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Is an Electric Toothbrush Better?

Cartoon showing electric toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, and phone timer set to two minutes

When it comes to cleaning teeth, patients often ask if an electric toothbrush is better than a regular one. Gio Iuculano, DDS weighs in, “We provide free regular toothbrushes after every dental cleaning. Our first priority is for patients to brush twice daily with any high-quality toothbrush. For those who seek an A+ with extra credit, an electric toothbrush can be a game-changer.” Here’s why.

What is the advantage of an electric toothbrush over a traditional manual one?

You may already be brushing your teeth effectively with your manual brush—good work! But an electric toothbrush often cleans your teeth more thoroughly, especially if you have arthritis or another medical condition that makes it difficult for you to brush easily. Because of its powerful, rapid movement, an electric toothbrush most easily removes plaque from the teeth, which is a significant cause of problems in the mouth.

How does one electric toothbrush differ from another?

Among the most popular electric brushes, certain brands use a sonic technology, while others use high-speed rotation to remove dental plaque. Each uses a different approach to the concept of cleaning plaque, and for many people, either kind works much better than manual.

What should patients look for when choosing an electric toothbrush?

It’s a matter of preference. “I think you can’t go wrong with either a sonic-technology or a rotary model. I have both and switch between them,” says Dr. Gio.

Can a child use an electric toothbrush? Are there special instructions for children?

Children can safely use electric toothbrushes, and usage instructions for children are the same as for adults: brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time, making sure to clean all the tooth surfaces in the mouth. (Hint: if your child’s electric toothbrush doesn’t have a timer, use the timer on your phone to help, and encourage her to spend 30 seconds brushing each quadrant within her mouth.)

“The sooner children develop good habits, the better their chance is to derive lifelong benefits from those habits. We recommend kids’ electric brushes for our younger patients. They are smaller, less expensive, and a little less powerful than adult-sized electric toothbrushes,” Dr. Gio explains.

For details on the correct brushing technique, see this 60-second video from the American Dental Association.

Are there any patients for whom electric toothbrushes would not be recommended?

Specific medical recommendations against electric toothbrush usage are rare. For example, according to the American Dental Association, electromagnetic interference from an electric toothbrush for patients with cardiac implanted devices (such as pacemakers) is minor. However, if you have a specific health concern, we always recommend that you check with your physician for instructions.

What about the inexpensive battery-operated toothbrushes available in drugstores? Are they as effective as the more expensive ones?

For adults, these are generally more effective than manual toothbrushes, but not as powerful as the more expensive ones. They’re a good choice for children who are still developing their toothbrushing technique.