This is a very common question and one that is often misunderstood.
The short and to the point answer, is NO, an electric toothbrush does not cause damage to the teeth or the enamel (under normal circumstances).
If you want to know more and understand why they do not cause damage and how it is believed that they do, then read on.
This question of the electric toothbrush doing damage to the teeth is similar and in fact linked to the question of “do electric toothbrushes cause gum recession?” Which we have already answered on our site.
The resulting answer is essentially the same. The electric toothbrush does not cause damage to the teeth or to the gums, with many studies in fact showing how overall the electric toothbrush is better for the teeth and gums. A study by Annette Weigand in 2012 actually compared manual and electric brushes and found that manual brushes were more abrasive to the teeth and gums.
When most people have only ever known a manual toothbrush there is every right to be sceptical about a product you have not tried or used before, especially when newspaper articles like this in the Daily Mail are titled “Bleeding gums, eroded enamel and even fillings falling out – how your electric toothbrush can DESTROY your teeth.”
The reality is that in the western world there is a lot of research going on as well as a large number of different bodies within the dental and healthcare industry that would step in and issue appropriate advice if an electric toothbrush was so damaging.
The story in the Daily Mail tells the tale of Natasha who ended up with receding gums as a result of using an electric toothbrush.
Now it was not obvious, until you read on, that the conclusion to the article was Natasha was likely over-brushing and using the wrong technique, as a result damaging her teeth and gums.
The toothbrush was doing what it was supposed to but user/human error was really what led to the gum recession in this instance.
She was brushing too often and using too much force or pressure as she did.
Dentists agree that over brushing or brushing too hard will damage the teeth and gums if continued for long periods of time. A couple of weeks over-brushing is not a big issue, but go months or years and yes it will appear as if the electric toothbrush is responsible for the damage to the mouth.
You might now see the link between the question of electric toothbrushes and gum recession.
Professor Addy’s 2003 study concluded “There is no evidence to indicate that electric and manual toothbrushes differ in effects on soft and hard tissues. It is only under, over or abusive use or when combined with erosion that significant harm may be thus caused. In normal use it must be concluded that the benefits of tooth brushing far out-way the potential harm”.
We reached out to practicing dentist Dr. Deepak Songra – GDC Number: 68552 and he advised us:
“In my professional opinion I strongly recommend the use of an electric toothbrush over a manual and do not believe the electric toothbrush itself causes gum recession and only affects the gums if the patient presses too hard while using it, or moves it around too much while pressing hard at the same time. Therefore gum recession can be influenced only by HOW the patient uses the brush and not by the electric brush itself. If anything the electric toothbrushes can help with reducing the amount of recession occurring over time especially if it has a pressure sensor on it.”
An electric toothbrush need only skim the surface of the teeth, it does a lot of the hard work, you don’t have to.
You actually need a different technique to a manual toothbrush.
We explain the right technique in our guide how to clean your teeth properly.
Many modern brushes are equipped with pressure sensors that alert you when you are brushing too hard and the more capable brushes do now have apps that work on your smartphone to give real time feedback on the clean and how you can improve, telling you where you are getting right and wrong to ensure long term you have good oral health. For a more detailed look at these features, see our toothbrush buying guide post.
The choice of whether you use an electric toothbrush or not is yours. A manual brush is perfectly adequate, but there are some benefits to an electric toothbrush.
More important than manual or electric is regular brushing with the right technique and a good toothpaste, not to mention at least an annual checkup with a dentist.