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Regular Toothbrush vs Electric Toothbrush

Based on the increased amount of space they take up on store shelves, it is obvious that electric toothbrushes have surged in popularity. Some of them are kid-friendly, with the toothbrush handle taking on the shape of a racing car or a mermaid or a magic wand, and colors resembling army camouflage or sparkly gold. The American Dental Association (ADA) has issued several news releases because of how many patients are asking their dentists about these mechanical tools. Here at Swan Orthodontics, we want you to know that the key to preventing tooth decay lies in the way a toothbrush is used, electric or otherwise, and that manual toothbrushes can be just as effective as powered ones. We have put together the following list of fun facts and tips to help you come to an informed decision when it comes to your choice of a toothbrush. Keep on reading!

Did you know there was a time when toothbrushes were considered luxury items? Wealthy Europeans in the Middle Ages used twigs made of sweet-smelling wood to clean their teeth. The emperor of China developed a device with hog bristles placed in a bone handle in 1498, and this type of toothbrush became so popular that in Europe even the common folk used it. A whole family would have to share the same toothbrush to cut costs because the price of hog bristles was so steep! The cost of a powered toothbrush can be more than triple that of a manual one today— but I think most people today will still not share toothbrushes! The mechanical brushes appear to provide more power per dollar compared to manual ones since they generate 6,000 to 30,000 strokes per minute. It certainly takes less time to do a thorough job with the electrified version, but some people just do not enjoy the power stroke action.

The United States government considers toothbrushes to be medical devices, whether they are manual or electric, and fall within the Food and Drug Administration’s class I category— meaning that they are generally considered to pose little harm and are subject to the least regulatory control. In one recent study, more than 16,000 patients were asked by their dentists or hygienists to use a powered toothbrush. The powered brush had a positive effect on the oral health of more than 80 percent of the patients according to the dental professionals who were tasked with monitoring their patients’ progress. Most participants reportedly said their oral health was better after using the device. Dental health experts agree that regular tooth brushing and flossing can help prevent tooth decay, no matter how high tech or low tech the gadget they use is! As a general rule, children up to age seven need adult supervision while brushing. This is to make sure kids completely clean all surfaces of their teeth, such as the back molars or the lower bottom teeth next to the tongue which is hard to reach places where plaque often accumulates.

Young woman holding a toothbrush and placing toothpaste on it.

Additional suggestions the ADA has for parents to help their kids develop good dental habits are:

  • To schedule a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than your child’s first birthday. Take your child to see the dentist regularly.
  • Encouraging your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
  • Start brushing your child’s teeth with water as soon as the first tooth appears. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste can be used after age 2, when your child can spit it out.
  • Watch how your child eats. It is better to eat regular meals and little to no sugary snacks.
  • Make certain your child gets the right amount of fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your dentist how this can be done.

Dr. Swan also suggests that you ask your dentist about dental sealant, a thin protective barrier that shields the chewing surface of back teeth from tooth decay.

Excessive brushing with either a manual or electric brush has its risks, so do not get too carried away! Too much pressure and too frequent brushing can erode enamel, or the root if the gum has receded. Abrasion can cause teeth to become hypersensitive to hot and cold temperatures. If you have questions about what brush is best for you, contact Swan Orthodontics today!

Manual toothbrushes have the advantage of familiarity and simplicity, and make no mistake: with proper brushing technique, you can take great care of your teeth with a regular toothbrush. Your teeth will be in great shape so long as you brush properly with a fresh manual toothbrush for a full 2 minutes, twice a day. On top of that, manual toothbrushes are easier to transport, require no batteries or charging, and are very difficult to break. They do, however, require more work when brushing, because without proper brushing technique they are far less effective. There is no way to time how long you brush with them unless you set a timer – without it, you are just guessing. But what if you still prefer a manual toothbrush, or do not want to spend big money on an electric? Here are some of our best tips for choosing a toothbrush to help clean your braces:

  • Look for a small brushing head that fits your mouth. Make sure the bristles are angled to reach through the braces to the teeth and gums.
  • Use soft bristles so you avoid irritating your gums.
  • Select round end bristles. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA) suggests rounded bristles are better for protecting the tissue in your mouth from damage.
  • Get a new brush or brush head every 4 months or so.
  • Brush for two minutes a day.
  • Do not brush too hard— it can hurt your gums.
  • Be thorough, and get all the corners.

Man brushing his teeth

If you are in the Grand Rapids area and have any questions about how to care for your teeth, or you are wondering what kind of toothbrush is best for you, please stop by our office or give us a call. At Swan Orthodontics we consider ourselves pretty dialed-in when it comes to your dental hygiene, and we would love to discuss how you can get the very best cleaning at home each day!