Manual vs. electric toothbrush: Which is best? – Dawn Woodward

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  Posted by: Dental Design      13th June 2019

As practitioners know, regular tooth brushing is the foundation of good oral care and the prevention of diseases such as dental caries and periodontitis. The NHS, Oral Health Foundation, and British Dental Association all agree that brushing twice a day for at least two minutes is vital to effectively remove the bacterial plaque responsible for causing a variety of oral health complications. Dentists strive to educate patients on following the most appropriate teeth cleaning techniques, using reliable dental products. However, what many dentists cannot decide on is whether to recommend a manual toothbrush or an electric one, in order to help patients optimise their oral care at home. In truth, the benefits of these toothbrushes will depend largely on whether they meet the needs of the patient using it.

Before the electric alternative came into existence, the manual toothbrush was the undisputed tool of choice for cleaning teeth, due to several different reasons. In 1780, William Addis invented the first mass-produced – albeit rudimentary – manual toothbrush using cattle bone and swine fibres. The success of this dental product paved the way to a future of manual toothbrushes available in a variety of colours and styles, featuring various bristle types and grip designs. So long as patients follow a suitable technique to clean their teeth and gums, a manual toothbrush can remove plaque effectively. However, its main consumer appeal ultimately lies in its affordability and accessibility, making the manual toothbrush easy to replace if it is damaged or lost.

In contrast, there are some downsides to using a manual toothbrush. Over time, the use of a hard bristle toothbrush in combination with vigorous brushing techniques can prove highly abrasive on teeth and gums. This could cause gingival recession and exposure of the dentine, which not only increases the risk of oral sensitivity, but also a patient’s susceptibility of contracting oral diseases.[i]Any future complications can be exacerbated if patients neglect to brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes, which is easy to do if a patient not only lacks the physical dexterity to use a manual toothbrush properly, but also fails to keep track of the time they spend brushing their teeth.

This is not to say that every patient should invest in an electric toothbrush. After all, these modern solutions are typically more expensive than manual ones, with the initial cost of purchasing an electric toothbrush ranging anywhere from £10 to well over £100 for a high quality unit. Replacement brush heads can add to the total cost of an electric toothbrush, with multipacks priced at an average £50 or more. Furthermore, some devices may not be as portable as a manual toothbrush, which can be particularly inconvenient for patients who frequently travel.

Despite these drawbacks, many practitioners remain strong advocates of electric toothbrushes, as a result of the innumerable benefits they offer. For example, many systems feature built-in timers or pacers to help encourage patients to brush for the recommended two minutes. Most electric toothbrushes have also been ergonomically designed to further facilitate sufficient removal of plaque. At least one study proved that, in comparison to manual toothbrushes, electric alternatives with an oscillating-rotating brush head are significantly more effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis.[ii]For people with limited manual dexterity – including children, the elderly, and those with disabilities – the use of an electric toothbrush can be particularly beneficial. These devices enable patients to brush their teeth with very little need to manoeuvre the toothbrush into position, thereby reducing the risk of strain and fatigue, and improving the efficacy of a patient’s brushing technique.

It is important for clinicians to be aware that although many patients understand the importance of brushing twice a day for two minutes, a third of UK adults still brush their teeth just once each day, whilst 2% admit that they don’t brush at all – one of the main reasons for this being that patients find the routine boring.[iii]This emphasises the need for a solution that can help simplify the oral hygiene process, making it easy for patients to clean their teeth regularly, particularly in hard-to-reach areas of the oral cavity. Practitioners can help motivate patients to optimise their oral hygiene by recommending the innovative Hydrosonic Ortho toothbrush from leading oral healthcare specialist, Curaprox. This advanced toothbrush boasts CURACURVE® ergonomics, and can be customised using three smart brush heads that feature fine CUREN® bristles to facilitate gentle but effective cleaning.

Whether patients choose to invest in a manual toothbrush or an electric one, they will need to follow the appropriate tooth brushing techniques to ensure a sufficient clean. By recommending reliable dental products and providing adequate instructions on how best to remove bacterial plaque, dentists can ensure patients are able to maintain optimal health of their teeth and gums.


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[i]Gillette, W. B. and Van House, R. L. (1980. Ill Effects of Improper Oral Hygiene Procedures. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 101(3): 476–481. doi:10.14219/jada.archive.1980.0295.

[ii]Heintze, S. D., Jost-Brinkmann, P-G. and Loundos, J. (1996) Effectiveness of three different types of electric toothbrushes compared with a manual techniques in orthodontic patients. American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics. 110(6): 630-638. doi:10.1016/s0889-5406(96)80040-0.

[iii]Dentistry. (2018) A third of British adults skip brushing their teeth twice a day. Link: [Last accessed: 27.11.18].

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