Electric vs manual toothbrushes – which gets your pick?

by , Scientific Advisor Energy & Home 9 November 2012
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
6 - 0
avatar

Have you given up on your manual toothbrush and become an electric convert? We looked at the research to try and determine if electric really is better than a manual, or whether it’s all just in the brushing technique.

Toothbrush with toothpaste tube

I’ve been using a variety of electric toothbrushes for the past 10 years. They seem to brush well and keep my teeth in good health. But it hasn’t always been like this.

Before I joined the electric revolution, a dentist advised me that my gums were receding because I was brushing too hard with a manual brush. So I went bought my first electric model and haven’t looked back. But is there any evidence to prove that electric brushes are actually better than manual ones? Or is it really all just down to brushing technique? I went in search of some answers.

Electric vs manual toothbrushes

The Cochrane Oral Health group – an internationally recognised organisation that reviews clinical trails in oral health – compared trials that had been performed with almost 4,000 participants. It found that electric brushes with a rotating oscillating action could reduce plaque by 11% and gingivitis by 6%. However, the majority of electric brushes only seemed to perform about as well as the manual ones.

And they couldn’t find conclusive evidence that electric brushes are better than manual brushes in the long term. This all seems rather unsatisfactory to me – should I stick with my electric brush or would I get just as good results if I reverted to a cheaper manual one? It looks like we’ll have to wait for the results of more research to get a definitive answer either way.

Best brushing techniques – say ta ta to tartar

According to dental experts, how you brush is more important than what you brush with. We’ve just tested electric toothbrushes and asked our expert dentist for the perfect brushing technique. He advised gently brushing for two minutes twice a day and making sure you evenly clean all tooth-surfaces, inside and out. He also suggested visiting a dentist to get your technique checked out. I definitely plan to do this the next time I go.

I now think that my oral health has probably improved because using an electric brush means I don’t apply as much pressure on my gums when I’m brushing. But that’s just me – if your technique is already good, a manual brush would probably do you just as well.

Have you switched to an electric brush, or are you sticking to your manual one?

What type of toothbrush do you use?

Electric toothbrush (80%, 2,049 Votes)

Manual toothbrush (20%, 528 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,577

Loading ... Loading ...

47 comments

Add your comments

avatar

wavechange

I have used an electric toothbrush for years. Manual toothbrushes are generally too firm and I’m too harsh to be trusted with one.

My front teeth are in excellent condition but I’m somewhat edentulous at the back. I’m waiting for Which? to do an article on dental implants.

avatar

EnGT

No mention of interdental brushes (as opposed to flossing) which transformed my gum health. They aren’t electric and they can be fiddly…I need four different sizes for full effectiveness…and if bought online can be reasonably inexpensive.

avatar

Swede

I have the same problem of using too much force when brushing and would warmly recommend TePe brushes, the extra soft version. I pick them up very cheaply (6 for a fiver) when in Sweden, but they may be available on-line. I also use their interdental brushes which are on sale at my dentist surgery.

avatar

wavechange

Thanks for the recommendation, Swede.

avatar

Alan

I find that an electric toothbrush disciplines me to clean my teeth properly. I tended to give them a cursory and rather haphazard scrub previously. However, my receding gums were the original reason I got one.

I have found that the batteries on the Braun models do not last more than a couple of years before the toothbrush loses its charge in 2 or 3 days.

avatar

oliver s

I must be like Alan. I was advised to get an electric brush due to receding gums and therefore have an effective way of brushing without pressing too hard.
My dentist gains nothing from suggesting I buy one other than doing her professional duty. Most dentists seem to recommend them so I guess they are better from the empirical observations that dentists make every day. Simples

avatar

EnGT

…and how come 3 Philips Sonicare products are reviewed without the Oral B sonic products?

As we were limited on the number of electric toothbrushes we could test, we chose popular models which are widely available. Philips base their whole range of electric brushes around sonic technology whereas for Oral B it is only currently a side arm of what they offer.

avatar

Margaret

Best advice I was given some years ago by my dentist’s nurse was to use an electric toothbrush & I have done so since then. Just bought the Oral B 5000 (heavily discounted:) and I love it as it warns against using too much pressure when brushing ( great as I’ve got receeding gums) and the wirefree timer with clock is great in the bathroom and when I exceed my 2 minutes it smiles and winks at me:) so I try to get a wink every time……so sad I know ! but seriously, cleans my teeth brilliantly in fact, feels better than when the dentist does it….hope this is useful x

avatar

Maxtoby

I use a manual toothbrush in the shower in the mornings because it’s quick and easy, and I can throw it from the shower back to the sink and put it back in it’s pot later rather than leaving it in the shower where I will forget it. In the evening I do a thorough clean with my electric brush followed by interdental brushes. I like the electric brush because it has a timer function and gives me confidence i’m doing it right.

avatar

Dr Chris Matthews

I always recommend an electric brush and either Floss Picks and/or Tepe brushes (whichever is more suitable). My patients who have gone electric almost always say that their teeth feel cleaner and their gums feel healthier. A small number of people don’t like the vibrations so stay manual. On examination people who use an electric brush tend to have less deposits in fewer places.

avatar

Pam

I recently bought a Sanitas Sonic toothbrush from Lidl for £12.99. It came with 3 heads and is the best toothbrush I have ever had. It has 3 different settings so you can set it to firm, soft and massage. The battery lasts for ages. Why on earth would you pay the big brand prices? It also has a 2 minute timer on it.

avatar

Trisha Fermor

I have used an electric toothbrush (Braun Professional) for many years and it beats a manual hands down. Teeth feel cleaner and, with the use of Teepee, really does keep tartar at bay although not completely eradicated.

avatar

Crazy John

I have used an electric toothbrush for years as it was recommended by my dentist.( I have receding gums) along with interdental brushes.
I also use a mouthwash to keep any bacteria away as my lower jaw is disintegrating and I want to keep what few teeth I do have left in it!

avatar

Stephen Hicks

I’ve used an electric brush for a number of years. I feel the timer disciplines me to spend long enough brushing.

I also use floss and interdental brushes and I think my oral hygiene is pretty good. I’m 55 and with all my own teeth save for a couple of childhood extractions.

A downside is that in my experience Oral B brushes have a pathetic battery life and the batteries are very hard to replace.

avatar

tim

Think I’ll go electric with pressure sensor. I used both and thought electric felt cleaner but harsher, I was moving to manual preference however after reading the comments I’m with Margaret.

avatar

Tony091

Used a Braun for 4 years until the battery gave up then reverted to a manual brush. No difference in performance. The important thing is to clean between the teeth using an interdental brush, floss or a stick. Brush angle is critical. Angle down towards the gums with the side to side movement, after the up and down action. Very important – apply only gentle pressure.

avatar

Jeniwib

I use Oral B electric brush I bought for my partner 4 years ago (heavily discounted) – but he never used it! It has the smiley clock but I get bored easily having to stand there watching it tick round – so I walk around sorting laundry and other stuff while I brush! The time flies by. I occasionally suffer from bleeding gums but that is if I revert to brushing in the mornings only. As soon as I go back to brushing twice a day my gums behave again. (NB I don’t wet my brush and I spit, not rinse )

avatar

pat

In the past i used a manual tooth brush until i changed my dentist , i was told to see another member of staff at a cost, of whom would teach me the correct way of cleaning teeth, one part was to buy a good electric tooth brush, because my gums had swollen and i was wearing them away , i took there advise , and since then i have had no problems with my gums , and on top of that i receive compliments on how white my teeth are , for 62 that’s not bad , the model i use is oral b sonic complete.
PS . this is not an advert.

avatar

Robertino

I do not believe that the response can be representative. Either or is a poor way to establish use of alternative and in this case complementary tools. My dentist for instance expects a full daily oral hygene to include electric brushing of gums and manipulation of manual brushing to deal with interdental gaps. Moreover both flossing and “pipe cleaner” tools of the correct size without forgetting the need to utilize most appropriate dentifrice for your particular dentature.

So just electric or manual when you actually use both is not the most effective data collection method and any analysis is misleading.

avatar

par ailleurs

I can only speak from personal experience but my hygienist and dentist both recommend electric brushing along with manual flossing. I wonder how many of those tested are like me and wavechange? My teeth were effectively mangled by 1950s NHS dentists with no advice on cleaning and no orthodontic treatment for what was clearly a challenging tooth arrangement. They were paid by treatment given and clearly made their cash from drilling and filling.
Now I have an excellent, enlightened dentist (private needless to say) who has rescued my gnashers with some help from crowns and bridgework and given them the chance of living as long as their owner. They need good, reliable cleaning and the electric brush hits all the right spots. Mine (Oral B ) also has a warning light if you apply too much pressure. My gum health is also now excellent and I have considerably less plaque build up. It may not be a scientific proof of the superiority of electric brushing but it’ll do me!

avatar

Conker

I am on my 3rd Braun toothbrush in 10 years and both my dentist and I are happy with the the state of my teeth from the standard 2min twice a day. However, at £30-40 a pop plus expensive brush heads (which are commonly fake when purchased online e.g. Amazon/eBay) I don’t think the Braun Oral-B brushes offer the best value for money.
Does anyone else have postive experiences with alternative manufacturers?

Also, does anyone have comments on the new whitening/total care type pastes? I find that this type are actively promoted/discounted over the standard white-paste varieties and yet some of the fancy versions cause me to get cottonmouth/thicker saliva type symptoms. Is there a which? Consumer study on toothpaste? If not, could it be considered as I’d be very interested to read about the ingredients, health benefits and performance of the different types and to find out whether these fancy pastes live up their claims over the standard types?

avatar

Bill

You say Braun brush heads bought on Amazon may be fake? Wow, I’ve bought some of those. How do you tell if they’re fake or not?

avatar

Conker

Not all heads sold online will be fake but, of 3x multipacks that I have bought over the last few years, the most recent 16-pack was definitely fake (bought from seller George Armstrong aka “garm-uk”). Whilst the packing was a very convincing copy, two things that I noticed is that the Oral-B logo wears off very quickly and also the oscillating head moves a bit too much i.e. away from the neck and this can lead to my lip being pinched!

You can google “Fake Oral-B” and you’ll find a number of sites with relevant information but I imagine that not all fakes are manufactured by the same factory and therefore may have different inconsistencies. Clearly fake heads are not going to be manufactured to the same tolerances as the original Braun ones.

avatar

Robert

Is there a need to show differences between use of the ‘sonic’ pulsating, vibrating type and the oscililating type of electronic toothbrush?

I have used the former, as advised, for a number of years now (despite the cost of the brush heads) and feel I have good results.

Unfortunately, not enough research is currently available to show if one electric toothbrush technology is better or worse than another.

I would be interested to hear if any of you have brushed with both Oral B and Philips technologies and which one you prefer.

avatar

Geoff Morse

I have used a electric toothbrush for a number of years now a OralB a previous Which best bu I think my dental hygiene has improved (my dentist likes them). However there is another important factor that seems to have significantly improved my teeth. I use a very expensive toothpaste and mouth wash. It is called Ultradex the mouthwash is a eyewatering £8.20 a bottle and the toothpaste over £6 a tube. I am not the kind of person who thinks that paying more money is better-but the results prove it is money well spent, my teeth have never been whiter and not a hint of bad breath. I discussed this product with my dentist and he told me it was highly rated amongst the dental profession he also stated there is a considerable difference between these highend products and the average mouthwash and toothpaste.However I have suggested to Which they research and test these expensive dental products-so far no results?

avatar

Phil

I’m surprised that there is little mention of the availability of the wide range of head designs of manual toothbrushes and their relative effectiveness. As everyone knows there are now many types, some quite expensive. I actually know someone employed by a major toothpaste manufacturer who carries out research into new designs for manual toothbrushes. Nevertheless, my dentist insists the best type is one with a simple short head design, one of which is given to me free after every check-up, though all the time insisting I should change to an electric brush. I actually find the short head design is definitely the best for me compared with all the fancy shaped ones I have tried. However, it is almost impossible to buy the short head type in the high street now and I have to go to my dentist to buy extra ones when needed. However, the dentist says they are finding it more and more difficult to obtain fresh supplies. Why is it the manufacturers are totally ignoring the advice of the dental profession? Surely not because producing more and more fancy heads gives them a competitive edge, even though they are no more and probably less effective than short heads!

avatar

Andy

Some years ago a dentist recommend that I use a soft toothbrush. I think I am picking up from the various comments that an advantage of an electric brush is that they are not as aggresive as a manual brush. So I find it curious that soft manual toothbrushes are often absent from supermarket shelves.

avatar

Eric

I suffer from tremor and cannot use a manual toothbrush. I find an electric one successful.When testing please give some thought to people who may have difficulties.

avatar

Dick Endecott

When I saw a Wisdom electric in Wilkinsons for £8.50 about 8 months ago I gave in to impulse buying. I’m neither impressed nor dissatisfied. It doesn’t remove plaque as well as a medium-hard brush so I frequently use both. They say that the brushes should last for a couple of months but I find that the oscillating heads get quite wobbly in the socket after about 10 days. This may mean that the amplitude of oscillation gradually gets less and it takes longer to give a good brush. It is quite comfortable and easy to use and if the motor, battery and charger have a decent working life it may have been a sensible buy.

avatar

Reg Hunt

As A retired dentist I reckon that ought to know how to brush my teeth because I can visualise the surfaces I am trying to clean at any particular moment in the procedure. So I use a a manual brush which I feel gives me more precise control. Type, size and hardness are all important factors as is technique. So I guess for the less committed / systematic user, an electric brush might be the more effective. But for me a manual does at least as good a job and maybe better. They offer a wider choice of head sizes, hardness rating and shape And they’re much cheaper ! The cost of replacement electric brush heads seems very high.

avatar

Camusnaherie

I use a Braun electric brush but I also use Australian made Piksters interdental brushes before brushing which are much more effective than all others and last much longer and do not bend as easily. No plaque and top marks from my hygenist!

avatar

John Portwood

I have used a Braun electric toothbrush for some years, and prefer it for the feeling, the action of cleaning, and the convenience. However, for plaque removal, the best solution I have found is the use of Listerine regularly. I used to have to have my teeth scaled and cleaned up by my dentist/hygienist, at the price of some discomfort (and increased fees!). Since using Listerine, I produce hardly any plaque, which is easily removed by the dentist.

avatar

DavidTot

I have used an electric (single rotating head, no time or pressure check) brush for about two years and the results are noticeably better than I achieved with a manual brush. My original dental surgeon frequently hinted that electric was the way to go, and I think I might upgrade to one with a more sophisticated action one day. My present dentist frequently compliments me on how I maintain my teeth, though one always wonders whether such comments are given to everyone to encourage them!

avatar

Dr Shumi

I am dentist and I could say: there is not big difference between electric and manual brushes, key is the time and technique, as well as interdental brushes, flossing and using mouthwash.

avatar

Dr Shumi

I am using manual one (Curaprox) and very happy with the results.

avatar

Elizabeth

I have always used a manual brush together with interdental brushes and floss. I hate the noise electric brushes make and they are expensive.

avatar

Hazel

I am approaching 80 and have used an electronic toothbrush for many years. I still have all my teeth with the exception of the two back bottom – removed by a rather enthusiastic dentist when in my forties!!

avatar

Frank

All I would say is give an electric toothbrush a try. Once you have you’ll never want to return to a manual. I have had no isssues with my gums since I bought my first electric about ten years ago, My first was just a cheap battery operated one and it was great. For the past four years I’ve had a nice rechargeable one by oral b that cost about £20 and has been very reliable. You get that just polished feeling every day with an electric, just as if you had been to the dentist. My teeth feel so much cleaner with the electric. My two children, boys aged 9 and 15 have electrics too and love them.

avatar

Robertino

Really! you should have a third button: a joint button not solely an either or !!!!

avatar

Dick Endecott

I read the magazine report a few days ago and note that there was no mention of Wisdom brushes. I bought one a few months ago (see my earlier comment on it) so dissapointed not to know if I didn’t buy a bargain. I’m now concerned because when I went to buy some more brush heads (in Wilkinsons) I got the last two. They are now pushing a non-rechargeable wisdom with a different brush design.

I checked the Oral-B model on the net and found that you can buy it at close to half the Which?-stated price – but Amazon are also pushing an upgrade (500 to 600) also at about £21.

Now ethically confused as to whether I should continue to buy from Amazon since they aren’t paying enough corporation tax!!!

As we’re talking about teeth… we’ve just published a new debate on how you pay for your dental treatment. If you go private, do you have dental insurance, or dental payment plan? Or are you with the NHS? Join the debate: http://conversation.which.co.uk/money/dental-payment-plans-private-dentist-nhs-costs/

avatar

Robertino

Dick Endecott makes a good point. He should have no qualms in ordering from them on the basis of taxation anomalies Amazon does not avoid paying tax. The tax regime enables the firm, like other firms, that operates across the EEA single market to be taxed quite properly in Luxembourg. If out tax system is out of step it would be for our Chancellor to ensure a competitive tax rate to enable firms to operate from the UK. I think the ultimate logic would be to have a harmonizad tax regime throughout Europe, then we would not have these distortions. Is this a too political point? More to the point why is the Wisdom brush as he says no longer available?

avatar

dead eye dicky

Dick Endecott here. My normal login refused to work so I’m now also registered using my photographer’s name.
Don’t assume that because Wilkinsons are out of stock and are pushing a different model Wisdom has discontinued it. These big stores don’t keep these kind of things on the shelf if they think they can use the space to sell something that moves quicker. Lidl is a good example of this. They ran an electric toothbrush for two weeks and I haven’t seen replacement heads there since. Wisdom heads are still available on-line. I’ve just looked for reviews about this Wisdom on-line and found that many more reviewers have found it ‘terrible’ and very few ‘good’. Unbranded head substitutes for Oral B also came out very poorly – even dangerous.
Your remarks about tax loop-holes are noted. UK used to be a flag-of-convenience for shipping so I suppose all countries have some ‘dodgey’ habits.

avatar

Alistair

I drink a lot of coffee and had very yellow teeth. On searching the internet I was advised to use baking powder. My wife uses an electric tooth brush but the brush was too small. I use an ordinary toothbrush, “whitening toothpaste” and then dip the brush into the baking soda. It works well.

avatar

Robertino

One of your bloggers says he is using bicarbonate and brushing his teeth with it. Bicarbonate works well on stove tops but on the tooth enamel it may not be an adequate long term solution to stained teeth syndromes. Indeed prolonged use will remove layers of good tough enamel and weaken the teeth exposing the soft dentine to the stresses of mastication and aggressive bacterial action On the assumption that the gums are in a healthy state you blogger should consult an NHS dentist and take the advice proffered for his specific needs.

Back to top

Post a Comment

Commenting guidelines

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked

Tired of typing your name and email? Why not register.

Register or Log in

Browse by Category

Consumer Rights

760 Conversations

9425 Participants

26969 Comments

Energy & Home

632 Conversations

6970 Participants

23876 Comments

Money

806 Conversations

5922 Participants

15428 Comments

Technology

765 Conversations

7365 Participants

19114 Comments

Transport & Travel

597 Conversations

4729 Participants

13337 Comments