Let’s Talk Toothbrushes

Manual vs Electric – What’s the Difference?

Regardless of their oral health status, everyone should be brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes. But have you ever wondered about the toothbrush you’re using? Is an electric or manual toothbrush better for your oral health? Read on to find out!

Electric Toothbrushes:

An electric toothbrush is a toothbrush that makes automatic, rapid bristle motions whether by back-and-forth oscillation or rotation-oscillation (where the brush head moves clockwise and counterclockwise). These motions are made by a motor, or in the case of ultrasonic toothbrushes, by something called a piezoelectric crystal, which emits ultrasonic waves between the bristles. An electric toothbrush is usually powered by a rechargeable battery. The battery is charged via a charging base and has to be charged after 2-3 weeks of regular use.

Electric toothbrush cleaning teeth of model.

Benefits of using an electric toothbrush:

  • Findings published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that “electric toothbrushes resulted in 22% less gum recession and 18% less tooth decay over the 11-year period” that the study was done. [1]
  • Electric toothbrushes are also beneficial for people with disabilities or fine motor skills issues such as people with carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, or developmental disabilities.
  • Electric toothbrushes have built-in timers which help you brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes needed to maintain peak oral health. They also pulse every 30 seconds so you know how long to brush each quadrant of your mouth to sufficiently remove plaque from every area of your teeth and gums.
  • Electric toothbrushes may be easier for those with orthodontic appliances, such as braces, to brush their teeth easier and more thoroughly because of the oscillating or ultrasonic brushing motion and are better at cleaning out bacteria and food trapped under the brackets and elastics.
  • They are better for the environment as you only have to purchase the toothbrush once and buy replaceable brush heads about every 3-4 months.
  • You can buy brush heads catered to your specific needs, such as brush heads made for sensitive gums, whitening teeth, gum health, and even ones configured to help people with braces.

The downside of electric toothbrushes is that they can be quite pricey, with top end models reaching into the $300 range, which can include features such as smartphone compatibility, different modes and intensity settings, and an app that gives you feedback on your brushing. However, a basic model will only set you back around $10-50 at the drugstore.

Manual toothbrushes:

Manual toothbrushes are typically made of plastic molded handles with nylon bristles contoured with grips and soft rubber areas to make them easy to hold and use. They are typically more cost-effective and might be a better option for those with sensory issues, such as autism, due to them being more quiet when in use as opposed to the buzzing sensation produced by an electric toothbrush.

They are also fairly lightweight, user-friendly, and easier to travel with as you don’t have to bring a charging cord and are typically smaller than an electric toothbrush and don’t require batteries or any other accessory.

A young woman and young man brushing their teeth together.

However, regardless of whether you use an electric or manual toothbrush, all dentists can agree that what is most important is consistent, regular brushing for two minutes twice a day and dental checkups every 6 months. Talk to the dentists at Simpli Dental to book your next appointment.


[1] Journal of Clinical Periodontology – Long-term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health: 11-year cohort study