Electric vs Manual Toothbrush

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush

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It’s a debate that’s been around for years, whether electric toothbrushes really are that much better than manual ones and if so, why?

Well, the simple fact of the matter is, according to both the global professional dentistry associations as well as consumers who’ve switched from the manual to the electric method that yes, overwhelmingly electric wins the battle hands down.

An electric toothbrush simply is far more effective when it comes to cleaning your teeth and in particular removing plaque. With advanced technology which includes features such as built-in timers and different speed settings, the hi-tech electric toothbrush really is the best way to brush like a pro.

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Origins of the Toothbrush

The humble toothbrush itself has its origins back in 3500BC although it didn’t look anything like the brushes we use today which was patented and mass produced in 1885 but popularized in 1938 when the first nylon bristle brushes were made commercially available. Before then, boar bristles had been used and going back even further, chew sticks were the go-to choice of ancient civilizations who wanted to keep on top their oral hygiene. 

These were little more than a twig with a frayed end. The very first electric toothbrush to hit the US market was introduced in 1960 so actually, the manual brush that we know and use today isn’t that much older than the electric versions.

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush

We all know that whether you opt for electric vs. manual toothbrush that an acceptable rule for brushing your teeth is twice daily for a minimum of 2 minutes. Both the British and the American dental associations agree on that, and it’s one of the advantages that many today’s electric toothbrushes do have, in that they are pre-programmed with 2-minute cycles to ensure total teeth cleaning efficiency. 

Most dentists would probably agree that the brush you choose to use is less important than sticking to this optimum twice-daily oral care routine. They’d rather you brushed twice a day with a manual brush than just the once with an electric one. The frequency with which you brush your teeth is the crucial point, removing plaque, bacteria, and debris that can build up during the day in between meals.

While we’ve already established that manual toothbrushes have been around for centuries, it did, of course, take the invention of electricity before an electric toothbrush could be produced. The benefits of using electric are undeniable, and we’ve listed out just a few of the main reasons for you below.

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Benefits of the Electric Toothbrush

  • Deliver a consistent and deep dentist like professional level clean
  • Effective at removing up to 100% more plaque than manual brushing alone
  • Reduce tooth decay, improve gum health and help eliminate bad breath
  • Many models come with built-in timers which encourage the optimum brushing cycle
  • Various brush heads and attachments can deliver results such as deep cleaning and whitening
  • Pressure signals can signal when you are brushing too hard
  • Many come with advanced oscillating and sonic technology
  • Fading bristles encourage you to replace your brush heads regularly
  • Make the process of cleaning your teeth fun and engaging especially for children
  • Often come with value-added extras like convenient travel cases
  • Over their lifetime the cost is relatively inexpensive
  • Provide a confidence boost knowing that your teeth are cleaner, healthier and whiter

Of course, some of these benefits can also be attributed to the manual process, but in the fight against plaque, electric certainly reigns supreme.

While electric toothbrushes certainly appear to have compelling advantages, again there is no substitute for technique. Along with the time that you brush your teeth for, how you brush your teeth is equally as important, and again, an electric toothbrush can really help you to perfect the most effective technique.

An electric powered toothbrush provides the correct brushing technique, over, above and round all of your teeth. With a powered movement, multiple brushing modes and also pressure sensors now being featured in many of the most advanced electric toothbrushes, you really can be sure of absolutely getting the technique correct.

Ease of Use of the Electric Toothbrush

We mentioned technique above, and this is something which is more challenging to get right with a manual brush where the action is more a brushing back and forth one. Unfortunately, what that means is that you usually are only cleaning along the surface of your teeth and not really getting in between and all around.

The big benefit of an electric toothbrush is that it does this complete and comprehensive brushing action for you. You only need to guide the brush over your teeth, and you can trust the head to do the hard work for you.

Are There Any Negative to Owning and Using an Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush?

The most obvious initial barrier to entry is going to be the cost. Certainly, a good electric toothbrush from one of the most popular brands is going to cost you significantly more than a manual brush.

Also keep in mind that an electric or even a battery-operated brush is going to need to be recharged or have its batteries replaced on a fairly regular basis if you are sticking to that optimum daily oral hygiene routine. There’s nothing more annoying than reaching for your toothbrush to realize that it’s flat and you don’t have a manual as back up in the house.

Compared to a manual brush, the upkeep is also more expensive in terms of purchasing replacement brush heads. They’re not always travel-friendly either. While most have been designed for international use, you will need to check that your model supports the various voltages overseas and ensure that the handles and heads are adequately protected when traveling.


Overall we would argue that the benefits of using electric do outweigh manual, but that’s up for you to decide.

Based on clinical studies, the British Dental Association, among others, conclude that electric toothbrushes overall are better and so it’s little surprise that so many consumers have switched to this method.

Ordinary manual toothbrushes do not deliver anywhere near as many benefits or advantages as their manual counterparts so if you’ve not yet made the switch, isn’t it time you considered investing in an electric toothbrush?

About the Author Dr. Greg

Dr. Greg's experience in dentistry spans over 25 years serving patients of all ages. He's an advisor to www.emergencydentistsusa.com and a consultant to many professional dental projects.