Are electric toothbrushes better than manual brushes?

We come clean on the benefits of manual versus electric toothbrushes – and which might be better for you.

Are manual or electric toothbrushes better for oral health?
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Apple or Android. Full fat or skim. Fold or scrunch. Another topic that gets us hot under the collar is whether to use a manual or an electric toothbrush.

Some say a stock-standard brush does the job – and they’re right.

Others say an electric model changed their lives for the better – and they’re right.

But wait, they can’t all be right. Or can they?

Australian Dental Association Oral Health Committee chairman Peter Alldritt says it’s a case of different strokes for different folks.

“In theory, everyone should be able to achieve a perfect clean with a manual brush. But the problem is that so many of us are in a hurry, and we’re too lazy, so we’re not perfect at doing it,” Peter says.

“At the end of the day, it’s hard to say which is better, because both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Are you pedantic, careful, enjoy paying attention to detail? You are probably an ideal candidate for using a manual toothbrush properly.

Peter says that most of us spend insufficient time on each section of the mouth, and often use an incorrect horizontal technique instead of the recommended up-and-down or round-and-round approach.

As a champion of chompers, Peter likes to mix up his own brushing technique. “I’m more likely to use a manual brush in the morning, because I’m running around the house brushing and doing other jobs,” he says. “And I’m more likely to use an electric one at night time. I tend to swap.”

Teaching your kids how to brush effectively

Recent generations of children are growing up opting for the convenience of electric toothbrushes.

While Peter says this is effective, he stresses that they should always learn the old-fashioned way first.

“When it comes to children, I warn parents: ‘What will you do one day when the battery is flat because you forgot to charge it up? Are you going to send your kid to bed without brushing because they don’t know how to use a manual one? I like my young patients to learn how to brush with a manual brush, then introduce electric later. I just think kids should learn that skill.”

“In theory, everyone should be able to achieve a perfect clean with a manual brush. But the problem is that so many of us are in a hurry, and we’re too lazy, so we’re not perfect at doing it.”

Peter says an electric toothbrush can “way outperform a manual one” when used by older patients. “When people are getting older, they might have arthritic hands and haven’t got a good grip, losing a bit of dexterity,” he says. “So a lot of older patients do a much better job with an electric toothbrush.”

If you’ve decided to go electric, it’s essential to choose one appropriate for you.

Peter says the key factor is how the brush head moves. “If it just vibrates, it’s not going to do much,” he says. “Something that only vibrates still relies on your technique and hand movement. It has to have an oscillating motion, so it rotates back and forth.”

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