Electric vs manual toothbrush: Which is better?
Here's what you need to know when it comes to using a regular old manual toothbrush versus an electric alternative.
Brushing your teeth is such a rhythmic part of daily life you might barely even think about it. But there's plenty of variation possible in our dental routine. You can choose to stick with the classic toothbrush and floss, or splash out on gadgets like water flossers and electric toothbrushes.
Most of us are likely aware that electric toothbrushes are considered to offer a better clean than manual versions, but how do the 2 really stack up in a range of categories? Let's take a deep dive into electric versus manual toothbrushes to find out.
In order to formulate this article, we sought the expertise of Dr Khaled Ahmed, senior lecturer in prosthodontics at Griffith University and member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England Global Oral Health Committee. For more information on toothbrushes, check out our guide to the best electric toothbrushes available in Australia.
Oral health is obviously a huge factor when considering which toothbrush is right for you. To find out whether electric toothbrushes really do outperform their manual counterparts, let's take a look at some cold hard data.
Electric toothbrushes were found to reduce 21% more plaque and 11% more gingivitis than manual toothbrushes in a study conducted by the Cochrane policy institute. A more long-form study that took place over 11 years found that electric toothbrush users enjoy healthier gums, less tooth decay and keep their teeth for longer.
There isn't too much scientific evidence to suggest that the extra features of snazzier electric toothbrushes are total life-savers. But functions like cleaning modes and advanced brushing data certainly aren't hurting anybody. With that said, a timer function has been found to provide benefits by encouraging users to brush for longer.
If you have braces, brackets or wires, electric toothbrushes have also been found to work better.
Here's what Dr Ahmed has to say about the efficacy of electric toothbrushes: "Electric toothbrushes have been found to be more efficient at cleaning compared to manual ones. We do have the evidence for that.
"It's important to identify that there are different types of electric toothbrushes. You've got the oscillating one and you've got the sonic one … We know the oscillating one is just a wee bit better than the sonic one."
So keep that in mind when you're deciding between the 3D cleaning action of an oscillating brush versus the simple vibration of a sonic brush. Oscillating brushes are generally characterised by a round shape, while sonic brushes more closely resemble manual brushes.
One factor in which manual toothbrushes beat out their electric counterparts is in availability. While electric toothbrushes are now a relatively common item, you can pick up a manual one from a huge range of stores.
Additionally, electric toothbrushes require the heads to be replaced. Unfortunately, these heads aren't always so easy to track down as all brands are obviously not carried in all stores. So when you purchase an electric toothbrush, you may be signing yourself up for a more difficult process when it comes to using the device in the long term.
The need to charge your toothbrush can also become an annoyance. They aren't ideal for international travel due to differences in power outlets between countries.
With that said, many experts agree that electric toothbrushes can make the brushing experience easier and more effective for those experiencing limited mobility. That includes people with conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
Depending on your situation, using an electric toothbrush might end up becoming a bit of a hassle. But individuals with certain medical conditions may find the trade-off for an easier cleaning experience well worth it.
Are you an avowed treehugger concerned with how your oral routine might be damaging the environment? Well, you don't need to join Greenpeace to know that replacing the head of a toothbrush every few months is better than replacing the whole thing.
But that's not necessarily a complete win for electric toothbrushes. In fact, a comprehensive study done by the British Dental Journal found that electric toothbrushes were actually worse for the environment in 15 out of 16 categories when compared to manual toothbrushes. A manual toothbrush with a replaceable head was found to be the best option.
It even beat out the increasingly popular bamboo toothbrush, which was found to use up an unsustainable amount of land to manufacture.
There's no two ways about it, the cost of an electric toothbrush far outweighs that of a manual one. It's possible to grab certain offerings for around $30, while truly premium models can go all the way up to $400 and beyond. Spend this much and you'll enjoy bells and whistles like various cleaning modes and advanced brushing data.
Manual toothbrushes are extremely cheap in comparison. You can grab a perfectly respectable offering for $2 or cheaper. Electric toothbrush heads sit in a comparable price range and need to be replaced just as often (approximately every 3 months) so there's no money saved there either.
So if it's money you're primarily concerned about, manual is the way to go.
If you're in a financial position where the added cost of an electric toothbrush is enough to cause major trepidation, then manual toothbrushes are still a perfectly acceptable option according to the majority of experts, including Dr Ahmed.
"What it boils down to is no matter what kind of toothbrush you use, just make sure that you use it properly and be diligent with your cleaning. Go into those nooks and crannies and the areas which are difficult to reach. And equally, use a toothpaste that contains fluoride and ideally is not one of those abrasive whitening or bleaching toothpastes.
"That's really the crux of it. It's not necessarily the type of toothbrush you use but it's more about your techniques, the number of times you use them and also the toothpaste you use in order to get the best outcome from your oral hygiene practices."
Best deals on electric toothbrushes
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If you're struggling to get your little one to brush their teeth, the excitement of an electric toothbrush with Spider-Man stylings will go a long way.