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The Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes vs Manual Toothbrushes

Haleigh Pouliot Anna Middleton

Written by Haleigh Pouliot

Medically reviewed by Anna Middleton

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With an ongoing pandemic and surging social unrest dominating the news, a new toothbrush is probably the last thing on your mind.

But improving your oral hygiene is an important way to boost your immune system during these stressful times.

And every time you look at the sadly frayed bristles on your current brush, you remember that you are, indeed, due for a new one.

So now you’re wondering: is an electric toothbrush worth it? Should you take the plunge and buy one or just stick with your tried-and-true manual brush?

Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush

Heavily marketed, recommended by dental professionals, and decked out to look fancier than a smartphone, it’s no wonder that electric toothbrushes carry a hefty price tag.

Is a powered toothbrush such as the Philips Sonicare toothbrush just some sort of marketing gimmick? Do these gadgets really work better than regular brushes?

Most electric toothbrushes are much bigger than manual brushes because they have extra space built into their handles for housing the electrical components. This makes it fairly easy to notice the difference between electric toothbrushes vs regular ones.

Here are some of the other ways powered toothbrushes differ from their traditional counterparts:

Manual vs Electric Toothbrush: How Do They Compare?

Manual Toothbrush

Electric Toothbrush

Are Electric Toothbrushes Better Than Manual?

Now it’s time to tackle the big question: are powered toothbrushes really the best choice?

A 2014 Cochrane Review concluded that “powered toothbrushes reduce plaque and gingivitis more than manual toothbrushing in the short and long term.”

So do electric toothbrushes clean your teeth better than regular ones? Clearly, yes.

But does that make them the better choice?

That answer is less clear.

What scientific studies haven’t yet figured out is whether or not that extra bit of cleaning power makes a difference.

is an electric toothbrush better
The Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes vs Manual Toothbrushes 1

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), dental diseases like periodontitis, gingivitis, and dental decay are caused by dental plaque. Plaque is a soft, sticky, and naturally occurring substance that contains different kinds of bacteria including, those that cause cavities and gum inflammation.

Therefore, keeping your mouth healthy all comes down to how well you can remove that plaque from your teeth with frequent brushing.

Scientists and dentists don’t know for sure exactly how much plaque it takes to start dental problems.

But what we do know is that both manual brushing and brushing with an electric toothbrush remove enough of that plaque to keep your teeth and gums in good condition.

manual vs electric toothbrush
electric or manual toothbrush

Does the fact that an electric toothbrush can whisk away the plaque that a regular brush misses make that much of a difference?

Not really, according to a dentist in this article by Consumer Reports.

It’s a very tricky parameter to measure. Not everyone’s body responds the same way at the same time to the same amount of dental plaque.

All this is to say that we can’t definitively tell you that a powered toothbrush is any better for you than a manual one. Both brush types work perfectly well, and the secret lies simply in brushing your teeth regularly.

However, this doesn’t mean that electric brushes are useless. In fact, they have many important benefits.

Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes

One of the main reasons people are drawn to electric brushes is because they’re shiny little gadgets with neat bells and whistles.

Investing in a new oral hygiene tool that feels more like a self-pampering toy can increase your motivation to brush your teeth regularly. You’ll definitely want to get your money’s worth after splashing out on an electric toothbrush!

Additionally, positioning your sleek new electric toothbrush on your bathroom countertop communicates a statement of luxury. If you’re someone who likes to keep up with people like, say, the Kardashians, then you might want to try a brush like the (literally!) Kardashian-approved BURST toothbrush. In fact, now it’s the time to try it because they have a BURST promo code available.  

Besides looks alone, powered brushes offer several other significant benefits. After all, they are good at getting rid of plaque. Some of these benefits include:

Most importantly, powered toothbrushes deliver a key benefit that other brushes cannot: improved mobility.

If you have no trouble brushing your teeth with a regular brush, then it’s easy to take this daily chore for granted. But it’s a different story for folks who have a limited range of motion in their hands, and for them, using a brush that does all the cleaning for them can make a world of difference in their oral health.

Do Electric Toothbrushes Really Clean Better?

Yes, electric brushes really do clean better. This study even concluded that powered toothbrushes got better results for everyone regardless of their ability to use a regular manual toothbrush.

A more recent 2019 review of such studies concluded that although the studies may use different ways to measure how effective powered brushes are, there is “moderate certainty” that the electric brushes work better than manual ones.

And when it comes to finding an electric toothbrush that delivers a deep clean, you don’t have to get fancy or high-tech. This Goby toothbrush is stunning in its simplicity and is very easy to use.

When an Electric Toothbrush Is the Better Option

So far, we’ve established that while electric toothbrushes do clean better than manual ones, the difference is a slight one that might not affect your oral health.

However, there are groups of people who absolutely do stand to benefit from a powered toothbrush.

kids electric toothbrush vs manual


There are powered toothbrushes made specifically for children, and some kids are much more likely to brush their teeth when they have a battery-powered brush that lights up and makes noises.

The Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes vs Manual Toothbrushes 2

Limited hand mobility

As we mentioned earlier, one of the main benefits of electric brushes is simply that they can do an important job for you. People with arthritis or other conditions that make it hard to grasp and maneuver a regular toothbrush stand to benefit a lot from switching to a powered one.

Orthodontia or dental bridgework electric toothbrush vs manual

Orthodontia or dental bridgework

Brushing around braces or dental bridges can be a real pain. But the vibrating action of the bristles on a powered toothbrush stirs up fluids around the teeth and creates bubbles and currents that help dislodge plaque from hard-to-reach places.

Rough brushing electric toothbrush vs manual

Rough brushing

Do you have a habit of hard teeth brushing? Brushing with excessive force can cause gum recession and enamel abrasion. Many electric brushes come with sensors that can alert you when you’re pressing too hard and help you break your habit.

Gum disease electric toothbrush vs manual

Gum disease

If you’re currently struggling with sore, bleeding, or inflamed gums due to periodontitis or gingivitis, then switching to a powered toothbrush can be therapeutic for your gums and give you a boost of extra plaque-busting power. Many powered brushes also have special brushing settings and timers to ensure that you brush as long as you need to.

Even if you don’t fall into any of these categories, you might simply be curious to discover whether or not a powered toothbrush can really make your teeth feel cleaner.

You don’t have to break the bank to satisfy your curiosity; the Quip toothbrush is an affordable option that starts out at just $25.

Electric Toothbrush vs Regular Toothbrush: The Pros and Cons

Let’s take a step back to get a big picture view of the pros and cons of electric and manual brushes to see how they compare.

Pros of electric toothbrush
  • Does the work for you
  • Vibrating action can massage and soothe your gums and remove plaque from hard-to-reach areas
  • Ideal if you currently struggle to use a regular toothbrush
  • Reduces the amount of waste you generate since you only have to throw out a tiny brush head every few months instead of a whole toothbrush
  • Helps you brush your teeth with the right pressure, at the right speed, for the right length of time
Cons of electric toothbrush
  • Expensive at the outset
  • Requires purchasing one specific kind of brush head every time you need a replacement for the brand you purchased
  • You have to make sure your brush is charged before you use it
  • Using one probably won’t make a discernible difference in your oral health if you didn’t already have a brushing problem to begin with
Pros of manual toothbrushes
  • More cost-effective
  • Easily replaceable
  • Easy to transport and use anytime, anywhere
  • No complicated buttons to fiddle with
  • No need for charging
  • When used correctly, it’s perfectly effective at maintaining a healthy mouth
Cons of manual toothbrushes
  • Can be hard to sufficiently brush all of your teeth if you can’t hold the brush comfortably
  • Generates more plastic waste when you throw out a whole toothbrush
  • Brushing your teeth might be a tedious chore you’re inclined to neglect if your manual brush seems boring

Is an Electric Toothbrush Better Than a Manual Toothbrush?

Objectively, yes, the data we’ve reviewed indicates that electric toothbrushes are technically better at cleaning. But so far, that fact doesn’t really matter as no studies are proving that electric brushes are superior in the long term.

So there’s no need to worry if you don’t yet have an electric toothbrush. The most important thing is to pick a brush that works for you, and that makes you want to brush your teeth!

Tips For Deciding Between An Electric vs Manual Toothbrush

Have you discovered a healthier smile after switching to a powered toothbrush? Or did you find that an electric brush didn’t make that much of a difference?

Share your experience with us below!


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