tooth decay.

For people who have a motor disability, or dexterity problems, or arthritis, electric toothbrushes may help move the toothbrush around the mouth better than a manual one. For children, the best choice of toothbrush, is whatever toothbrush your child will willingly use.

You can choose from the variety of manual and electric. Toothbrushes for kids come in various colors, and often have popular characters they kids will know. Some powered toothbrushes play music while they are brushing their teeth, and stop after a few minutes so they know when to stop brushing. Things that make brushing teeth fun and easy for children will help them do it more regularly.

Brushing our teeth is an important twice daily ritual we should all do for the best care of our teeth, gums, and overall oral hygiene. Brushing teeth helps rid the teeth of food, plaque, and bacteria that can coat our teeth and infect our gums.

Tartar forms when plaque is not removed and it hardens. If tartar collects by the gumline, the tissue can get swollen and bleed from gingivitis and more advanced periodontal disease. Our toothbrush plays an important role in good dental hygiene.

Facts About Toothbrushes

Going back as far as 3000 B.C, evidence of early toothbrushes were found. These ancient civilizations used chew sticks, which were twigs that were thin and had a frayed end, to rub against their teeth to remove particles of food. In the Middle Ages, only wealthy people in Europe had a crude form of a toothbrush.

They used twigs that consisted of sweet smelling wood as a way to clean their teeth. The Emperor of China, in 1498, created a bone or bamboo handle with hog hair for the bristles to brush his teeth.

It became very popular and spread to Europe, where even the middle class people were using it. Hog bristles were very expensive, families could usually only afford one toothbrush, so an entire family would share the same toothbrush. Today, we know better, and each member of the family has their own toothbrush.

William Addis was the first to mass produce toothbrushes around the year 1780.
H.N. Wadsworth got the first patent for a toothbrush on November 7, 1857. In 1885, the United State began mass producing toothbrushes.

The toothbrush of today is a fairly recent, having been invented in 1938, when Dupont de Nemours created a toothbrush with nylon bristles, which was a substitute for the boar bristles used. World War II introduced better dental hygiene habits to the soldiers, and nylon toothbrushes became very popular.

The Squibb Company introduced the electric toothbrush in 1960, in the United States.

Power Toothbrushes

There are two types of automatic toothbrushes, battery and electric.

  • Battery powered toothbrushes usually use “AA” batteries to power them. They are similar in cost and design to manual toothbrushes, they have add just a little extra cleaning power with the minimal vibration they have. A rechargeable electric operated toothbrush, plugs into the wall and recharges after each use. You will need to replace the brush head every couple of months. There are oscillating, rotating toothbrushes, and also electric toothbrushes that use sonic technology

  • Rechargeable Electric Toothbrushes are very effective to get children to brush their teeth. They are very easy to use. Even though they cost more than a manual toothbrush, if it gets your child to brush their teeth well, it is very worth the extra price.

Electric Toothbrushes for Children

Electric toothbrushes for children come with popular characters to make brushing fun.
Electric toothbrushes for children come with popular characters to make brushing fun. | Source

Brushing Our Teeth with Electric or Manual Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes rotate 3,000 to 7,500 times a minute. They rotate the bristles to move back and forth and assist in removing plaque, which helps reduce the effects of gingivitis.

Sonic toothbrushes rotate 30,000 to 40,000 times per minute. They use a vibrating motion. Because they move so fast, it is helpful to clean the teeth and gums effectively.

When we brush our teeth manually, we move approximately 300 strokes per minute.

Some believe electric toothbrushes are better for removing plaque and gingivitis, some say manual brushing is just as effective. More advancements in the technological development of electric toothbrushes is showing that power toothbrushes are better at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes.

Studies are also showing that manual toothbrushes may cause more damage to the gums from brushing than electric toothbrushes. In large research study of 16,000 participants noted that adults who went from using a manual toothbrush to an electric toothbrush, ended up having greater satisfaction with the effectiveness of the electric toothbrushes.

Electric toothbrushes usually help adults and children to brush longer. Many of the power toothbrushes are designed to feature additional motions that manual brushing can’t replicate, which helps keep the teeth cleaner and reduce gum disease. The brush heads of electric toothbrushes are usually smaller than manual brushes, which makes it easier to get to hard r to reach spots and results in improved overall oral health.

Electric toothbrushes make up 40% of toothbrush sales.

The Difference Between Sonic and Spinning Toothbrushes

Power toothbrushes are either spinning or sonic. Sonic vibrate side to side. Spinning electric brushes rotate very fast in one direction, and then spin in the opposite direction.

The bristles may pulsate in and out. Many electric toothbrushes have a built in two minute timer that will signal the time or turn the toothbrush off. More expensive toothbrushes will have other features such as gentler cleaning for sensitive gums or gum stimulation, where it massages the gums.

Some more expensive models will have a display showing the charge level and accessories such as a travel case.

Choosing a Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes are very good for people who have dental implants, and children with orthodontial braces. Studies have also shown there are many other aesthetic benefits to using a power toothbrush, including better removal of stains on the teeth, compared to using a manual toothbrush.

Even though electric toothbrushes cost more than manual toothbrushes, clinical research is proving that you don’t have to buy the more expensive brands in order to get the same results. The popularity and technological advancements have made power toothbrushes more affordable than they were decades ago. Paying more for a toothbrush doesn’t mean you will be getting better results.

Some of the lesser priced electric toothbrushes are specifically designed to provide a high quality effect at a reasonable price. In addition to the cost of the toothbrush, there is a higher cost of replacing the brush heads every few months, compared to the cost of manual toothbrushes. However, if your teeth and gums are getting better oral care, and you save on dental bills, the cost is well worth it.

Manual toothbrushes come in medium or soft bristles. Dentists usually recommend the soft bristle type, and even encouragae extra soft bristles, if you have sensitive teeth and gums. People erroneously believe medium bristles are better, because they seem firmer. They think a firmer brush would be better for getting at the plaque and teeth stains. In reality, this is not the fact at all. Soft and extra soft bristles are better at removing plaque and gentler on your gums.

There are a variety of shapes and sizes that toothbrushes come in. Some even have features that change color when it is time to change your toothbrush. Your dentist can suggest what type of toothbruh is the best for you. Overall, the best toothbrush, has a lot to do with what is most comfortable for you to use. Because, brushing your teeth regularly and often is the biggest key to good care of your teeth

How to Brush Your Teeth Well

Good brushing habits include:

  • brushing at least twice a day .
  • use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • brush your teeth in a gentle motion, moving the brush back and forth across your teeth.
  • Move the brush up and down along the front teeth
  • angle the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gumline.
  • don’t scrub your teeth with too much pressure.
  • get to every tooth and in between.
  • brush your teeth well to keep your gums healthy and teeth cavity free
  • Make sure you brush every tooth and cranny.

Brush Your Teeth Twice a Day

Brushing your teeth is integral to good oral hygiene.
Brushing your teeth is integral to good oral hygiene. | Source

Keeping Your Toothbrush Clean

How can I keep my toothbrush clean?

  • Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly with water after you have brushed your teeth so that there is no toothpaste or food particles left on your toothbrush.
  • Keep your toothbrush in an upright position and separated from any other toothbrushes. brushes to prevent cross contaimnation of germs from one to the other.
  • The bristles of the toothbrush get worn out and frayed after a few months. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months so that they maintain their ability to clean your teeth and gums properly.
  • Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often so check for wear on all toothbrushes frequently.

It is not necessary to clean your toothbrush after you have been sick, since you more than likely have built up antibodies to the virus you just had, and reinfecting yourself is very rare.

It is important, though, to keep your toothbrush sanitary and bacteria free so that it can do the job of providing good oral health.

  • when you are traveling, keep your toothbrush encased in a travel holder for toothbrushes so it stays clean
  • at home do not keep it covered, let it air out. Moist environments harbor bacteria
  • replace your toothbrush about every 3 months. For electric toothbrushes, replace just the brush head in the same amount of time as you would a manual toothbrush.

How to Pick a Good Toothbrush

Look for The ADA Seal of Acceptance on the toothbrushes you buy.
Look for The ADA Seal of Acceptance on the toothbrushes you buy. | Source

The ADA Seal of Acceptance

Choosing A Good Toothbrush

Ask your dentist about their suggestions and recommendations.

  • Choose a toothbrush that has a small brush and bristles that are designed to reach hard to get to spots in your mouth.
  • Look for a handle that has non slip grips so that it is easy to hold, even if the brush or your hands are wet
  • Get a toothbrush with soft bristle so that it is more gentle for your teeth and gums
  • Regularly replacing your toothbrush is important to good oral hygiene. A new brush can remove as much as 30% more plaque compared to a toothbrush that is 3 months old.

Whichever kind of toothbrush you choose to use, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you purchase one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. A toothbrush that has this seal produced scientific evidence that their toothbrush is effective and safe, and does what it promises to do. The ADA Council of Scientific Affairs has set up objective guidelines that the products must meet or exceed in order to earn the Seal of Acceptance. The toothbrush must:

  • prove that all of the components of the brush are safe for use in the mouth.
  • the bristles must not have any sharp or jagged points or edges.
  • the handle has passed tests that ensure it is durable under normal use.
  • the bristles will stay in, and not fall out under ordinary usage.
  • the toothbrush can significantly decrease the buildup of plaque and mild gingivitis.
  • electric and battery operated toothbrushes must all meet the UL (United Laboratory Inc.) safety standards, showing that it is safe for gum and tooth use.


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    • rideinthesidecar2 profile image

      Deborah Freed 5 years ago from Virginia Mountains

      I have a sonicare brush and just found the soft brushes. I love them! The one that came with it was a bit stiff. I do use a manual sometimes but the electric does seem to clean better. Thanks for all the info.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Very good information. I've recently started buying electric toothbrushes after an extended break. I was wondering if electric was better than manual and in my experience it seems to work more effectively at getting the hard to reach areas.


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