Are you considering an electric toothbrush?
Have you been advised to buy one?
Wondering what all the fuss is about?
Well, the good news is that this post will give you all you need to know on why buying an electric toothbrush, might just be the best decision you could make for your oral health.
You don’t need an electric toothbrush
Here at Electric Teeth, everything we do is with the best intentions and we aim to write everything from an honest and as unbiased perspective as possible. If you want to know more about us and what we stand for, check out our about page.
It is this honest policy that will have me begin the main detail of the post with the following statement:
‘You do not need an electric toothbrush’’
This whole site may well be dedicated to electric toothbrushes and all things oral health, but the truth of the matter is you do not need an electric toothbrush, a manual brush for the most part is perfectly fine and does the job.
Benefits of an electric toothbrush?
Whilst a manual brush is perfectly fine to use, there are benefits that electric toothbrushes bring that make them a very desirable proposition and well worth considering. Ultimately though, whether you opt for one, is indeed your decision.
The key benefits are:
- Consistent power delivery for a dentist like clean
- Can remove up to 100% more plaque than a manual brush
- Reduces tooth decay and improves gum health
- Can help eliminate bad breath
- Timers and pacers to encourage a 2 minute clean
- Various cleaning modes
- Different brush heads -- Differing styles to achieve different results
- Fading bristles -- Reminding you when to change your brush head
- Value added features -- Travel cases, apps & more
- Fun and engaging
- Internal or removable batteries -- 5 days to 6 months battery life
- Relatively low lifetime cost
I explain each a little more below.
Consistent power delivery for a dentist like clean
With an electric toothbrush, it does a lot of the hard work.
With a manual brush, it is up to you to move the brush around your mouth enough that the bristles sweep the tooth surfaces and brush away all the plaque, debris and bacteria.
Opt for an electric toothbrush and whilst you still have to move it between the 4 quadrants of the mouth, the electric motor moves the bristles so you don’t have to. What’s more is that this power is consistent. The electric motor does not wain or break after a minute like your hand and arm might.
I am sure at times you brush faster, sometimes you brush slower, sometimes you brush side to side and other times you are up and down and all over the place.
The brush head on an electric toothbrush moves the same way, all the time.
Bristle movement on an electric toothbrush is often around 30,000 per minute. Can you manage that with a manual brush?!
Can remove up to 100% more plaque than a manual brush
Take the consistent power delivery, the scientifically engineered brush heads and designs, and you achieve a solution that can offer more plaque removal when compared to a manual toothbrush. Up to 100% claim many of the manufacturers.
100% improvement is pretty significant and perhaps a little hard to believe.
Well here is an independently tested and verified figure, which to me is still impressive. 21% less plaque after 3 months use research group Cochrane found from their research.
The additional supporting data may not confirm 100% more plaque removal, but the truth of the matter is, electric toothbrushes will remove more plaque which leads to healthier teeth, healthier gums and a healthier you.
Reduces tooth decay and improves gum health
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial toxins in dental plaque. It is not very pleasant.
In fact, it is quite possible you may have had it at some point yourself, in a mild or even more extreme form. Red gums, very sensitive, often susceptible to bleeding.
Taking the plunge with an electric toothbrush can help with this.
More effective at removing plaque, it means less bacteria in the mouth which causes the pain and suffering. In fact, within 3 months, there are reductions of around 11% (Cochrane).
An impressive 11 year study, undertaken by Pitchika et al assessed the long term effects of the power toothbrush and found that the long term use of an electric toothbrush means healthier teeth and gums and an increased number of teeth retained compared to those using a manual toothbrush.
Can help eliminate bad breath
A cleaner mouth with less bacteria can mean that the smell of your breath improves too.
Smells from from bad lingering bacteria, but if your teeth, gums, cheeks and tongue are now cleaner, there is less bacteria to create the bad smells and you end up with more confidence and feeling less conscious about your breath when around others.
Timers and pacers to encourage a 2 minute clean
For me, the biggest benefit aside from the improved cleaning is the inclusion of timers.
Most brushes include a timer, the keeps you brushing for the correct amount of time.
You should clean your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time. Many of us clean twice a day, but how sure can you be that you are cleaning for the full 2 minutes.
How do you keep track of time?!
There are some crazy statistics of just how short a time some people clean for.
An electric brush can do this for you and once you get used to it, you will really miss it should you not have it.
In fact, many now go further, with what is known as a quad pacer or 30 second timer.
This gives warnings at 30 second intervals to change quadrants.
You have 4 quadrants in the mouth, upper right, upper left, lower right and lower left. You should spend 30 seconds cleaning each, the pacer helps with this.
Some brushes like the Genius X will even flash green to alert you at the 30 second intervals whilst other brushes like most from Sonicare and Colgate will automatically power off at the end of the 2 minute cycle.
Various cleaning modes
With a manual brush you have one cleaning mode…unless you have created some clever modes yourself by varying the motion and speed of your hand movements.
More and more electric brushes actually offer a different number of cleaning modes.
Generally speaking the more you pay the more you get.
Not that everyone needs or desires different cleaning modes, but they can offer many benefits if used correctly.
Available modes include Daily Clean, Whitening, Sensitive, Gum Care, Deep Clean, Massage and Tongue Cleaning.
The exact name and the time for which they last varies. As does the amount of power and the resulting brush strokes and motion used.
The intention is that different modes can achieve different results.
Sensitive mode for example will still deliver a consistent clean whilst reducing the power of the brush to cater for the delicate nature of one’s teeth or gums.
Whitening on the other hand may increase the power and last for longer to really buff the teeth and remove stains.
Should you like to know more about cleaning modes, our guide to Oral-B cleaning modes gives an in depth look at what they offer.
Want to know more about the different cleaning modes? This post takes an in depth look at what Oral-B offer.
Different brush heads -- Differing styles to achieve different results
Not essential but often beneficial are the differing styles of brush heads that are available for electric toothbrushes.
Ones designed for everyday cleaning, whilst some are specifically designed for use with braces.
Unlike a manual brush where you need a whole new brush, with an electric one, you simply need a new head to fit to the handle.
Pair the appropriate brush head with the appropriate cleaning mode and the results can be improved.
To better understand how the modes and heads align with different cleaning modes, do check out our Oral-B brush head comparison or watch the following video.
Fading bristles -- Reminding you when to change your brush head
This is not necessarily exclusive to an electric toothbrush as manual ones now have these too, but it is very common that official brush heads will indeed have fading bristles.
Also known as reminder bristles, the dye in a cluster of bristles on the brush head (normally blue) will fade over time to a white or translucent colour. Once white, it’s a sign you need to change brush heads.
Keeping the brush head on for longer may do damage to the teeth and gums. Do also be aware some fake or aftermarket brush heads will not offer these bristles, so it will be up to you to remember to change your brush head.
Value added features -- Travel cases, apps & more
Technology is a wonderful thing and I have already demonstrated how the electric toothbrush may have multiple cleaning modes, something a manual brush cannot offer.
However, because you pay a premium for an electric toothbrush, you can often get other value added extras included in the box. This does of course vary from model to model and between brands, but just some examples are:
- Travel cases
- Brush head holders
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Wireless timers
- Pressure sensors
- UV sanatisers
You may value each feature differently, but they can be very helpful.
A travel case is particularly useful to protect the brush handle and head when on the go. Avoid accidental activation but also avoid damage to bristles.
Wireless timers can help keep you brushing for the right time and encourage you and particularly children to do a better job at taking care of your teeth.
UV sanitisers keep the germ conscious happy with short cycles to kill of deadly bacteria that lurks on the bristles.
And the most recent addition is the Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to sync and monitor your performance via an app for your smartphone. Keep a digital record, get tips and feedback and report to your dentist your routine, even personalise the brush.
Fun and engaging
Electric toothbrushes can be fun, especially for children.
They come in a variety of designs and even pair with smartphones to offer an engaging yet educational tooth brushing experience.
Young ones can brush their teeth better than they might with a manual brush, whilst learning the importance of good oral health care and have some fun with a game at the same time.
Brushing the teeth of your children need not be the hassle you think it is.
Internal or removable batteries -- 5 days to 6 months battery life
The best electric toothbrushes are powered by an internal battery that is sealed within the brush handle and can be recharged.
The battery life ranges from 5-21 days on average for these types of electric toothbrushes.
However, there are those powered by removable AA or AAA batteries. These can last as much as 6 months. There are some other drawbacks to these, but that is for another post.
The reality is that even if you are away from power to be able to charge your toothbrush, there are options that can ensure you have many of the benefits that such a brush brings.
You need not have to have electricity to own and use an electric toothbrush.
Relatively low lifetime cost
Ok, so this is stretching the benefits of electric toothbrushes here and perhaps should be a negative, but I include it to really dispel a myth.
Electric toothbrushes are more expensive than a manual brush, there is no denying this.
Generally speaking, the cost of replacing a brush head (which you should do every 3 months) is about the same price as a manual brush, so you still have the upfront cost of the brush handle.
However, they are not always as expensive as can be made out.
Electric toothbrushes can start from as little as £5, but spending around £20 will get you one of better quality with more features.
For most, the maximum you need to spend is £40-£50.
If you then spread this cost over 3 years (the time frame we price brushes over here at Electric Teeth) and the cost is around 4p per day.
In addition to this, if you are able to clean better, you are less likely to develop caries or gum disease. This means lower costs at the dentist too!
Sharing the toothbrush handle with family members or partners can too help bring that cost down further. Learn how in our guide to sharing an electric toothbrush.
The last benefit that I believe comes as a result of using an electric toothbrush is confidence.
If you have a healthier and cleaner mouth, you feel better. Your mouth is a gateway to your body, and many of the bacteria and germs we take in are ingested via the mouth.
With clean, well looked after teeth and gums you will feel better, you will feel happier and you can feel more confident when you go about your daily life.
That is the the main benefits covered.
I am not going to try and sell you an electric brush, the decision is still yours.
Just put it into perspective though, if you bank offered you a 21% improvement on your savings, you would take it. So why would you not take the health benefits that come with an electric toothbrush, even when the costs are so low?
The main driver should always be your oral health and well-being, with desirable features coming second.
If you decide to go electric then this site will give you all you need to know. In fact I strongly suggest viewing our guide to buying a toothbrush, which includes recommendations based on category and prioritises important brush features.
If you have got any questions or have any concerns, let me know in the comments below.