Should I Use an Electric or Regular Toothbrush?

Updated August 19, 2016

There are a million types of toothbrushes out there! What kind should I get? Do I get one with soft bristles? How about medium bristles? Do I choose a small head or a large head? Do I go big and purchase an electric toothbrush or stick to the old-fashioned kind? What about cost? How does it play into the equation? Does an expensive toothbrush mean it cleans my teeth better? There are so many decisions; it can be overwhelming!

While any toothbrush is better than none, there are some major differences between manual and electric toothbrushes. These differences affect what type of toothbrush is best for you. When you're getting a new toothbrush, take these factors into consideration to get the best brush for your teeth.


The history of the toothbrush stems back 5000 years. Early designs of the toothbrush used a “chew stick” which removed food particles left in and on the teeth. It was a small twig that had a rounded, frayed end to it. This allowed ancient civilization ancestors to place the chew stick into their mouths and reach their far back teeth known as molars. Since that time, toothbrushes were developed into more sophisticated tools made out of bone or ivory that no longer relied on tree twigs for cleaning, but upgraded to stiff bristles made from boars, hogs, and other animals. The toothbrush that we use today is made out of a plastic molded handle and nylon bristles. This type of toothbrush was invented in 1938 and has been used for decades to keep the teeth of humans clean and bright!


Should I Use an Electric or Regular Toothbrush?

Image via Flickr by wwarby

When you look at toothbrushes in the store, one of the things you'll notice immediately is the significant difference in cost. Most electric toothbrushes have a much higher initial price tag than traditional toothbrushes. Even affordable electric toothbrushes are more expensive than regular ones. In addition, you'll need to buy replacement heads over the life of your toothbrush if you choose an electric.

On the other hand, even traditional options need replacement. Manual toothbrushes will need replacement even sooner if you have children who become sick often or who are susceptible to strep throat. School-aged children tend to develop strep throat quite often and each time they acquire this illness, they need to replace their toothbrush after being on antibiotics for at least twenty-four hours. If you do not change their toothbrush, they could be re-infected, become sick again, have to visit the doctor once again, and the process continues. Changing out a toothbrush for an entire family with strep throat or similar illnesses can be costly. If you do own an electric toothbrush, you will have to replace the heads for each household member who is sick, which can also add up. When choosing a toothbrush, keep in mind that the electric variety is going to cost more over time.


Researchers have conducted many studies over the years to test how effective each type of toothbrush is. When comparing and reviewing these studies, scientists and dentists have found that there is little to no difference in how effective the toothbrushes are in preventing gum disease and removing plaque. There is one type of electric toothbrush that is slightly more effective in keeping your mouth clean, however—a rotation oscillation toothbrush. So, if you're interested in getting the best clean possible, check out rotation oscillation brushes. Rotation oscillation toothbrushes such as Philips Sonicare and Oral-B Professional Care appear to be more effective in keeping your mouth clean and removing plaque due to advanced features, like a pressure sensor and two-minute timer, giving you an individualized and customized brushing adventure.

No matter whether you choose a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush such as the rotation oscillation, remember to change out your toothbrush or electric heads every three to four months or when they start to show wear. You do not want the bristles to become frayed as they are no longer efficient in removing daily food particles and plaque from your teeth, which could lead to cavities and bad breath.


If you're concerned about the safety of your gums and mouth, as well as your overall health, the most important thing to remember is simply to brush, no matter the type of toothbrush. For some people, traditional toothbrushes are safer. When using an electric toothbrush, you might be increasing the amount of bacteria in your immune system. This isn't a problem for healthy people, but if you have immune problems, it can be detrimental. On the other hand, many people brush too hard with a manual toothbrush. Brushing too hard is harmful for your gums. 

The reason brushing too hard is harmful to your gums is due to the effects on the gums after many abrasive brushings. When you brush your teeth and gums too hard, it can cause your gums to become irritated and inflamed and causes them to start to recede and shrink. This causes you to look as though you have very long teeth and can affect your smile, which in turn can affect your confidence. The other aspect of receding gums that can be dangerous is increased tooth sensitivity. Once the gum line starts to shrink, it exposes the dentin below the tooth itself which can cause an escalation in tooth sensitivity and a trip to the dentist!

Personal Preference

Do you simply prefer an electric toothbrush? Or do you feel like you get a better clean with a traditional toothbrush? When you're trying to decide which brush to use, make sure you take your own personal preference into consideration. If you're uncomfortable using one type of brush, you're less likely to actually brush regularly with it. Because the most important thing is that you actually use your toothbrush, personal preference is a crucial aspect of choosing the right brush. If you haven't tried both, it might be worth investing in a new toothbrush to try.

When it comes down to it, both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective and safe. Making the decision to use electric or traditional is mostly about personal preference. Consider consulting with your dentist to find out what he or she suggests for your personal oral health and hygiene. Your dentist will be able to give you insight into what you should do to keep your mouth its cleanest. Either way, having a good toothbrush helps maintain your oral health.

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