Are Electric Toothbrushes Better Than Manual? Top Cosmetic Dentists Weigh In

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They can be expensive, clunky and a hassle to pack away, but we can’t help but hear our dentists in the back of our minds whenever we reach for our handy manual toothbrush instead of an electric one. Are they really better? Should we actually be using one every day? According to these top cosmetic dentists, the answer is pretty straightforward.

“Our hands physically cannot move as fast or make the same motions as an electric toothbrush,” says San Francisco cosmetic dentist Swati Agarwal, DDS. Pelham, NY cosmetic dentists Dr. Alexander E. Vaiman and Dr. Irina V. Kessler agree, contending that the ability of these brushes to pulsate and rotate is what makes for an effective and quick removal of soft debris, plaque and bacteria. “Because of this, they also improve gum health better than a manual can." 

Another benefit: high-tech toothbrushes keep us in check when brushing. “Most sonic toothbrushes have timers to ensure we spend 30 seconds brushing in each quadrant,” says Boulder, CO cosmetic dentist Lori Kemmet, DDS, who prefers electric toothbrushes to manual for both kids and adults. “It makes it more fun for everyone, and it's also a great reminder to slow down when brushing,” she adds. 

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If you’re not ready to toss your handy manual brush, New York cosmetic dentist Husam Almunajed, DDS gives his stamp of approval—but only with the right guidelines in place. “The important thing is to brush thoroughly, and this can be done well with both a manual or electric toothbrush. However, the majority of patients don’t know how to properly brush with a manual brush, and more importantly, do not brush for the full two minutes required.” Dr. Almunajed explains that improper brushing can lead to plaque buildup, swollen gums, cavities and overall poor oral health. "Sonic brushes remove plaque and get into hard-to-reach areas like in between teeth and under the gums to ensure a healthy mouth."

So what’s the better-brushing protocol? Instead of brushing your teeth back and forth in a sawing motion—this can actually cause the enamel on your teeth to erode and your gums to recede—aim to brush one or two teeth at a time, moving in small circular motions over each one, almost in a vibrating motion (much like an electric toothbrush!) and take your time. "Remember that it's not so much about what you put on your toothbrush as it is the mechanical motion to break up the plaque," adds Dr. Kemmet. 

The bottom line: Drs. Kessler and Vaiman recommend having an electric toothbrush at home as your daily staple, and using a manual toothbrush for short trips, if at all. And, as Dr. Agarwal adds, it makes life more simple. “Just hold it in the correct position and it does all the work!”