Skip to content

Electric Toothbrush Vs. Manual Toothbrush

Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush and Manual Toothbrush

Our teeth and gums are at constant risk of decay, infection and degradation. That’s why maintaining good oral health is so important—and at the core of any oral hygiene routine is the toothbrush.

Of course, there’s always the age-old (okay, more like decades-old) question of whether an electric toothbrush is a superior choice. Today, we find out.

How Does a Regular Toothbrush Work?

A toothbrush is a simple device, consisting of a handle, and a brush head, which holds in place a series of small, flexible bristles. When the bristles move against your teeth and gums, plaque (a sticky bacterial film responsible for tooth decay and gum disease) and small food particles are dislodged and swept away.

The Case for Manual Toothbrushes

Manual toothbrushes have a few good things going for them:

  • They’re inexpensive. A decent manual brush can be had for just a few pounds.
  • They’re lightweight – easily transported in even the flimsiest of toiletry bags.
  • Manual toothbrushes are ubiquitous – if one gets lost or worn out, it’s easily replaced.
  • No batteries or electricity are required – a manual toothbrush can be used anywhere, any time.
  • A manual toothbrush, as the expression goes, gets the job done, sufficiently cleaning teeth and gums, so long as correct brushing technique is used.

Why an Electric Toothbrush is better

testing electric toothbrush cleaning

Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with a manual toothbrush. Used correctly, it’s a valuable ally in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease. But an electric toothbrush provides a number of distinct advantages.

Superior Performance

Sometimes, faster is better – and the advanced motors found in today’s best electric toothbrushes move the brush heads far more quickly than even the fastest-handed manual brusher ever could. In fact, an electric toothbrush can make up to 48,800 movements per minute. Compare that to a manual toothbrush, capable of delivering, at best, 600 movements per minute.

As a result, an electric toothbrush can remove (according to manufacturer’s claims) between one and three hundred per cent more plaque. Part of an electric toothbrush’s efficacy is due to fluid dynamics—a complicated-sounding term for how fluid surrounding the teeth actually break apart plaque when agitated by a rapidly moving brush head.

(Some studies – such as one undertaken by Proctor & Gamble, and research performed by the Cochrane Oral Health Group – show that electric toothbrushes provide a more modest performance advantage, though it is an advantage nonetheless.)

In addition, some electric toothbrushes—most notably those designed and manufactured by Oral-B—provide three types of cleaning action: Oscillation, rotation and pulsation. Pulsation loosens plaque, while rotation and oscillation toothbrushes sweep plaque away. It’s important to note that these three movements occur simultaneously—something simply not possible when using a manual toothbrush.

Sensors and Timers to Help Overcome Poor Brushing Technique

A surprising number of people brush their teeth incorrectly, apply too much pressure, or brush for too short a length of time. Such issues are easily overcome with an electric toothbrush—most feature integrated pressure sensors and timers, to protect both sensitive gum tissue and the toothbrush head against excess pressure, and to help people brush for a full, dentist-recommended two minutes.

The best electric toothbrushes utilize timers that remind the user to move to a new quadrant of their mouth after thirty seconds, ensuring that all teeth are thoroughly and evenly cleaned.

Brushing Modes and Changeable Heads Offer Greater Versatility

Both manual and electric toothbrushes do one thing—but what sets an electric toothbrush apart is the many ways in which it accomplishes its task. Most electric toothbrushes feature between two and six brushing modes, from those appropriate for daily use, to modes for sensitive teeth, gum massage, deep cleaning, whitening and tongue cleaning. These modes are determined primarily by the speed and frequency at which the brush head oscillates.

Maximizing the benefit of multiple brushing modes, changeable brush heads are designed with varying degrees of bristle density, shape, angle and arrangement, each variation tailored to a different task (i.e., whitening, polishing, gum cleaning, etc.). And the unique bristle arrangements, in conjunction with the slender necks of the brush heads, allow an electric toothbrush to reach further between teeth and along the gumline than is possible with a manual toothbrush.

Changeable brush heads make it easy to keep your electric toothbrush performing at its best—indicator bristles fade when it’s time to replace the brush head. And, being smaller than a standard disposable toothbrush, changeable brush heads result in less waste over time.

Dentists know teeth—as well they should, spending countless hours peering into people’s mouths! Dental professionals wholeheartedly endorse the use of electric toothbrushes, for their performance, ease of use and versatility. The British Dental Health Foundation—a not-for-profit charity that provides impartial and expert advice on all aspects of oral health—has this to say about electric toothbrushes:

“…They are especially useful if you have limited movement or find cleaning particularly difficult. These toothbrushes usually have heads that either rotate and oscillate or pulsate… Power toothbrushes with rotating and oscillating heads have been proven to be the most effective. Many power toothbrushes have timers built in to help you brush for the correct amount of time.”

Cons of Electric Toothbrushes

Wait, you mean there are drawbacks to using an electric toothbrush? Yes—though they are few. Foremost is upfront cost. When a manual toothbrush can be had for a mere £2, a good-quality electric toothbrush can seem eye-wateringly expensive. However, an electric toothbrush is a solid investment in your health, and, properly taken care of, can provide years of service, paying for itself over the long term.

Cost aside, electric toothbrushes are just that—electric. If a battery or internal componentry fails, or you find yourself without access to electricity for weeks on end (thankfully, an unlikely scenario), an electric toothbrush won’t be of much use. All said and done, however, the pros of an electric toothbrush far outweigh the cons.

Switching From a Manual Brush to Electric

plastic toothbrush and sonic toothbrush

If considering making the switch from a manual to an electric toothbrush, take a look at the Oral B Pro 2 2000n. At just a little over £30, it’s quite an affordable electric toothbrush, but its budget-friendliness doesn’t mean it skimps on important features.

Like other Oral-B electric toothbrushes, it oscillates, rotates and pulsates, providing superior cleaning action—and the integrated, illuminated pressure sensor and quadrant timer protect your gums and prolong the life of the brush head while keeping your brushing on track.

Daily Clean and Gum Care modes are ideal for most users, providing excellent all-round cleaning performance, made all the better by the included CrossAction brush heads, whose bristles are set at an optimum 16-degree angle, allowing them to reach far between teeth, and sweep away stubborn plaque. The long-lasting battery provides up to a week of brushings between charges, and the included travel case makes it easy to protect and store the Pro 2500.

To sum it up in a few words, any toothbrush is good—but as far as a professional endorsement, versatility and performance are concerned, an electric toothbrush is best.