Electric Brush versus Manual Brushes

electric brush

The debate between electric and manual toothbrushes is ongoing. Which one is better for fighting plaque and preventing gum disease? In fact, there are costs and benefits to using both, and the choice comes down to personal preference and your dentist’s recommendation.

Benefits of Manual Toothbrushes

Manual toothbrushes are a time-tested technology. The modern form dates back to 1498, when the Emperor of China invented a tooth cleaning device with hog bristles attached to a handle made of bone. This device spread throughout medieval Europe, and was used by every social class from kings to peasants.

Manual toothbrushes are cheaper, costing about a third as much as electric toothbrushes, and since they do not require electric power, they can be used anywhere.

Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes

Since electric toothbrushes oscillate faster than the human hand can move, between 6,000 and 30,000 strokes per minute, they provide more power in less time. Specific types of electric toothbrushes provide specialized benefits. Brushes like Sonicare produce sonic vibrations that manual toothbrushes have trouble mimicking, and brushes like Rotadent and Oral-B are effective at reaching small, difficult-to-access parts of your mouth thanks to their small head size.

The most important benefit of electric toothbrushes is to assist people with arthritis or a motor disability that makes it difficult to move a manual brush. An analysis of studies by the research organization Cochrane found that electric toothbrushes have a slight edge in dislodging plaque. After three months of use, electrics reduced 21 percent more plaque than manuals, and reduced instances of gingivitis (gum inflammation) 11 percent more. Nevertheless, the American Dental Association has stated that manual and electric toothbrushes can be equally effective, depending on how the toothbrush is used.


Jay W. Friedman, D.D.S., M.P.H., dental adviser for Consumer Reports, advises that unless you currently have gingivitis, “it really doesn’t matter which brush you use.” Just be sure to brush thoroughly for two full minutes, twice per day. Whether you elect for a manual or an electric toothbrush, maintaining a regular schedule of good oral hygiene is what counts in the long run.

Go back to Patient Education