What are the Pros & Cons of Using a Powered Toothbrush?

Many people may love their manual toothbrush and may not have really considered investing in a powered toothbrush to help keep their teeth clean. Others, for whatever reason, even find electric toothbrushes controversial. I thought it would be helpful if I put together a quick list of the pros and cons of using an electric toothbrush (with some citations for the skeptics) so you can decide for yourself:

Electric Toothbrush SpinningPros of Powered Toothbrushes

  • Better plaque removal. There aren’t enough good studies with modern toothbrush designs to have a good systematic review to look at, but there are some studies in reputable journals that show superior plaque removal.1
  • The potential for less toothbrush abrasion. Electrical toothbrushes handle all the brushing motions for you so there is less of a tendency to brush too hard or in horizontal scrubbing motions that produce toothbrush abrasion. I am not sure where these claims that somehow powered toothbrushes cause recession, this is simply not true.2
  • The potential for better fluoride delivery with Sonic Toothbrushes. This needs further investigation, but the mechanism for improve fluoride delivery has been demonstrated.3
  • Extra features. Some have built in brushing timers and pressure sensors to help you become a better brusher. There also are features like UV sterilizers that are also nice.

Cons of Electric Toothbrushes

  • More expensive and more up front investment. The replacement heads will also be more pricey than getting a standard manual toothbrush. If cost is an issue, you might consider purchasing a SpinBrush as a lower cost alternative to the big name powered toothbrushes. There were some issues with them overheating while charging in the past, but those problems should be fixed now.
  • They can “break.” The worst thing that you can do with a manual toothbrush is drop it on the floor and have to use a new one, but electric toothbrushes can break or run out of battery.

Whether you decide to stick with your manual toothbrush or want to go with an electric toothbrush, you should know how to properly use them so you can keep your teeth as clean as possible.

Some Citations

1. Tritten, C.B. and Armitage, G. C. (1996), Comparison of a sonic and a manual toothbrush for efficacy in supragingival plaque removal and reduction of gingivitis. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 23: 641–648. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051X.1996.tb00588.x

2. Mantokoudis, D., Joss, A., Christensen, M. M., Meng, H. X., Suvan, J. E. and Lang, N. P. (2001), Comparison of the clinical effects and gingival abrasion aspects of manual and electric toothbrushes. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, 28: 65–72. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051X.2001.280110.x

3. Stoodley P, Nguyen D, Longwell M, Nistico L, Ohle Von C, Milanovich N, et al. Effect of the Sonicare FlexCare power toothbrush on fluoride delivery through Streptococcus mutans biofilms. Compend Contin Educ Dent. 2007;28(9 Suppl 1):15–22.

About the author

Scott Frey is a reknown Orthodontist, professional speaker, and founder of the More than Smiles Movement. Follow him on Twitter.

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