Which Toothbrush Cleans Better: Manual or Electric?

Whether you choose an electric toothbrush or the manual version invented in 1938, either one can get the job done if you brush at least twice a day. When investigating the effectiveness of electric versus manual, researchers have found no major differences. Children and people with limited manual ability, such as arthritis, may opt for an electric brush because it's more fun and easier to use.


Nowadays the drugstore shelves are filled with kid-friendly brushes in bright colors featuring Disney characters, cars and even army camouflage. The brushes are specially made for smaller hands. Obviously, cost is another consideration. Electric toothbrushes vary in price from $10 for a basic spin brush up to $110 for a rechargeable power brush with flossing action. Using 6,000 to 30,000 strokes per minute, power brushes seem to provide more bang for the buck, compared to manual ones. An electric toothbrush is definitely faster.

Some children, however, don't like the vibrations and may have sensitive teeth. Parents may show them how to use a manual brush instead. After brushing, dentists recommend that you rinse toothbrushes with tap water to remove any remaining toothpaste and food particles. If your brush is electric, wipe off the water around the neck where it connects to the large handle. Your toothbrush will last a lot longer. Store the brush in an upright position and let it air-dry. If two or more brushes are kept in the same spot, separate them to avoid cross-contamination. Don't cover your toothbrushes or save them in closed containers. The damp environment is a better breeding ground for microorganisms than the open air.

Buy a new toothbrush every three or four months. The bristles deteriorate and won't clean as well as a newer brush. Kids' brushes sometimes need to be changed more often than adult ones.

Both the manual and electric brushes are called medical devices and fall within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's class I category, meaning that they usually aren't harmful and are subject to the least regulation. Toothbrush manufacturer Braun Oral-B has reported that, in one study, dentists or hygienists asked more than 16,000 patients to brush with one of their electric toothbrushes.

After monitoring the patients' results, dental professionals said the powered brush had a positive effect on more than 80 percent of the patients. Most of the patients said they felt that their oral hygiene had improved.

Electric toothbrushes with bristles that spin in one direction, and then switch and turn the other way, a process called rotating-oscillating, seem to remove plaque and prevent gum disease better than manual brushes and other electric brushes that rotate in just one way.

Sources: EverydayHealth.com, ADA.org, WebMD.com

Quick Fact!

Average humans produce 25,000 quarts of spit in a lifetime; enough to fill two swimming pools!