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Robert C. Clay, Jr., DDS, Ltd.

Are Electric Toothbrushes Better Than Manual Toothbrushes?

October 18, 2018
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Posted By: Robert Clay

 

We always get asked about electric toothbrushes.  Are they better than manual brushes?  I always say that any brush can effectively clean teeth, but when you compare the results, my answer is always “yes, when used properly.” I always clarify this by stating that the brushes themselves are all pretty much the same. Yes there are some differences in angle, length, or firmness among the different brands’ bristles, but to clean teeth, the bristles must be properly in contact with your teeth, be moving in the ideal direction some , and be doing this for a sufficient amount of time to remove the plaque buildups.  The general recommendation is to brush for about two minutes.  When you brush, your goal is to remove plaque, also referred to as"biofilm." This is a gelatinous accumulation of bacteria and other debris on your teeth and gums.  This buildup is what causes tooth decay and gum disease, so it is important to remove it thoroughly and regularly. 

 

So, why is the electric better if the bristles are all pretty much the same?  Well, the basic explanation is pretty simple.  Work!  An electric brush does more work. There are quite a few electric brushes out there. There are some that spin, some that move side to side, some vibrate, and some that oscillate with quarter turns as well as pulse. In any of these electric options, the bristles are in motion are doing “work” to clean the teeth.   Any brush that is moving  will remove plaque when in contact with the teeth. Here is where things differ between manual and electric.  The cheap disposable battery operated brushes are said to move at 6000 strokes per minute.  The more expensive brushes are reported to move at 30,000 strokes per minute.  (A new one I just saw States 62,000 movements per minute)  More strokes per minute mean more work.  Now we can compare this to manual.  A person using a manual brush is said to average around 200 to 300 strokes per minute.  200 strokes versus 30,000 stokes is a very significant difference in work being done.  A manual brush will do less than 1 percent of the work an electric can do over the same amount of time.  Think of this: compare walking 200 steps to 30,000. You go much farther with more steps, and you brush more surfaces with more strokes.   So, when used properly, an electric brush can significantly do more work, and thus clean more tooth structure.

 

Now I will quickly mention the more nerdy stuff. Oral B published a study in the journal of the American dental association in March of 2000 that studied 16,000 patients and oral healthcare providers reported an improvement in oral health in 80% of these patients.  Another group,  cochrrane.org , reviewed all existing studies and found an 11% reduction in plaque over the first three months using electric brushes, and a 21% reduction at 3 months and beyond.  Likewise they found 6% and 11% reductions in gingivitis over the same time frame.  So, Science is also showing the benefits of electric over manual.

 

The best electric brushes can be quite pricey, but right now, Oct 17, 2018, oral B currently has a promotion going where you can try out their top of the line brush in our office for free. They have provided us with single use brush heads and an electric motor to allow patients to try them out before buying them.  You can’t do this in the stores.  They also have a nice $20 rebate, some other throw in products, and a six months money back guarantee.  Their price before the rebate is $99.  Their comparable retail model retails for up to $200 without the rebate, trial, extras, or money back guarantee. Stop in some time and ask us if you can try it out.  See if it is something you would like for yourself or even as a gift. Whether you get it from us, or buy in a store, it is worth stopping in to see if you like it before you buy it. Unfortunately Sonicare doesn’t have any trials at this time, but we can also show you a demo brush in our office.   We know they are expensive, but treating gum disease and tooth decay  is much more expensive, so an electric brush is a great investment in your oral health.  Give us a call at 708-448-0273 or stop in to give it a try. 

 
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