The Great Toothbrush Debate – Manual or Electric?

The first use of toothbrushes as we know them was in an English prison in 1780, when a prisoner called William Addis fashioned a toothbrush from bone and swine-hair bristles.

Thankfully, toothbrushes have advanced considerably since then, and we now have much more appealing options for our dental hygiene! We can choose from an extensive selection of toothbrushes, but for many people, the big question is: electric or manual?

Technological advances mean that the humble manual toothbrush is often outshone by its fancier electrical counterpart. Some electric toothbrushes are now so advanced that they can even use sonic waves to dislodge hidden plaque. But is this all really necessary, or will a manual toothbrush do the job just as well?

Plaque removal

The American Dental Association (ADA) thinks not. They say that because of the electric toothbrush’s rapid movement and vibration, it’s much more effective at removing stains and plaque, even in difficult-to-reach places that manual toothbrushing often misses.

Plaque is a major contributing factor in a number of dental problems, from sensitive teeth to serious gum disease. It makes sense, then, that the electric toothbrush’s superior plaque-removing powers make it a better choice for dental health and hygiene.

Better brushing

Most electric toothbrushes now come with timers to help you brush for the required amount of time, along with pacers that signal when to switch to another part of your mouth. Many also feature pressure sensors to alert you when you’re brushing too hard, which can help to protect you from gum irritation and enamel erosion.


Not everybody has the dexterity or co-ordination to maneuvre a manual toothbrush. That makes electric toothbrushes a great option for those with mobility issues such as arthritis, or for kids and the elderly. As an added bonus, kids usually find electric toothbrushes more fun to use, which makes it much easier for parents to encourage regular brushing.


Dental fixtures like braces can be tricky to clean with a regular toothbrush, which can lead to complications like bad breath and gingivitis. An electric toothbrush can help brace-wearers get to hard-to-reach places, making it easier for them to keep their fixtures clean and maintain good dental health and hygiene.

Cost and convenience

It’s easy to see why electric toothbrushes are an attractive option, but they don’t come cheap. The average electric brush retails for around $100, which puts it squarely out of the price range of many Americans — and that’s before you factor in the cost of replacement brush heads.

Brush heads can be difficult to find, and if the manufacturer discontinues the product, then your expensive toothbrush is rendered useless! To add to the potential inconvenience, you’ll need to charge your brush regularly, which may be particularly difficult if you often travel to countries with different electrical outlets and voltages.

Manual brushes

If the cost and convenience of an electric toothbrush doesn’t appeal to you, then you may be considering a manual toothbrush. While not as feature-packed as an electrical brush, the manual brush does have some benefits of its own.

It’s much cheaper, of course, retailing at just a few dollars, and you won’t have to find replacement parts. It’s much easier to travel with and you can use it anywhere, and when the time comes to replace your manual brush, you’ll find them readily available at most stores.

Brushing technique

A major downside of manual brushes is that it’s easy to brush too hard without realizing. Over time, this can lead to dental enamel erosion, which can leave you vulnerable to tooth sensitivity and decay. You also risk irritating your gums and causing bleeding and infection.

Furthermore, many people find that they hugely overestimate how long they brush for when using a manual toothbrush. Instead of the recommended two minutes, they’re putting down their brush after just a minute or so, leaving plenty of bacteria behind to thrive.

The verdict

The electric toothbrush is a clear winner over the manual, but what if you simply can’t afford one? The ADA says that while electric brushes do offer more benefits, routine and technique are much more important than the type of brush you use. If you brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day, then you can get a perfectly adequate clean using just a manual toothbrush.

To brush your teeth properly, hold your toothbrush against your teeth and gum line at a 45-degree angle, rather than flat against them, and apply light pressure. Brush in a gentle, circular motion and avoid scrubbing back and forth. Do this twice daily, accompanied by flossing, and your smile will stay happy and healthy!

A final note: whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, be sure to clean the head thoroughly after each use and replace every three months to limit bacteria. And of course, don’t forget to schedule that six-month check-up so we can help you keep plaque at bay!

When was your last dental check-up?

 If you haven’t seen a dentist in a while, now’s the time! A quick check-up is all we need to make sure your dental health and hygiene is at its best. Call our friendly team at Mountain Peak Dentistry now on (303) 988-7800 to book an appointment.

About Mountain Peak Dentistry
Mountain Peak Dentistry is the dental practice of leading dentist, Dr. Brennan Bonati. We’re proud to be recognized as the most trusted, reliable and compassionate dental practice in Lakewood, CO and the surrounding areas, providing comprehensive, restorative and cosmetic dentistry .

     About Dr. Bonati

Dr. Bonati loves being able to restore patients smiles and focuses and restorative and cosmetic dentistry. What really excites Dr. Bonati about dentistry, however, is that he can develop strong relationships with his patients and help them achieve their goals, whether that means improving their smile cosmetically or by simply keeping their teeth healthy.

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