The foundation of a good dental hygiene routine is proper brushing habits. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), everyone should brush their teeth twice a day–preferably with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes total. But, to get the most out of your oral hygiene practice, what kind of toothbrush should you use?
Toothbrushes, both manual and electric, help reduce and remove plaque, which promotes tooth decay. The ADA does not consistently suggest one over the other. Any toothbrush demonstrated to be effective and safe receives its "Seal of Acceptance."
If you’re interested in improving your oral care, ask your dentist about the right toothbrush for you–or read on and find out what our dentists recommend for the most effective teeth cleaning at home!
The Pros and Cons of the Manual Toothbrush
When you think of toothbrushes, the manual toothbrush is likely the image that comes to mind. Humans have been brushing their teeth for centuries, and while we’ve perfected the design over the years, the essentials haven’t changed much.
Although manual toothbrushes lack the advanced capabilities found in electric toothbrushes, they are still an efficient and affordable way to brush your teeth.
Manual toothbrushes are widely available and incredibly affordable. You can easily find manual toothbrushes in any convenience, drug, or grocery store. And since they don’t need to be charged to work, you can take them with you anywhere. All you need is a little elbow grease and some toothpaste!
Manual toothbrushes are also significantly cheaper than electric toothbrushes. While there are certainly specialty options, generally speaking, you can buy a manual toothbrush for around $1-3.
Having less precision over the brushing process is one con of using manual toothbrushes. Without a built-in timer, many people just guesstimate the length of time they’ve been brushing. Several studies have found that without a physical timer present, people overestimate how long they’ve been brushing by as much as double. That means most people assume they’ve brushed enough after only one minute–half the recommended amount of time!
Tooth decay and illness are caused by plaque buildup. Brushing for the recommended amount of time every night is the most effective strategy to decrease plaque. If you don't want to spend the money on an electric toothbrush, use your phone to set a 2-minute timer to help you keep track.
Another disadvantage of manual toothbrushes is that they are more prone to cause harm to teeth and gums than electric toothbrushes. When using manual toothbrushes, people brush harder. That's why, after a few weeks, some of us have bent and matted bristles.
When you brush too hard, you can cause unnecessary erosion of your enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and tooth decay. You can also damage your gums when you brush too hard.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Toothbrushes
Electric toothbrushes have been around for decades, and they've grown in favor among dentists and patients alike over that time. They're an excellent way to receive professional-quality teeth cleaning at home.
Electric toothbrushes can come with elongated or round brush heads that pulse and/or rotate to help bust up plaque. They can be powered by batteries or be plugged into the wall.
Remove More Plaque
When it comes to plaque removal, electric toothbrushes have manual toothbrushes beat, hands down. Several studies have found that they reduce up to 21% more plaque buildup than manual brushing. Of the electric toothbrushes studied, the oscillating variety removed more plaque than the ones that simply vibrate and did a better job of deep cleaning.
Easier to Handle
For people with disabilities or conditions like arthritis or carpal tunnel, it’s much easier to use an electric toothbrush than a manual one. There’s a larger surface to grip, and you don’t have to use as much arm strength and muscle coordination to properly clean your teeth.
The built-in timers can also be very helpful for people with developmental disabilities or Alzheimers by reminding them when to start and stop brushing.
Safe For Gums
When used properly, electric toothbrushes are much easier on your gums than manual toothbrushes–especially if you tend to brush too hard. This can cause gum sensitivity, redness, or sores.
Just make sure you brush at a slight slant to get a thorough cleaning while avoiding pushing into your gums. Also, never brush your gums with a toothbrush directly!
It is undeniable that electric toothbrushes are significantly more expensive than manual toothbrushes. Cheaper models may cost around $30-75, but they can go as high as $300+ for certain specialty models.
And that doesn’t include the price of replacing the heads, which should be done at least every three months. A package of replacement brush heads can cost anywhere from $10-45, depending on the brand.
Electric toothbrushes aren't readily available unless you have a recurring Amazon order or have signed up for a subscription service like Quip. Replacement heads and accessories aren't always readily accessible.
And different brands create different heads–they’re not interchangeable. This can be inconvenient if you’re traveling or the store is out of stock.
Which Should You Choose?
An electric toothbrush may be beneficial for you if you have sensitive teeth or suffer from gingivitis or plaque. But, according to the experts at Arkansas Family Dental, if you can't afford it or don't like the way it feels, a manual toothbrush will suffice. Consult your dentist to determine which toothbrush is best for you.
Download our free infographic to learn more about electric toothbrushes and how they can help you improve your dental health and give you deeper teeth cleaning at home!