Electric Toothbrushes…Are They Worth It?
The word “toothbrush” used to just refer to regular toothbrushes. The idea behind them hasn’t changed much since the 1930’s, when the toothbrush as we now know it was introduced to the public. In the 1990’s, powered toothbrushes started to gain popularity amongst the dental and public communities. These days you can get a regular toothbrush for free at your dental checkups, or you can drop as much as $250 for the best electric toothbrush available. So, what’s the difference and why do dental professionals prefer the pricey option? Let’s take some time to look at the pros and cons of both.
–Price: As mentioned, these are cheap/free. Often you can score these at your dental checkups. If dentists recommend electrics, why are they quick to give out a manual freebie? Studies have shown that 23% of people have gone 2 or more days without brushing their teeth, so we go by the mantra of “something is better than nothing.”
–Ease of travel: Toss them in your suitcase and go, there’s nothing to charge. And if you forget them in your hotel room, the price to replace them is minimal.
–You can still get great results: With impeccable technique, you can absolutely get great results from your homecare regimen by using a regular toothbrush.
–Recession: People generally tend to believe that more is better. This includes scrubbing their teeth with the same amount of pressure as they would attack bathroom tile grout. This results in fragile gum tissue being scrubbed off. Where there is no gum tissue, the bone supporting the teeth will also dissolve. Therefore, we see gum recession with associated bone loss quite frequently in people who use manual toothbrushes.
–Inconsistent results: Very rarely do people take the time necessary to clean their mouths effectively with a regular toothbrush. Manual toothbrushes don’t have a timer to tell a patient when 2 minutes has passed, so 1 minute 52 seconds is the average most people will spend on brushing between their morning and night regimens, with the result being frequent, persistent gingivitis and periodontal disease.
–Ease of use with better results: Electric toothbrushes are more effective and more efficient with less stress on technique. All you truly need is a light touch, aim the bristles at a 45 degree angle into the gumline and let it do the work. In several studies evaluating both electric and battery toothbrushes, there was a 23-62% improvement in gingival health after 1-3 months of use. There was also 82% less stain in those patients using an electric toothbrushes, as opposed to a manual.
–Timer: Electrics take the guesswork out of the chore of brushing your teeth. Not only do they do the work for you, they tell you when to switch sections in your mouth and when you’re done. Both children and adults are proven to spend more time when brushing with an electric, which directly correlates to more plaque removal, thus a decrease in gingival inflammation.
–No more recession: There is a pressure indicator in electric toothbrushes, so when you push too hard, they stop working effectively. This means that you won’t get any more recession of your gum tissue. This makes electrics optimal for those that have recession, have had surgery to correct gum defects, or experience sensitivity caused by recession.
–Smaller heads and more gum care options: Often, the electric toothbrush heads are much smaller than their manual counterparts, which means better access to hard-to-reach areas. And many electrics have different settings to accommodate each patient’s specific concerns, i.e. sensitivity, gum massage, etc.
–Price: Electrics and battery toothbrushes can cost anywhere from $10-$200+. The heads need to be replaced every three months, and typically start around $6-$7. However, when you consider that a deep cleaning needed from the onset of gum disease can have a starting cost of at least $100 to upwards of thousands of dollars if periodontal surgery is needed, the initial purchase of an electric toothbrush doesn’t seem quite so daunting, considering the disease it helps prevent. And one electric per family is just fine, as long as everyone has their own toothbrush heads.
–Charging: They need to be charged or have their batteries replaced. Most people these days are also just as concerned with charging their smartphones, so an additional cord doesn’t seem like much to ask when traveling or at home. Add to this, that the newer models typically hold a charge for 2-3 weeks, it’s not a constant need to have the charger laying out in your bathroom.
–More difficult to travel with: You will need to be sure you don’t leave this behind in your hotel room! Fortunately, Sonicare has a model that has a travel case that is extremely compact and doubles as the charging case (and also has the added benefit of being able to be charged via USB cable).
Those “cons” really didn’t add up to much, did they?
Unless your dentist works for an electric toothbrush company (most don’t, you can ask!), they aren’t making any additional money by suggesting you go buy one for you and your family. The benefit is purely to prevent oral disease for the long term. So be sure to ask questions and find out which one they recommend most and why they feel the investment is the best option for you.
Paige Tscherpel, RDH, BSDH
Consulted Sources Include: