Good oral hygiene with effective tooth brushing is essential to remove plaque and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque (sticky bacteria-filled film) is the leading cause of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and is involved in the progression of periodontal disease which is a more severe type of gum disease affecting your teeth-supporting tissues. Plaque buildup may also cause tooth decay and both tooth decay and gum disease are the main reason for tooth loss.
Previously, Consumer Reports had said as long as you thoroughly brushed your teeth for two minutes, twice daily, both manual and electric toothbrushes were equally effective. However, according to a 56 study analysis Cochrane published in 2014, electric toothbrushes were one step ahead in oral care. When they were compared to manual brushes, they were 21 percent more effective in reducing plaque and 11 percent more effective in reducing the risk of gingivitis than manual toothbrushes after three months of use.
But, let’s investigate a little further.
So, which is better — manual vs. electric? Below are the pros and cons of each.
- Inexpensive: A manual toothbrush is fairly inexpensive and therefore, patients can’t use “cost” as an excuse to skip brushing their teeth. Some dentists even give away manual toothbrushes free to their patients.
- Variety: Manual brushes come in different colors, grips, angles and bristles. When you get bored with one, you can select another color, grip or bristle type. However, the American Dental Association recommends using a toothbrush with soft bristles to avoid gingival abrasion.
- Easy to Pack: When traveling, you only need to pack the toothbrush case. There are no charging outlets, batteries and other accessories to pack like there is with an electric toothbrush.
- No Timer Built in: Most electric brushes come with a built-in timer so you can time yourself to ensure you’re brushing for the full two minutes twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. You don’t get this with manual brushes.
- Difficult to Use: People who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis and other conditions may find manual toothbrushes difficult to use and uncomfortable to hold due to the restriction of movement conditions like these cause.
- More Work: Manual brushes take more effort to clean your teeth.
- Efficiency: Electric brushes make reaching small crevices in your mouth and the sides of your teeth easier due to its smaller head.
- Built-in Timer: A timer is built right in most electric brushes to ensure you brush the entire recommended two minutes.
- Less Work: Electric brushes clean your teeth and mouth more effectively and with less effort.
- Cost: Electric brushes can come with hefty price tags ranging anywhere from $20 to $200 or more depending on the added features like display panels and timers.
- Easy to Break: If you drop an electric brush, it can break easily and you’ll need to replace it — costing you more money.
- Battery Replacement: In addition to the price of the electric toothbrush, you also have to worry about the cost of battery replacements.
Whether you go with a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush, remember, the most important thing is to ensure you are brushing and flossing your teeth every day, twice a day. And you should be brushing all tooth surfaces: chewing, outer, and inner. Because your tongue harbors food particles and bacteria trapped under a layer of mucus, brushing your tongue can help reduce halitosis, or bad breath.
The reality is, removing plaque is crucial for optimal oral health and research shows you can achieve good oral health with either an electric brush or manual brush.
One thing is for certain, however, electric toothbrushes are more fun to use. And, this comes in handy when you’re trying to get little ones to brush their teeth.