The Pros and Cons of Manual Toothbrushes
The advantages of manual toothbrushes
The most obvious advantage of manual toothbrushes is affordability. People are practically (and often literally) giving manual toothbrushes away—grocery stores and pharmacies often sell them for less than a toonie. That makes them several times more affordable than powered toothbrushes.
Familiarity is another reason many families choose manual toothbrushes. Many of us have only ever brushed our teeth with a manual toothbrush—we know exactly how it works and exactly what techniques feel right to us. (Whether or not those techniques are actually the best way to clean our teeth is a question we’ll cover later on).
Convenience is another advantage of manual toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes need electricity—and if you forgot to charge your battery or you don’t have an outlet handy, you might find yourself unable to brush properly with an electric toothbrush. That’s one of the reasons most travellers will opt to bring a manual toothbrush with them on their trip rather than an electric.
Finally, manual toothbrushes can be more environmentally-friendly than electric toothbrushes, in part because they don’t use electricity. We’ll talk more about this point in a later section (“What Toothbrush is Right for You”) because the type of manual toothbrush you choose has a big impact on its overall sustainability.
The disadvantages of manual toothbrushes
The disadvantage of a manual toothbrush is simple: It’s not going to clean your teeth as well as an electric toothbrush will.
Again, the choice of toothbrush matters, but generally, a powered toothbrush is going to remove plaque more effectively than a manual toothbrush.
Electric toothbrushes generally have more features than their manual cousins—features like timers and pressure sensors. Without these features, people are more prone to making errors—they may not brush their teeth for long enough, and they may brush with too much force, damaging their gums and enamel.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Toothbrushes
The advantages of electric toothbrushes
There are several different kinds of electric toothbrushes on the market, including sonic toothbrushes, oscillating toothbrushes, and smart toothbrushes. No matter which of them you choose, you’ll see several advantages over a traditional toothbrush.
Even the most affordable electric toothbrushes often come with a number of handy features. Two-minute timers to ensure you brush for long enough are common on most models. Slightly higher-end models will also have pressure sensors to warn you when you’re brushing too hard—electric toothbrushes are designed to do the work so you don’t have to.
Smart toothbrushes come with apps and a ton of features. Some allow you to see exactly how much you’ve brushed each tooth in your mouth. Some come with coaching tips. They almost all have multiple modes, changing how quickly they oscillate or vibrate depending on what you’re brushing.
The biggest advantage of powered toothbrushes, however, is that they do a better job of brushing your teeth. Both oscillating and high-frequency sonic toothbrushes remove plaque better than their manual cousins (as per the study we linked above). Yet another meta-analysis found that electric toothbrushes were more effective at reducing gum disease and preventing tartar from forming.
The disadvantage of electric toothbrushes
We’ve already discussed the primary disadvantages of buying an electric toothbrush—it’s more expensive, it’s less convenient, and it can be more wasteful as you will need to replace the head of your electric toothbrush every 3-6 months.
Which Type of Toothbrush Is Right for You?
When choosing between a manual or electric toothbrush, there’s a lot to consider.
Let’s start with affordability. When the most expensive electric toothbrush might cost you hundreds of dollars, the math isn’t so simple. You can find an electric toothbrush powered by an AA battery for under $7; some manual toothbrushes cost about the same.
This means that when choosing between a manual or electric toothbrush, you need to consider a number of other factors. What features does the electric toothbrush offer? Does the manual brush offer a better clean? You’d be surprised how much research there is on the quality of different toothbrushes—there’s a whole study dedicated to the Oral-B CrossAction manual brush alone.
Next, there’s the question of technique. We’ve already discussed how using an electric toothbrush is more effective at removing plaque. You might not want to use a manual toothbrush after hearing that, but things aren’t so simple.
The study we linked which concluded that electric brushes were more effective at cleaning your teeth and gums also concluded that the benefits practically disappear (when compared to manual brushing) with proper technique and motivation.
Finally, there’s the environmental question. A manual brush with replaceable brush heads is more environmentally friendly than electric brushes are—bamboo brushes are also a more sustainable choice. When you’re throwing out your toothbrush regularly, however, the replaceable brush heads of an electric toothbrush is going to cause less environmental harm than discarding all of your old manual brushes.
Choosing between manual and electric toothbrushes isn’t as simple as it might seem at first. Technique and a regular oral hygiene routine may be the most important factors, and there is no best toothbrush—it all depends on the user.
Talk to your dentist in Winnipeg. Patients using a manual toothbrush who have excellent oral hygiene may not need to make the switch. For patients struggling with oral hygiene, however, an electric toothbrush might make all the difference.
What are the benefits of electric toothbrushes? Electric toothbrushes come with a number of features that can improve your oral health care routine. There’s also some evidence that they clean better than their manual cousins.
Do electric toothbrushes really clean better than manual toothbrushes? Evidence points to electric toothbrushes (both oscillating toothbrushes and high-frequency sonic toothbrushes) eliminating plaque and reducing gingivitis more effectively than their manual cousins. Proper technique may be the most important factor, however.
How long do electric toothbrush batteries last? It depends on the toothbrush—and on the battery. Some rechargeable batteries last two weeks between charges. In general, the batteries themselves generally need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
Are manual toothbrushes just as effective as electric toothbrushes? With proper technique, a manual toothbrush can be just as effective as an electric toothbrush. Few people have perfect technique, however, and an electric toothbrush is best for most people.
Can electric toothbrushes damage your teeth or gums? They can—though a manual brush can as well. There’s some evidence that electric toothbrushes are more prone to damaging dentin (a tissue in your teeth). Choose a soft bristle toothbrush, and consider choosing a brush with a pressure sensor.
Is it worth the extra cost to buy an electric toothbrush? On a dentist’s recommendation! Electric toothbrushes are becoming more affordable, and they can have a positive impact on plaque and gum disease.