Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush: Is One Model Superior?

It's common knowledge that brushing your teeth is the cornerstone of proper dental care and the prevention of oral disease. As stated by the ADA (American Dental Association), using either manual or electric toothbrushes can prove effective when attempting to remove disease-causing plaque. Both kinds of toothbrushes have unique advantages. We break down the pros and cons of using electric vs. manual toothbrush in the following sections.

Consult with your dentist before making a final decision.

Electric Toothbrushes: The Positives

Electric models have bristles which rotate and/or vibrate in order to help prevent the buildup of plaque around the gums and teeth. In a series of peer-reviewed studies, the results indicated that electric toothbrushes demonstrated an advantage in reducing plaque and preventing gingivitis over manual counterparts. At the end of a three month period of consistent use, the amount of plaque present in subjects was reduced by approximately 21 percent, and the rate of occurrence of gingivitis was reduced by about 11 percent. It appears as if rotating models function more efficiently than those that merely vibrate.

Electric models cater to those of limited mobility as well. They're great for people with the following disorders and ailments:

  • arthritis
  • carpal tunnel
  • developmental disabilities.

Another handy benefit of electric toothbrushes is that they can come equipped with timers to ensure that you leave yourself enough time to properly cover every inch of your gums and teeth. When it comes time to replace your model, all you need to actual replace is the head of the toothbrush. This means you'll be generating less waste than you would be by throwing away an entire manual toothbrush. Bear in mind, there are also single-use electric models.

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These do need to be thrown out entirely, so you'll have to decide which model you'd prefer. One study in particular found evidence that subjects were consistently more focused during their brushing sessions when they went electric.


Another reputable study indicated that electric models have the potential to bolster the oral hygiene of those who use orthodontic appliances like braces. Electric models are more efficient than manual versions, and that improved ease of use can make a world of difference. While it is true that people with orthodontics who already exhibited proper oral hygiene demonstrated roughly similar plaque levels regardless of electric or manual toothbrush use, electric models can still improve oral health.


Believe it or not, sometimes kids are less than enthusiastic about brushing. Electric toothbrushes can have bright, colorful designs, and can even be configured to play music or flash lights while the kids brush their teeth. Anything that can be done to keep kids interested in maintaining oral health is a good thing. Electric models are perfectly safe when used properly - your gums and enamel should be fine.

Electric Toothbrushes: The Negatives

Electric models are often pricier than their manual counterparts. They can cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 to $250 apiece. Replaceable brush heads typically come in packs which go for between $10 and $45. If you're more interested in the completely disposable electric models, you'll have to shell out somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $8, not including the cost of batteries.

It should be noted that there have also been studies which suggest that electric toothbrushes are not completely superior when it comes to removing plaque. Don't assume that getting your hands on the proper replacement brush heads will be a simple task. Stores don't usually offer an abundance of models from which to choose. If you're depending on a specific brand, you can run into trouble getting what you need on a routine basis, depending on where you live.

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There's always the internet, but that isn't a time-effective solution. You can stock up on what you need ahead of time, but then you'll have to shell out a lot of money upfront. As previously stated, reusable electric models can potentially save you money by eliminating the need to purchase additional manual toothbrushes month after month. That being said, reusable electric toothbrushes will incur higher electricity costs.

Some people aren't fond of the vibrating sensation that comes with electric models. These toothbrushes also generate more saliva, leading to a bigger mess that some people might prefer not to deal with.

Manual Toothbrushes: The Positives

Manual models are perfectly capable of stopping gingivitis and keeping teeth fresh and clean. They're very easy to find in pharmacies and all manner of stores. They don't need anything to work except toothpaste. They're cheap, usually available for between $1 and $3.

Manual Toothbrushes: The Negatives

The results from one study indicated that people are more likely to brush harder than they need to when using manual models. This can be bad for the teeth and gums. Since you don't have a timer built into your manual toothbrush, some people have difficulty keeping track of how long they've been brushing. If someone assumes that they've brushed for long enough, and they actually haven't, they're doing themselves a disservice.

Tips for helping toddlers and young children brush

The ideal toothbrush for youngsters is whichever one they will use consistently. It is recommended that children use soft bristles and small-sized brush heads. Neither manual nor electric models have been demonstrated to be better for children - feel free to abide by the pros and cons for both kinds of models which have already been established in this article. There is little concern over children using electric models by themselves, but it's always a good idea to monitor them so that they don't swallow their toothpaste.

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When it comes to toddlers, consider brushing their teeth a second time after they're finished. They might have missed (or skipped) a few areas.

Some more tips:

  • Every kind of toothbrush should be replaced once every couple of months, as stated by the ADA. If you see any frayed bristles, replace it sooner.
  • Focus on proper technique more so than how long you do it.
  • Find a brush that fits your mouth. Bristles that are too hard can irritate your gums; look for angled bristles or those with multiple levels.
  • Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes at a time, every day. Grip the brush at approximately a 45 degree angle. Find time to floss once a day. Store your brush away from the toilet.

Other Resources:

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