The Great Toothbrush Debate: Manual Vs. Electric.

Few household items get as much use while receiving so little consideration as the toothbrush. While you might not give your toothbrush much thought, no one item makes as big a difference protecting the health of your teeth and gums when used correctly.

Even if you appreciate the need to brush at least twice a day, how well you brush matters equally to how often you brush. This makes the type of toothbrush and brushing method you use an important factor in maintaining your oral health. Part of selecting the right toothbrush for you involves evaluating the difference between manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes. To help you get an idea about which brush is right for you, here is what you need to know about the great toothbrush debate.


The primary benefit of an electric toothbrush is that it does all of work for you. An electric toothbrush’s vibrating, oscillating, or rotating head brushes your teeth with minimal effort, requiring you to only move the brush around your mouth. The movement of a manual brush depends solely on the effort you expend. However, regardless of the enthusiasm you take towards brushing, a manual toothbrush can never match the output of an electric brush.

Using a manual toothbrush, the average person will perform between 200 and 300 brushing strokes per minute. A basic electric brush performs between 3,000 and 5,000 brushing strokes per minute, while higher-end sonic toothbrushes can reach up to 70,000 strokes a minute.

While you might assume a higher number of brush strokes would make for cleaner teeth, both the American Dental Association and the American Dental Hygienists Association have stated that people can clean their teeth just as effectively using a manual brush as an electric one. However, it does take more effort and attention to detail to clean your teeth as thoroughly using a manual brush when compared to an electric one.

The Great Toothbrush Debate: Manual Vs. Electric.Benefits

In addition to making it easier to clean your teeth, electric brushes also offer a number of features that can make brushing simpler. Many brands of electric brushes have built-in features, such as timers that shut off the brush after two minutes and pressure sensors that monitor the speed of the toothbrush to prevent potential gum damage while brushing. Individuals who experience dexterity issues, such as those with arthritis, or who have suffered a stroke or amputation may also find it easier to use an electric brush.

The primary benefit of manual toothbrushes, other than familiarity, is the low price. Even modestly priced electric brushes can cost anywhere from $50 to $100, while most manual brushes can be purchased for under $2. Just as with manual brushes, the heads of an electric brush will wear out and need replacing after three months. Replacement brushes also cost more than manual brushes, further increasing the costs associated with owning an electric brush.


While using an electric brush can help clean your teeth more thoroughly, just using an electric brush alone doesn’t guarantee you healthy teeth and gums. You still need to use proper brushing techniques to remove plaque from your mouth, while spending at least two minutes cleaning your teeth and gums. If you use a heave hand while brushing, there is a possibility that an electric brush could damage your oral health by causing gum inflammation and enamel erosion, which could result in tooth sensitivity and an increased risk of decay.

The only risk using an ADA approved toothbrush really presents results from failing to brush long enough or from using too short a stroke that doesn’t thoroughly clean your teeth. An easy solution for this problem would be to always keep an eye on the clock when brushing to make sure you brush for long enough, and to use a correct brushing motion.



A freelance health writer, Timothy Lemke gained a better understanding about the benefits of using an electric toothbrush from Dr. Kurt Tingey, a Vancouver, WA dentist

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