power and electric toothbrushes

The many options for toothbrushes out there can get confusing! In a previous blog post, I covered manual toothbrushes. In this blog, I’ll look at power and electric toothbrushes and discuss if they are any better than their manual siblings.

A good variety of power toothbrushes are available to the public, with a large range in motion and price. Different power toothbrushes work in different ways with different motions — some move side to side and some oscillate in a circular motion. 

Empower yourself with some power toothbrush knowledge:

  • Most power toothbrushes have a two-minute timer. This can make it easier to ensure you’re brushing for two minutes. Without a timer, most patients think they brush for two minutes, but in truth, end up brushing for about 30 seconds. 
  • It does the work for you. This is important because power toothbrushes deliver 50,000 movements per minute while a manual toothbrush delivers between 300 and 600 movements per minute. I like to tell patients this is the difference between using a hose and a pressure washer to clean something. 
  • Power toothbrushes have internal sensors. These can alert you if you are using too much pressure when brushing your teeth. Using too much pressure when brushing risks damaging your teeth and gums over time, even if you can’t notice it today.
  • It’s easier for people with limited mobility. Some examples of these include carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and some developmental disabilities. 
  • Power toothbrushes produce less environmental waste than manual toothbrushes. You only replace the toothbrush head on a power toothbrush every three months compared to replacing the entire manual toothbrush every three months.

Show me the money! (or at least the proof)

Just like any other medical decision you make, you always want to make sure there is research that can back up your choice. In a systematic review done by the Cochrane Group, it was concluded that a power toothbrush is superior to a manual toothbrush. At the three-month mark, researchers found that people using power toothbrushes had an 11% reduction in plaque compared to the control group using manual toothbrushes. 

At the six-month mark, people using power toothbrushes saw a 21% reduction in the amount of plaque compared to the manual toothbrush control group. In regards to gingivitis there was a 6% reduction at the three-month mark and an 11% at the six-month mark for the participants who used a power toothbrush.

As far as which type of power toothbrush is best, the results are slightly murky. In another systematic review done by the Cochrane Group, oscillation and rotation toothbrushes were proven to reduce plaque and gingivitis more than a brush with a side-to-side action in the short term, but the difference was small. 

But there are soooooooo many options…

One type of power toothbrush I do not recommend to patients is a power toothbrush with a vibrating handle but no actual bristle vibration. The simple design can be more affordable, but without bristle vibration, it’s akin to a manual toothbrush at best. I usually recommend a rechargeable power toothbrush over a battery one. 

The main reason is that when people run out of batteries they tend to forget to replace them. Most folks end up using the battery toothbrush as a manual toothbrush until they remember, defeating the purpose of having one in the first place. Power toothbrushes with a rechargeable base are the best option. 

All of this being said, my recommendation to most patients looking for a power toothbrush would be an oscillating head, rechargeable toothbrush around the $100 mark. In that price range, you’ll get all of the benefits you need without overpaying for features you don’t.

As you may know, plaque and gingivitis are the enemies of good oral health! Plaque and gingivitis can lead to whole-body complications by compounding overall inflammation. Any way to help reduce plaque and gingivitis will help to improve your overall health, so give a power toothbrush a try.

Want to talk it out with your friendly dental hygienist? Book an appointment with Virtudent to chat toothbrushes during your next dental cleaning

Denice McClure

Author Denice McClure

Denice has been a dental hygienist for over ten years since she graduated from Middlesex Community College with a degree in Dental Hygiene in 2009! After graduation, she began working in a multi-specialty private practice office. She continued her education by obtaining her bachelor's degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Dental Hygiene as well as a dual Masters in Dental Hygiene and Public Health. In her free time, Denice can be found reading, running, swimming, traveling, or watching one of her favorite reality Bravo reality shows.

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