Ask The Dentist – Electric or Manual Toothbrush?

A patient asks which method is more effective for cleaning teeth and gums.

Today’s question is a common one, and despite the widespread advertising of electric toothbrushes, manual toothbrushes are still widely used; but should we abandon them for electric ones?

Q. This morning, when I brushed my teeth, I noticed that my toothbrush was getting a bit tatty and made a note to replace it, but then, I wondered if it was time to switch to an electric toothbrush as these seem to be very popular, and, if the TV adverts are to be believed, are better at cleaning your teeth too. What is your professional opinion please?

Thank you for your question and it is one that we get asked from time to time. Before I go on to the question of manual vs electric toothbrush though, I’d like to make an important point. I deduce from your question that your toothbrush looked very worn. This suggests one of two things to me. Either your toothbrush is very old or you perhaps brush very hard, causing premature wearing of the bristles.

You should always change your toothbrush, or the head of an electric one, every three months. If you allow them to soften too much with time, the bristles lose their effectiveness at removing stains and also the bacteria that gets stuck to the teeth and gums. This is likely to lead to a buildup of bacteria and potentially, gum disease.

If you brush too hard; whilst you might think that this will clean your teeth better, there is a very real risk that you will suffer from enamel erosion. It is the enamel of your teeth which protect them, and, once this has become compromised, dental decay becomes a real possibility. Although these comments don’t address your question directly, they are both probably more important in the protection of your teeth and gums than the choice you have to make about which type of toothbrush.

As far as this goes though, the jury is still out. Some dentists prefer one and some the other. The fact is that, between the two, it is much more important HOW you brush, rather than which one you use to brush with. I would say that, if you have been given a clean bill of (oral) health by the dentist or hygienist at The Lodge Dental Suite, and are happy to use a manual toothbrush, then it may be as well to continue to do so, as long as you adhere to our advice above.

One additional suggestion is to use dental floss if you do not already do so. This is highly effective in the fight against gum disease, and, if you find it a difficult task, why not arrange an appointment with the dental hygienist at our Cheshunt practice who can show you how to floss effectively. At this appointment, you can also be shown the best way to brush your teeth too; perhaps a less expensive way of improving your oral health than buying an electric toothbrush?

We are situated quite close to Enfield, so why not give us a call on 01992 643388 to arrange an appointment and see how we can help.