With an ever-expanding range of toothbrushes available at supermarkets and specialty stores it is often difficult to figure out which brush is right for you. There are a multitude of different kinds of manual and electric toothbrushes on the market today, all with different features and varying price points. To make your next toothbrush purchase a little less confusing, we have compiled the ultimate buyers guide for brushers young and old.
When selecting a new manual toothbrush, the most important consideration is the bristle ‘hardness’. Manual toothbrushes are available in three different bristle types – hard, medium, and soft (occasionally you might spot ‘extra soft’ as well). We recommend opting for a soft or extra soft bristled brush as anything harder than that has the potential of causing tooth erosion or damage to the gums.
In terms of brush head shape and other bristle features, it is really a personal preference. Smaller brush heads may work best if you have hard to reach areas or a strong gag reflex. Some brushes also have dedicated tongue cleaners on the back which provide an alternative to brushing the tongue. As long as you have a solid brushing technique and opt for a soft bristle variety, the rest is up to you!
There are two main types of electric toothbrushes – oscillating and sonic. Oscillating electric toothbrushes have small round heads that rotate as you brush. The idea behind the oscillating head is that the rapid sweeping motion gives a more effective clean by brushing over the tooth and gum in multiple directions at a speed much greater than a manual brush. The small head makes it easy to focus on one tooth at a time and get into hard to reach places. The most common brand of oscillating brushes is Oral-B, who have released a wide variety of brushes at different price points with varying features.
On the other hand, sonic brushes tend to have a ‘normal’ shaped head and employ two forms of motion to clean the teeth. Sonic toothbrushes generally have some sort of rotational motion but also have the benefit of ‘sonic’ vibration. The rapid vibrations (up to 30 000 per minute!) are thought to aid in the removal of plaque by altering saliva flow so that areas the bristles can’t reach are still being cleaned.
So, which one is better?
To make it easier to choose which kind of toothbrush is best for you, we’ve come up with a couple of criteria for comparison. Just in case you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:
|Effectiveness||Technique dependent||Superior clean if poor technique with manual toothbrush|
|Extra Features||Limited||Pressure sensor, timer, different brush heads.|
|Cost||Low||Moderate – High|
|Other Considerations||Easier for travel, no need to charge||Good for kids and those with limited dexterity, have to remember to charge.|
Round 1 – Effectiveness:
When comparing manual and electric toothbrushes, the electric brush tends to come out on top if the brushing technique with a manual brush is sub-par. A Cochrane Review* conducted in the early 2000s found that regularly using an oscillating electric toothbrush resulted in a modest reduction in plaque and the occurrence of gingivitis. It is important to note, however, that if you are brushing for two minutes with a sound technique, in most circumstances a manual toothbrush will provide an equally as effective clean.
Comparing oscillating electric toothbrushes to sonic ones is a little more complicated. Some studies have found that oscillating toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque while others have found the difference between them to be negligible. Some people find that the sonic vibrations give them an itchy nose so in the end it most likely comes down to personal preference.
*A Cochrane Review is a collection of the best available evidence on a particular topic.
Round 2 – Extra features:
Electric toothbrushes nowadays are jampacked full of extra features. One of the most useful features is an in-built timer. Some brushes vibrate every 30 seconds to let you know that it is time to move on to the next quadrant, whereas others buzz at the end of the full two minutes. Some of the higher end electric toothbrushes also contain a pressure sensor that lets you know when you’re brushing too hard. This can be particularly useful for those who tend to brush too hard and abrade the surface of their teeth.
Round 3 – Cost:
It goes without saying that the most affordable toothbrush is the manual variety. The cost of an oscillating electric toothbrush is usually lower than a sonic one, however it depends which model you go for. Oscillating brushes start at around $30 and go up to as much as $300 or more. Entry level sonic toothbrushes tend to be more expensive, starting at $50 or more and rapidly increase up to $300 or higher. Keep in mind that there will be additional ongoing costs as toothbrush heads do have to be replaced regularly.
Round 4 – Other Considerations:
If you’re still not sure which toothbrush is right for you, here are a couple of extra considerations that may apply to your situation:
Who is the brush for?
Electric toothbrushes can be great for kids as they find them much more exciting than a manual brush. If brushing with an electric toothbrush is something that will encourage healthy oral hygiene habits then that is definitely a big bonus! The bulky handle of electric toothbrushes may also be helpful for those who have trouble gripping a small manual brush, like children and the elderly.
Are you someone who travels regularly?
If you travel regularly, manual toothbrushes are usually easier to manage on the go. Something we have seen work quite well is having an electric toothbrush at home and a manual one for trips away.
Are you someone who forgets to charge things?
We all know someone who is forever forgetting to plug in their phone, their computer, or even their backup battery packs. If you are that person then maybe an electric toothbrush is not for you. There’s nothing worse than going to brush your teeth and it’s got a flat battery!
And the winner is… both!
We hope that after wading through this article that your next toothbrush choice has become a little easier. In the end it really comes down to a combination of personal preference and oral hygiene needs. If you have any questions about which brush is right for you, then don’t hesitate to pop in or give us a call. Happy brushing and flossing and we’ll see you at your next check-up!