If you or your kids need to improve your oral hygiene, swapping your manual toothbrush for a powered toothbrush could help. An electric toothbrush with a rotating head can make it easier to clean your teeth and gums, as long as you know how to use it properly.
If you've never used an electric toothbrush before, or you want to know how they compare to a standard toothbrush, here's a short introduction to help you make informed decisions for yourself.
What does the evidence say?
Multiple studies have found that a powered toothbrush can improve results from teeth brushing compared to a manual toothbrush.
- A 2014 Cochrane review found moderate quality evidence of a statistically significant reduction in plaque and gingivitis for both the short term and long term when subjects used electric toothbrushes.
- Another study analysed the long-term effects of tooth brushing over 11 years and found that subjects using a powered toothbrush had 20% less tooth loss.
While these findings and others suggest that most people can benefit from going electric, this isn't necessary if you are already seeing good results from manual toothbrush use. Your dentist can recommend the best type of toothbrush during your visit or your child's check-up.
When is an electric toothbrush recommended?
Your dentist may recommend that you or your child use an electric toothbrush if your normal toothbrushing routine isn't removing all plaque from your teeth. Some of the benefits are:
· An electric toothbrush can be easier to use, as the oscillating brush head performs the cleaning action for you. You still need to move the toothbrush around your mouth as it cleans, but this can make a powered toothbrush better suited for children who are still developing coordination or other people with mobility issues who find normal brushing difficult or tiring.
- The ergonomic design of electric toothbrush handles can also make them more comfortable to hold than a basic manual toothbrush, with wider handles for young children. Some people also find that an electric toothbrush head feels more comfortable on their teeth and gums, such as people with braces.
- For kids, a powered toothbrush can also be more fun. Children who are resistant to brushing manually may be enticed to use an electric toothbrush with lights and sounds. Some models play music that's timed to encourage kids to brush for the recommended two minutes.
These benefits don't apply to everyone, of course, as there are many people who find using a manual toothbrush more efficient and more comfortable. When you brush well and follow good oral hygiene generally, you can keep your teeth and gums healthy whichever type of toothbrush you use.
Why is good teeth brushing important?
Brushing your teeth properly is essential for keeping plaque at bay. Plaque is the film of bacteria that can build up on teeth and is responsible for oral health problems such as tooth decay, cavities and gum disease.
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, ideally before breakfast and before going to bed, spending around 30 seconds in each of the four corners of your mouth. Don't brush straight after eating or drinking, as the acid left on your teeth from food or drink can weaken the enamel and brushing may damage the tooth surface.
Tooth brushing alone isn't enough to keep your teeth and gums healthy. A good oral hygiene routine should also include:
- Daily flossing to clean the areas your toothbrush can't reach
- A well-balanced diet low in sugar and rich in vitamins
- Drinking plenty of water, especially fluoridated tap water
- Regular check-ups with your dentist
How to use a powered toothbrush
Using an electric toothbrush may feel strange or even uncomfortable at first if you're not used to it. The automatic brushing action can make cleaning your teeth easier with an electric brush, but you still need to guide the toothbrush where it needs to go.
To get the best results from your electric toothbrush:
- Rinse the electric toothbrush head before attaching it to the handle
- Squeeze a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste onto the toothbrush head (low-fluoride toothpaste for young children)
- Place the toothbrush head against your teeth and turn it on
- Applying gentle pressure, clean each tooth in turn by moving up or down from the crown (end of the tooth) to the gum
- Clean the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of all teeth, angling the toothbrush when needed
- Make sure children spit out rather than swallow toothpaste
- Don't rinse the remaining toothpaste off your teeth, as the fluoride can offer protection against plaque
Just as a manual toothbrush should be replaced about every 3 months, you should change your electric toothbrush head as often as the manufacturer recommends or after any illness. Remember to charge your toothbrush or replace the batteries so you won't be caught short when you need it.
How to choose an electric toothbrush
- Most electric toothbrushes have an oscillating (rotating) head for automatic brushing, but some can perform additional movements or include other features. You can ask your dentist about these extra functions to see if they could be helpful for you or unnecessary.
- An electric toothbrush comes with a set of heads that need to be replaced over time as the bristles get worn down. A combination of long and short bristles can offer the best cleaning.
- Like a manual toothbrush, you can choose brush heads with medium or soft bristles. Hard bristles should be avoided, as these can scratch tooth enamel.
- If you're buying an electric toothbrush for kids, you could invite them to choose their own, so they'll be happier using it.
See a dentist on the Gold Coast
If you or your kids are due for your check-up or you want some advice about taking care of your oral health, contact our dentists at Robina Town Dental.
Call us on (07) 5575 9100 or visit us in Robina Town Shopping Centre and we'll help you to book an appointment at a convenient time.
Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, Deery C, Walmsley AD, Robinson PG, Glenny AM. Powered versus manual toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD002281. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002281.pub3.
Julie Grender, C. Ram Goyal, Jimmy Qaqish, Ralf Adam, An 8‐week randomized controlled trial comparing the effect of a novel oscillating‐rotating toothbrush versus a manual toothbrush on plaque and gingivitis, International Dental Journal, 10.1111/idj.12571, 70, S1, (S7-S15), (2020).
Healthdirect. Teeth cleaning [Online] 2018 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/teeth-cleaning