Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush - Which is better?

Electric vs. manual toothbrush Brushing your teeth is the foundation of good oral care and prevention. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective at removing oral plaque that causes decay and disease.

Electric and manual toothbrushes each have their own benefits. The ADA puts a Seal of Acceptance on any toothbrush, electric or manual, that’s proven safe and effective. Read more about the pros and cons and which one might be best for you.


Electric toothbrush benefits Electric toothbrush bristles vibrate or rotate to help you remove plaque buildup from your teeth and gums. The vibration allows for more micro-movements every time you move your toothbrush across your teeth.

More effective at removing plaque A review of studies showed that, in general, electric toothbrushes do decrease more plaque and gingivitis than manual toothbrushes. After three months of use, plaque was reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent. Oscillating (rotating) toothbrushes seem to work better than just vibrating toothbrushes.

Easier for people with limited mobility Electric toothbrushes does most of the work for you. They may be helpful for anyone with limited mobility, such as people with:

  • carpal tunnel

  • arthritis

  • developmental disabilities

Built-in timers A timer built into an electric toothbrush can help you brush your teeth long enough to sufficiently remove plaque from your teeth and gums.

May cause less waste When it’s time for a new toothbrush, you only have to replace an electric toothbrush head in many cases, so it may be less wasteful than throwing away a full manual toothbrush. However, if you use a single-use electric toothbrush, you’ll have to completely replace it when it’s time to do so.

May improve your focus while brushing At least one studyTrusted Source found that people were more focused when brushing their teeth using an electric toothbrush. This improved people’s overall experience brushing and could potentially improve how well you clean your teeth.

May improve oral health in people with orthodontic appliances One studyTrusted Source found that electric toothbrushes were particularly helpful for people with orthodontic appliances, such as braces, because it made brushing easier. Among people with appliances who already had good oral health, plaque levels were about the same, whether they used an electric toothbrush or not. But if you find it difficult to clean your mouth while having orthodontic therapy, the electric toothbrush may improve your oral health.

Fun for kids Not all kids are interested in brushing their teeth. If an electric toothbrush is more engaging to your child, it can help accomplish good oral cleaning and set healthy habits.

Safe for gums Used properly, an electric toothbrush should not hurt your gums or enamel but instead promote overall oral health.


Electric toothbrush cons Electric toothbrushes are more expensive than manual ones. Prices range anywhere from $15 to $250 per brush. New replacement brush heads usually come in packs of multiples and cost between $10 and $45. Totally disposable electric toothbrushes cost $5 to $8 plus the cost of batteries.

Finding the right replacement brush heads may not always be easy or convenient, either, since not all stores carry them, and your local stores may not have the correct brand. You can purchase them online, but this isn’t convenient for everyone, and it’s not a great option if you need a new head right away. You can stock up and have enough on hand to last a year or more but that adds to upfront cost.

In twoTrusted Source studiesTrusted Source among seniors, electric toothbrushes didn’t significantly remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes. This doesn’t mean electric toothbrushes don’t work, but it might mean they aren’t worth the extra cost. Plug-in versions may not be a good option if you travel internationally, since you’ll need a backup travel toothbrush in these cases. Even though electric toothbrushes may produce less waste, because they require electricity or batteries, they are less eco-friendly than manual ones.

Not everyone likes the vibrating feeling, either. Plus, electric toothbrushes create a bit more movement of saliva in your mouth, which may get messy.

Manual toothbrush benefits Manual toothbrushes have been around for a long time. While they don’t have the bells and whistles found in many electric toothbrushes, they are still an effective tool for cleaning your teeth and preventing gingivitis.

If you’re most comfortable sticking with a manual toothbrush, continue using one if it means you’ll still brush twice per day, every day.

Accessible You can get a manual toothbrush at almost any grocery store, gas station, dollar store, or pharmacy. They also don’t need to be charged to function, so you can use a manual toothbrush anywhere and at any time.

Affordable Manual toothbrushes are cost-effective. You can usually buy one for $1 to $3.

Manual toothbrush cons One study found that people were more likely to brush too hard if they used a manual toothbrush versus electric. Brushing too hard can hurt your gums and teeth.

Using a manual toothbrush may also make it more difficult to know if you’re brushing long enough for every session since there’s no built-in timer. Consider placing a kitchen timer in your bathroom to time your brushing sessions.


The takeaway

Both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective at cleaning teeth if you use proper technique and brush long enough. Overall, an electric toothbrush may make brushing easier, resulting in better plaque removal. Talk with your dentist if you have questions about which toothbrush might be best for you.


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