Electric toothbrushes have certainly come a long way since the original Broxodent was released in 1960. The market is now flooded with dozens of models with a wide range of features and prices, and the number of users is growing exponentially. But some people still doubt the safety of electric toothbrushes. Can electric brushes damage your teeth?
Electric toothbrushes are completely safe to use. In fact, they’re proven to be more efficient than manual brushes in removing plaque and preventing gum diseases like gingivitis. Features like pressure sensors, timers, and bristle-stiffness options further enhance the electric brushing experience.
We’re all constantly reminded of the importance of having a proper oral hygiene routine, and daily brushing is its foundation. Electric toothbrushes are designed to improve this routine by helping you achieve a better clean. But what’s different about an electric toothbrush, and how does it work? Let’s look at this question, and then we’ll turn our attention to the best electric toothbrushes on the market.
How Does an Electric Toothbrush Differ?
Both electric and manual toothbrushes are made of a bristle head and handle. The key difference is that electric toothbrushes are operated by a motor that vibrates or oscillates the bristles, thereby making the cleaning more effective.
Electric toothbrushes also have a smaller round brush head, unlike the much bigger flathead found in manual toothbrushes. The smaller head allows you to reach all the tight spaces between molars.
These features come together to provide a more complete clean, and they can be helpful to those with dexterity issues.
Benefits of Using an Electric Toothbrush
The most important feature of electric toothbrushes is the vibrating or oscillating bristles. These bristles increase the micro-massage action of the brush, which results in more effective plaque removal (the primary cause of cavities).
Electric toothbrushes are also generally better at cleaning hard-to-reach areas like back teeth and braces because of the smaller head. The result is a dynamic cleaning that helps you achieve better oral hygiene.
The independent oral health group Cochrane reviewed 56 clinical studies on the effects of brushing by either manual or electric toothbrushes. Their report shows that using electric toothbrushes for three months reduced plaque by 21%.
The oscillating bristles of an electric toothbrush not only remove plaque more effectively but also improve circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids in gums and decrease the chances of diseases such as gingivitis. The same study by Cochrane also concluded that electric brush users had 6% less gingivitis after one to three months of use and 11% less after three months.
Another recent German study also supports the fact that electric brushes are healthier for gum health. The eleven-year-long study featured 2,891 participants and found that electric toothbrushes reduce the chances of periodontal diseases and improve gum health.
Who Should Use an Electric Toothbrush?
Electric toothbrushes can be beneficial for nearly anyone, but there are some users who may find them especially helpful.
Since electric toothbrushes are motor-operated, they offer you more control over pressure. With the help of pressure sensors, the brush alerts you by a buzz if you’re applying too much pressure. This reduces the chances of gum recession or damage to the enamel.
The pressure feature is particularly beneficial for people with dental crowns and fillings, as well as those who are considered aggressive brushers or who have existing gum recession. Dentists also recommend electric toothbrushes for people with braces since their teeth are more vulnerable.
People with limited dexterity can also benefit from electric toothbrushes. Unlike manual toothbrushes, using electronic brushes is easy and convenient even for those with diseases like carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and muscular dystrophy.
Some electric toothbrushes come integrated with timers that ensure you are brushing long enough. There are also alarms that can alert you every 30 seconds to switch the brush to the other side.
This increases your focus on the task at hand, according to a study by Colgate Proclinic. They found that using electric toothbrushes improved brushing technique, and electric toothbrush users were more likely to brush for the recommended time than manual toothbrush users.
Is Using an Electric Toothbrush Bad for Your Teeth?
With so many benefits, it seems that electric toothbrushes are perfect tools for healthy teeth. But like everything in life, they aren’t perfect, and there are some reservations you should be aware of.
Contrary to popular belief, electric toothbrushes are not bad for your teeth. But they can be a bit rough on enamel and sensitive mouths if you’re unknowingly applying too much pressure.
German researchers conducted a clinical study to estimate the effects of brushing with a sonic, oscillating, and manual toothbrush. They used dentin samples and mechanically stimulated the equivalent of brushing once a day for eight and a half years.
The results showed that sonic brushes caused the most damage to the enamel, followed by oscillating brushes. The manual brushes led to the least damage.
Now, this may seem like a huge warning for electric toothbrush users. But there are plenty of other studies that prove the contrary. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Dentistry in 2020 found no significant difference in the surface enamel loss between manual and electric brushing, for those with normal teeth.
However, they also reported that rotatory electric toothbrushes caused enamel loss in patients who already had a history of dental erosion.
All these studies are merely indicative of the fact that electric toothbrushes are not bad for teeth. They have their own limitations, but you can easily avoid having issues by using the appropriate brushing technique.
If your technique is isn’t good, the type of toothbrush won’t make a huge difference.
It’s All About the Brushing Technique
Although the studies we cited above found some degree of dentin abrasion due to electric toothbrush use, this can be easily prevented by following the right brushing technique.
Regardless of the type of brush you use, the aim should be the same: remove plaque and clean every nook of your mouth. Here’s how you should brush:
- Wet your brush and place a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the bristles. Use a good fluoride toothpaste and make sure the brand is approved by the ADA (American Dental Association).
- If you’ve got a manual brush, start in a circular motion at the front teeth and move inside towards the molars. If you’re using an electric brush, start from the lower back molars and work your way to the front.
- Keep your brush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth and move the brush from inside to outside in gentle up-and-down strokes. Keep alternating between inside and outside surfaces and get the bristles to clean down to the gum line to ensure you’re cleaning all surfaces of each tooth.
You don’t have to scrub with electric brushes. Just make sure the bristles are reaching every part of your teeth.
- Turn your brush upside down and clean inside your front teeth. Plaque tends to accumulate here, so spend a little more time on these surfaces.
- After cleaning your teeth, brush your tongue to remove any leftover bacteria.
- Spit out the toothpaste and rinse your mouth with plain water, ensuring no leftover residue.
Be gentle while reaching the inside surfaces of your molars at the back. If you’ve got particularly sensitive teeth, invest in an electric toothbrush with pressure sensors. Make sure you’re brushing for at least two minutes; this is the minimum time recommended by dentists worldwide.
Rinse your brush and store it in a clean place when you’re done. Please keep it away from bacteria by covering it with a protective cap.
Common Electric Toothbrush Mistakes to Avoid
A toothbrush is an essential part of daily life, so it’s important to put some thought into buying a good toothbrush and then using it correctly. Because if you don’t, even premium products and religious routines won’t do much good.
The same goes for the electric toothbrush. As we mentioned above, it’s a much more efficient option than the manual brush, but if you use it wrong, the benefits will be few and far between. Here’s a list of mistakes you should avoid:
- Not changing the toothbrush regularly: Don’t wait too long before replacing your brush heads. It’s recommended to replace the head every three months or when it starts showing wear and tear. Some brushes come with color-coded bristles that fade when it’s time to replace them.
Dentists also recommend changing the brush head if you’ve been sick since the bristles could have gotten contaminated.
- Using too much pressure: Electric toothbrushes do the brushing for you with the help of micro-movements, so you don’t have to scrub and grind your teeth to clean them. Be gentle and let the bristles do their job. Even with a manual brush, avoid exerting too much pressure because it can damage your teeth dentin.
- Not brushing for long enough: Two minutes is the minimum recommended brushing time, and it’s usually enough to clean your teeth properly. Electric brushes come with built-in timers, so set your alarm and stick to it.
- Overdoing it: Brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day is enough. Over-brushing can damage tooth enamel and increase sensitivity.
- Picking the wrong toothbrush: Invest in an electric toothbrush with the ADA seal to make sure you’re getting a quality product. Also, choose one with soft bristles and speed control if you have sensitive teeth.
The Best Electric Toothbrushes
There are many good brands on the market, each with different features and prices. We recommend doing your research and choosing the best electric toothbrush that suits your needs. Here’s a list of some recommended models you should definitely check out:
This ADA-accepted brush uses 40,000 ultrasonic strokes per minute to remove plaque and stains. It has four different brushing modes and alarm notifications.
The users are completely gushing over the lithium battery that charges wirelessly and lasts for more than four weeks. The best part is that it comes with eight replaceable heads, which is enough to last you for two years.
- 4 different brushing modes
- Alarm notifications
- Comes with a travel case
- Replaceable heads, so you don’t have to buy a new toothbrush for years
- The head doesn’t spin
This brush is loaded with smart sensors that detect your brushing habits and provide feedback through an integrated app. The brush has two modes for gentle teeth cleaning and deep clean.
It also has an ergonomic handle that allows you to brush effortlessly. Other features include: 2-minute alarm, Colgate reward program, and Alexa reordering.
- Has an integrated app to track your brushing habits
- Battery-powered; good for travel
- Comes with a travel case
- Ergonomic handle
- The brush’s head is too small
This is a great all-around brush with a rotating head and 3D pulsating technology. It comes with pressure sensors, so the brush will stop rotation every time you press too hard. The wand also has a 2-minute alarm, and the best part is that it’s compatible with all other types of Oral-B brush heads.
- Rotating head good for sensitive teeth
- Pressure sensors so you don’t hurt your gums
- Wide compatibility
- Weak batteries
This super equipped toothbrush has ‘W’ shaped bristles to ensure deep cleaning, especially for sensitive teeth. Four modes — Cleaning, Whitening, Polishing and Gum Care — cater to the different needs of your teeth.
Along with the 2-minute alarm, the brush also has a 30-second alarm to notify you when it’s time to change the side. The Hanasonic electric toothbrush has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, providing 30 days of standby time. It also has fading bristles to remind you to replace your toothbrush.
- W shaped bristles for sensitive teeth
- Quadrapacer and 2-minute smart timers
- Fading bristles on the handle to remind you to replace your toothbrush
- Long-lasting battery
- Doesn’t come with replaceable brush heads
This electric toothbrush has a slim, angled neck that helps you access those hard-to-reach areas. The bristles are contoured and smooth to be gentle on your gums.
Philips Sonicare comes in a sleek cover to take with you while you travel. It also has a 2-minute timer with Quadpacer, so every 30 seconds, the brush’s head will vibrate to notify you to change sides. You can charge it anywhere with your laptop or a power bank via a USB charger.
- The angled neck makes it easy to access all parts of the mouth
- USB charger; good for travel
- Good battery life
- Wand compatible with other Philips electric brush heads
- Doesn’t come with replaceable brush heads
Which Toothbrush Is Best for Me?
The best electric toothbrush is one that can cater to your specific needs. The five brushes we’ve showcased offer various options, like rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and bristles made for sensitive teeth.
Consider what features are most important to you and, most importantly, keep brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush; it’s going to keep your teeth cleaner and healthier for longer.