Benefits of an Electric Toothbrush

Q. Are electric toothbrushes superior to manual ones?

A. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing twice a day is important for good oral hygiene no matter what type of toothbrush you use. Using a manual brush is certainly a sufficient (and inexpensive) way to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. But an electric toothbrush, or a battery-powered toothbrush, both of which you can operate with the press of a button, may have some advantages. However, no toothbrush can replace manual flossing.

Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration recently reviewed more than 50 studies that pitted powered toothbrushes against manual brushes. They found that electric and battery-operated toothbrushes reduce levels of plaque (sticky residue that forms on teeth) and gingivitis (gum disease) more effectively when compared with manual brushing.

When shopping for a an electric or battery-powered toothbrush, consider investing in one that both rotates (goes around in a circle) and oscillates (goes back and forth), as this is the only kind of toothbrush in the trials that consistently demonstrated a significant reduction in both plaque and gingivitis. Also consider a brush’s cost (you’ll need to replace the heads every three months), size, shape, power source (battery or rechargeable), and added features—such as a two-minute timer, whitening or gum massage modes, and pressure sensors that alert you when you’re brushing too hard. You should also consider an electric or battery-powered toothbrush if you have arthritis or another condition that limits hand motion and makes it difficult to use a manual brush.

-Reviewed by Michael Kapner, D.D.S, of General and Aesthetic Dentistry in Norwalk, Conn.