Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush

If you are unlucky enough to have visited a dentist recently, you may well have been able to observe a poster in the waiting room, declaring the benefits of using an electric toothbrush. In a different dentist’s waiting room, probably not too far away, another patient sitting in the waiting room will be able to read a poster proclaiming manual brushing of your teeth is better than using an electric toothbrush. A quick look on the internet reveals the same, contradictory views exist in the virtual world. But is one way superior to the other way? Before looking at the different benefits of both methods, we should first of all define exactly what we mean by an electric toothbrush.

A true electric toothbrush is a rechargeable unit that plugs into the wall, and has changeable brush heads, which require changing every few months. You keep the base unit, which is where the charge is received. The replaceable heads can operate in different ways, for example by rotation, oscillation and even sonic technology. This is opposed to a battery powered toothbrush, which usually requires the use of AA type batteries, and has a small on/off button near the tip of the handle. Pushing the button as you manually clean as normal vibrates the bristles, thus giving a little cleaning boost to your routine.

History of Electric Toothbrushes

The most importance is placed on actually doing the routine in the first place. It is of course vital to brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes every day at the very least. It is generally advised to extend this routine to twice a day as a minimum.

According to www.healthcentre.org.uk, the first real electric toothbrush was invented back in 1954 in Switzerland by a Dr Phillippe-Guy Woog. Other aids were available, but this unit was the first true rechargeable toothbrush. They were first conceived of to aid patients who struggled with their motor skills. As more and updated models became available over the years, the general assumption was that electric toothbrushes were more effective than manual ones, however this view seems to have declined in recent years, as tests and experiments show that although a very slight benefit may be gained from the electric version, it is the way in which you brush your teeth that is important, not what kind of brush you use. It is still generally accepted by dentists that the electric toothbrush is useful in patients with restricted hand or arm movements.

Manual Toothbrush

First examining the benefits of using a manual toothbrush:

  • Manual toothbrushes will thoroughly clean your teeth, tongue and inside cheeks during a proper two minute brush.
  • Manual toothbrushes are more flexible. It is easier to manoeuvre a manual toothbrush around your mouth than a bulkier electric one.
  • Variety of brushes and sizes. From ultra soft to hard bristles, and longer and wider handles, manual toothbrushes come in a large variety of shapes, so finding one to suit your own mouth is easier.
  • Easy to travel with. No need to find plugs to recharge your manual brush. And virtually no space taken up if travelling, unlike some electric brushes which have their own cases.

Electric Toothbrush

Some of the benefits of using an electric toothbrush:

  • Keeps you from brushing too hard, and causing gum and enamel problems. Some newer models have sensors that reduce power if you attempt to brush with too much pressure.
  • Although the evidence is slight, it is in the majority when it comes to the question of which actually cleans better.
  • They have built in timers to ensure you brush for the full two minutes. It is very important to spend the correct amount of time brushing, and the electric brush helps a good deal here.
  • Newer models clean better. With different ways to rotate and oscillate the brush head, these models will brush better compared to a manual equivalent.

The other issue at hand is cost. Whilst good, well performing manual brushes often cost a few dollars, for the equivalent good, well performing electric toothbrush, which of course should be as reliable as the manual one, a bill running into the hundreds of dollars can be expected. Clearly, electric toothbrushes will generate a much bigger market financially than their counterparts, and hence more profit, which can be explained by simply visiting the like of Oralb.com to find them suggesting you try one of their electric toothbrushes, and which they suggest is superior to manual brushing. Other sites such as Denticheck.com offer a more balanced view, suggesting both are good ways to brush your teeth, the more important thing is to develop a good routine in the first place.


As with many other items, choosing an electric or manual toothbrush comes down to perception, and personal choice. The actual evidence for effectiveness for both when it comes to cleaning teeth is fairly similar. Some people with a very good manual routine will clean more thoroughly than people with a poor routine using an electric toothbrush, and vice versa. Whilst almost all dentists agree that electric toothbrushes are a good aid for those with motor skill issues, fewer dentists will concede that the most important factor is to do the actual brushing, and for the full two minutes, regardless of which kind of brush you use.

As large amounts of monies are generated in the sales of electric toothbrushes, many companies seem to nudge the consumer in the direction of the electric version, citing new additions such as reducing power if brushing too hard is detected, and suggesting that electric toothbrushes have now become superior to manual brushing.

And whilst this is not yet quite the case according to the most recent tests done, time will tell if new and improved ways of brushing with the electric toothbrush will clearly surpass the traditional method of manual brushing. For the time being however, the best advice is to have an excellent brushing routine, whatever type of brush you use, and to brush for the correct amount of time, which is the most thorough way.

And if you want to see how an electric toothbrush works, check out this video: