Battle of the Toothbrushes: Manual or Electric?

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Ever since the gladiator days of the Roman Colosseum — and probably earlier — people have pitted two titans against each other to see which would emerge victorious. And so it is with toothbrushes.

Which is better: manual toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes?

Cochrane, a global independent network of researchers in London, reported that electric toothbrushes remove plaque 11 percent more effectively than manual ones. Electric toothbrushes also reduced gingivitis by 6 percent over manual toothbrushes.

However, in a February 2015 Consumer Reports article, electric toothbrushes that cost between $15 and $140 were tested and compared for their relative effectiveness. During the study, 15 Consumer Reports staff members used different electric toothbrushes for their personal oral hygiene. At the end of every week, each panelist did not brush for at least 24 hours.

Next a dentist used a special dye to reveal plaque before and after the participants had brushed for at least two minutes. Consumer Reports found that the two most expensive toothbrushes removed at least 75 percent of plaque during these tests.

Interesting side note: In this same Consumer Reports study, the panelists successfully removed more plaque from brushing on the cheek side of the teeth than they did from brushing on the tongue side. And not surprisingly, they also did a better job with brushing the front teeth than the back teeth. So, be aware of those troublesome areas, and be sure to give them the attention they need.

Here at Potomac Dental Centre, we aren’t as concerned with which type of toothbrush you use, as we are about your brushing habits and technique. Here are our recommendations for manual tooth-brushers, as well as electric tooth-brushers:

1. Brush for two minutes, twice a day. Think of your teeth, top and bottom, as being divided into four quadrants. Therefore, you should brush each quarter of your mouth for at least 30 seconds before moving on to the next quadrant.

2. Be sure to floss once a day. Brushing your teeth is only one aspect of practicing a complete dental care routine. While brushing helps with cleaning the visible, crown-portion of the teeth, flossing helps you to clean the areas between the teeth and under the gum line. Flossing is just as essential as brushing (if not more so), and it should be done every day.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet and limit your snacking between meals. Our patients are always surprised to learn how significant a role good nutrition plays in maintaining their oral health. Believe it or not — exercise is also good for your dental health!

4. Visit your dentist’s office at least twice a year for professional cleanings and oral exams. Of all the scary consequences that can come from failing to visit your dentist regularly, perhaps the scariest is the long-term costs of dental avoidance. Ironically, the fears that deter patients from visiting the dentist (such as financial cost or experiencing pain) are precisely the fears they likely will face the longer they procrastinate taking care of their oral health.