Dentist Journal

Manual vs Electric vs Sonic Toothbrushes

At Verve Dental in Bentleigh East, we are asked on a daily basis is it worth investing in a powered toothbrush. Without hesitation, we resoundingly say YES.

Without going into a dry boring history lesson about the evolution of toothbrushes the recent changes in technology have made the humble brush a force to be reckoned with against the battle with dental plaque. Today we have three kinds of brushes:

  • standard manual brush that most people use
  • electric brushes
  • the newer high-powered “sonic” brushes

Manual Toothbrush

These come in all shapes and sizes. They are only as effective as how we use our hands and wrists. It is important that a “soft bristle” brush is used as medium or hard bristles often result in gum and tooth damage.

A good technique and improved bristle design mean that these brushes are excellent at cleaning all surfaces of our teeth. But in the end, they can only clean the tooth surface if it has actually been touched by the bristle.

Electric Toothbrushes

Powered brushes have been around for over 60 years now. They work on the premise that electricity moves the brush head many thousands of times per minute making up for the deficiency of the human hand/wrist. This means rather than moving your hand/wrist you just need to hold the brush and it will do all the work. However, if the bristle is not actually touching the tooth than it is really no better than a manual brush. Technique is also important with an electric brush. As the brush head is moving faster, more damage can be done if too much pressure is applied. I always describe the technique as if you are trying to “tickle” the teeth rather than scrub them.

Sonic Toothbrushes

These are electric toothbrushes on steroids. They vibrate up to 40,000 strokes per minute and according to some of the manufacturers do a better job cleaning because they clean areas the bristles don’t touch. But is this true? And how important is this? The evidence does indicate that they do clean areas that aren’t touched by the bristle. It achieves this by the vibration of oral fluids into areas between the teeth and below the gums.

However, if you still use a manual toothbrush twice a day with a gentle thorough action along with daily flossing you can achieve the same result. This does mean you must spend more time with your manual brush which is something powered brush users report they do naturally.If you really want to reach oral hygiene nirvana, then a sonic toothbrush along with flossing would be a fantastic partnership.