Dr. Jana Ikeda, DDS - Boulder Dentist | The Great Debate: Electric vs. Traditional Toothbrushes
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The Great Debate: Electric vs. Traditional Toothbrushes

03 Jul The Great Debate: Electric vs. Traditional Toothbrushes

Ever since their invention in the 1950’s, electric toothbrushes have been touted as being more efficient and effective than traditional manual toothbrushes. But is this really true? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between the two and if one really is better than the other.

What’s The Difference? 336851-a-large-very-rough-bristle-tooth-brush

The traditional toothbrush, also know as a manual toothbrush, first appeared in China between the years 600-900, and was being mass produced by the 15th Century. Hog bristles or horse hairs, used due to their coarseness and stiffness, were attached to a small bone or piece of bamboo. Similar designs appeared in Ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. This design remained generally unchanged until the development of our modern design for toothbrushes in 1938 and the invention of nylon bristles in the 1950’s.

Fast-forward to 1960, when the first electric toothbrush came to America. The Broxodent, was invented in Switzerland by Dr. 75b70460455be5ba4127f8968c5842a8Philippe Guy Woog, in order to help those with limited motor skills maintain good oral health. By plugging into a wall outlet, these toothbrushes could replicate the rotating motion of manual brushing. These continued to improve and progress to what we have today, battery powered toothbrushes with interchangeable heads and grips contoured to our hands to make them easier to hold.

How Do They Compare?

With the invention of the electric toothbrush also came the question, “Is an electric toothbrush better than a manual one?” There’s been lots of talk between the two camps over affordability, quality of brushing, and whether or not electric toothbrushes were just a way to make something that already works more expensive.

There have been many conflicting studies, with results on both sides. Generally, you can achieve great oral health by using a manual toothbrush with proper technique for 2 minutes, twice a day. This is also the case with electric toothbrushes, although they do remove a lot of the effort of brushing. In either case, it seems that what is really important is consistency and proper brushing technique. There is evidence that electric toothbrushes can remove more plaque than manual ones, but the same research suggests that as long as you are brushing twice a day with good technique, manual toothbrushes do not result in poorer oral health.

Is It Worth The Investment?

So, if electric and manual toothbrushes get generally the same results, is it worth investing in the more expensive option? sonicare-toothbrush-234x300

An average manual toothbrush costs between $1 to $5, and it is recommended that you change them out at least every 3 months, for an annual cost of around $20. With electric versions, the prices have a much wider range. You can get a basic, batter-powered toothbrush for anywhere from $5 to $20, and rechargeable ones range between about $20 to $200! For these prices you definitely can get some great features, such as a self-timer, sanitize, or pressure sensors, as long as you can handle the price tag. The good thing about electric toothbrushes is that they are a one-time purchase (aside from replacement heads and batteries).

*On a side note, one strong argument is that electric toothbrushes can help children learn proper technique, be less afraid of the dentist, and also catch some of the spots that might be more difficult for kids to brush.

The Verdict

When it comes down to it, what’s really important is not necessarily what kind of brush you use, but how you use it. Electric toothbrushes bring an added ease and comfort, but manual brushes can have the same results as long as you make the effort to use them right!