/ Health, Shopping

Electric or manual toothbrush? I’m at a floss


I’m sure all of you brush your teeth at least two times a day, but what’s your tool of choice? Do you opt for an electric or a manual brush? Here’s Patrick and Adam going head-to-head in the Great British Brush Off…

Patrick’s for electric toothbrushes

avatarUntil last year, I was like Adam. I brushed my teeth using a tool that’s essentially unchanged since cavemen first brandished frayed twigs to improve their oral hygiene. And then I evolved.

During a routine check-up, my dentist told me that my gums were starting to recede on one side due to aggressive brushing. I was fully prepared to book myself into a hypnotherapist to coax me out of this bad habit, but to my relief, my dentist told me there was another way. I could buy an electric toothbrush.

I haven’t looked back. My teeth just feel cleaner after the change. Perhaps this is predominantly due to my poor manual-brushing skills, but I just can’t compete with my electric’s 7,000 rotations per minute.

The pressure-sensor and the timer have made the biggest impact. Having a light to warn me when I’m brushing too hard and a timer to keep me brushing for two minutes have banished my bad brushing habits.

Yes, electrics are more expensive than manuals, but I certainly didn’t cough up £100 for one. You’ll often find them on sale, and our tests have found value electric brushes that do the job. So, join the electric revolution and leave those soon-to-be-in-a-museum manual relics behind.

Adam’s for manual toothbrushes

avatarAccording to our poll from a couple of years ago, I’m firmly in the minority when it comes to my choice of toothbrush. Call me a luddite (I’ve been called worse), but the idea of owning an electric toothbrush has just never appealed.

I understand Patrick’s arguments for going electric – that brushing requires less effort and some models have natty features like a timer and pressure sensors. But are electric brushes really necessary? I can honestly say that I’ve never needed an alarm to tell me I’ve been brushing for two minutes or when to move on to the next section of my mouth. Nor have I felt like my arm is about to drop off after my morning or evening clean.

And if I ever needed any more persuading that an electric toothbrush isn’t for me, I just take a look at the price tags. Some cost in excess of £100, with manufacturers recommending that pricey replacement heads should be fitted every three months.

I’ve used manual toothbrushes all my life. My teeth are in healthy shape and I’ve never had any complaints about my breath (at least not to my face). I won’t be changing to an electric.

Which camp are you in? Do you agree with Adam that a good old manual toothbrush is the way to go? Or are you in Patrick’s electric toothbrush team?

Do you brush with a manual or an electric toothbrush?

An electric toothbrush, like Patrick (67%, 358 Votes)

A manual toothbrush, like Adam (33%, 178 Votes)

Total Voters: 535

Loading ... Loading ...
Clare says:
18 November 2014

I’m a firm believer in the power of the electric toothbrush. Cleaner and more convenient… and that’s the tooth!

Nice one Clare! When it comes to puns, I know the drill. But I wouldn’t want to hurt your fillings or get on your nerves by coming up with better puns. At least, that’s my flossify. 😉

For me it’s the manual brush. Why would I want to waste money on electricity just to brush my teeth when a manual does the job?

All these little things that use electricity soon add-up.

After all we’ve been through Lee!

Just noticed that the poll makes me sound like I AM an electric toothbrush: “An electric toothbrush, like Patrick”. That’s just how much I’m in favour of them.

Don’t worry Patrick, you don’t have a microwave (if I remember right), so that makes up for you wasting energy to brush your teeth hahah

I was wasting my own energy brushing my teeth with a manual toothbrush!

Hahaha very smart :p

You know i meant electricity not energy!

I have used an electric toothbrush for years. Like Patrick, I was told that I was damaging my gums by being too enthusiastic with a manual brush. I’m happy to take a manual brush when I go on holiday.

I don’t think a toothbrush uses much power, Lee. I have not tested mine but its predecessor was OK. Some people do leave them plugged in all the time, which could waste power, shorten the life of their batteries and – most importantly – increase the fire risk.


I’m a confessed energy saving freak lol.

I use a corded home phone instead of a cordless (no elec needed). Eat a Jam butty instead of Jam & toast (no elec). Just stuff like that. All these tiny little bits of electricity soon add up over the year.

What you need is a clockwork toothbrush, Lee. You may have to invent it.

Many of us become more concerned about our teeth as we get older. As a friend once said to me, there’s no point in having perfect teeth if your gums fall out. 🙂


I don’t think you know exactly how little electricity a toothbrush uses? I have a travel toothbrush because I find it more convenient than mains rechargeable. It uses 2 x AA 1900mAh batteries that last about 8 weeks using it twice daily, so its great for long trips. Recharging 2 x AA batteries draws around 4 Ws from the mains and takes ~6 hours to fully charge. That’s less than 250 Ws per annum: a quarter of a unit of electricity.

Likewise my home phone. I keep the power switched off and only charge it for 8 hours every Sunday: it draws 5 W whilst charging. That’s about 2 units of electricity a year.

I consider that trivial power usage, far less than say leaving a house light on to deter burglars when going out for the night!

“I don’t think you know exactly how little electricity a toothbrush uses”

But it still uses electricity. My mum used to say “If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves” I use the same system for my elec.

It must work as i have managed to get my electricity so low that i am using 4 units per week with a weekly bill of 67p.

Lee, I’ve often wondered if it was possible to make a plug-in water turbine that you attach to a bathroom tap that supplies current to an electric toothbrush every time you turn on the water. Perhaps an idea for a product if no-one’s thought of it before.

I used to use an Oral-B electric toothbrush and I thought it was very good at cleaning. It docked in a mains unit but power consumption was negligible. The cost of head replacement was probably no greater than the cost of buying new toothbrushes and because it only had space for a small blob of paste was probably mor economical overall.

I can’t remember now why I stopped using it; perhaps it failed and I never got round to replacing it. However, I have been cleaning my teeth with medium tootbrushes for well over ten years now and they do the job very well. As well as cleaning the teeth very well, and getting between them, I can get right into the bottom and top gum lines easily both at the front and back of my teeth; it also gently scrapes the tongue. I am not convinced that rotary action is a particular advantage since our teeth are vertical and not shaped like dogs’ or pigs’ teeth; an up-&-down motion seems to be more logical. Despite what the toothpaste packets say about 24hr or 48 hr protection, I believe it is best to clean the teeth as soon as possible after eating any food and then rinse in order to remove any debris. I also believe it’s a good idea to eat apples and celery in preference to chocolates and doughnuts. People spend a fortune on mouthwash nowadays; I can’t recall any Which? reports on the efficacy of different products, the oral hygiene advantages of different formulations, and value for money, for a long time now. I guess some of them are little more than coloured water with a nasty taste thrown in to make you think they are doing you good.

I’d like to see a definitive test on mouthwashes. I have always believed them to be snake oil.

I’ve taken my dentist’s and hygienist’s advice – to use an electric toothbrush. Pay attention along the gum line and the very back teeth, don’t press hard or try to brush manually with it – let it do the work. The oscillating head gets into the gaps better than I could ever do with a manual brush. And the are cheap – always seem, like sofas, to be half price.

Save electricity by manual brushing? Make up for it by not turning the bathroom light on. Or perhaps this should attract cloud funding for the purists?

“Save electricity by manual brushing? Make up for it by not turning the bathroom light on.”

You mean people still use bathroom lights? I use the light on my mobile.

Unfortunately three of the bathrooms in our house have no windows and when the light is switched on the extractor fan starts up so there is additional wastage if you just want to quickly wash your hands or clean your teeth.


My mums house used to-do that lol. You would use the bathroom in the middle off the night & fan would start up.

— Off topic here (sorry Patrick), but I have always wanted to know something….

I work from home & my laptop is on pretty much 24/7, when i put my iPhone on charge via the USB lead is my laptop then using more electricity? does anyone know please?

Your lap top will consume more electricity if you charge up anything from the USB port – you get nothing for nothing. You can get wind-up and solar powered chargers for your phone – that is free energy (except the wind-up when you will need a few more calories at breakfast to provide the extra energy).

Perfect thanks malcolm, I did used to have a solar powered charger but it was rubbish so sent it back. I never knew they did wind-up ones. I have a wind-up radio & that works fine 🙂

I’d leave the door open. Such a waste of energy! My son, when house hunting, looked at a house where the bathroom – with all it’s fixtures and fittings – was beyond a large arch in the main bedroom – no door at all. I’d be very uncomfortable using it, but no need for an extra light.

Seems like you guys need to brush up on our community guidelines 😉

So have I – with a solar cell as well. Called a “freeplay” – brilliant, had it years and it lives in the greenhouse. No good for cleaning teeth though.

Many of us are familiar with the Commenting Guidelines and Terms & Conditions and Patrick’s Pathetic Puns™, but are Community Guidelines something else we need to get our teeth into?

I’m afraid so Lee. The power to your iPhone has to come from somewhere and ultimately it is drawn from your mains supply. Not much, perhaps, but it all adds up. Leaving electronic gadgets on charge for longer than necessary to recharge the batteries can also increase consumption and impair battery life in some instances.

Some drivers wonder why their fuel consumption doesn’t come close to the advertised mileage per gallon. Whereas heating the car can make use of otherwise surplus heat from the engine, putting on the air conditioning or setting the heater to a much lower setting takes considerable electrical energy which has to be generated by the engine which therefore demands more fuel. Both heating and cooling also require fans to propel the air to the desired outlets in the vehicle. Likewise all our gadgets – the more functions, the more power they need, and unless we make our own energy mechanically [e.g clockwork, handpumps, bicycles] there is a consumption and a cost.

I have noticed that a number of organisations have changed the type of power sockets installed in publicly-accessible places to reduce the potential for unauthorised recharging. It might seem mean-minded when they’re running lights and fridges 24/7, but to them it’s an unprofitable drain on their resources.

Mr Ward.: What on earth has all that got to do with cleaning your teeth? Get back on topic immediately before Patrick get’s his digital toothpick out and prises you off the site.

Don’t be rotten, Wavechange! They’re the same as the commenting guidelines, but I’ve given them a rebrand 🙂

PS. Tooth right John Ward!

Mr Ward – I really appreciate when people are self-critical, but you should have asked us all to stay on topic.

And I apologise Patrick. If we can have an editing facility I will remove unkind comments. 😉

Alex needs to implant his authority over this Conversation to stop us extracting any more painful puns.

29 comments on this blog already & only half of them are about toothbrush’s lol

Lee – I think your comment is pure unstained enamel! Keep . . . brushing!

How I hate those fans that start up automatically with the bathroom light and stay on for 10 or 20 minutes after the light is switched off.

The answer is to change the extractor fan for a model that works on a humidity detector. They only start up when higher humidity from a shower or bath triggers it and switches off when the humidity is back to normal.

Patrick: That’s my fault, sorry!

Malcolm: “No good for cleaning teeth though” LOOL

I was trying to bring this conversation back to topic after Patrick’s remonstration (incidentally his smiley face seems to have no teeth – is he qualified to take part?) Then I find we’ve got onto car air conditioning. That’s it for now – I’ll be back at 2:30.

Lee – I have been measuring the power used by my toothbrush charger and it does not even register on my energy monitor. I’m all for energy saving but I can think of more effective ways than ditching my electric toothbrush.

2:30 no more. Who leaves the tap running whilst cleaning their teeth?

Not me!

Fraizer says:
18 November 2014

I use both – It depends on your manual dexterity – I feel most people brush too hard and unintelligently . Electrics don’t reach interdental areas … you need to floss . Plaque – worsened by potato crisps and sugary pop –

I use TeePee too (and there’s no sign of electric TeePees yet) but I still floss because most of the gaps between my teeth are just too narrow for even the thinnest brush.

I’m with Adam on this one. An electric toothbrush is one gadget I can easily do without. I have one medium sized toothbrush and a set of mini ones to brush between my teeth recommended by my dentist. They are silent and do a fine job.

Thanks for the backup, Beryl. Judging from the current poll results, I need all the help I can get.

Interesting that you have a dentist that doesn’t automatically recommend an electric toothbrush. Apparently you’re in the minority, if Patrick and the other commenters are anything to go by…

I have a fairly recent Oral B/Braun electric toothbrush and I am disappointed that the charging time is 16 hours, whereas my mobile phone charges very quickly. I assume that this is because of the limitations of inductive charging (where there is no direct contact between the toothbrush handle and the charger) since my Braun shavers charge quickly.

The product leaflet sensibly advises me to switch off when charging is completed, but there is no indicator of when charging is completed or any indication of remaining battery life. Unlike my previous electric toothbrushes, it stops working without warning, rather than slowing down when it needs to be charged, so I have to keep a manual toothbrush handy. Is this progress?

My other criticism of Braun/Oral B toothbrushes is that the manufacturer does not intend the battery to be replaced. I imagine that other brands are the same, but that does not make it excusable.

Is there any manufacturer that offers a quick-charge toothbrush with a replaceable battery?

It’s another reason why I chose the ‘travel’ version that uses two standard AA batteries. I use 1900mAh rechargeables – which last around 6+ weeks per charge – and always have a spare set handy for instant replacement.

That’s a good suggestion, Terfar. Thanks.

Would this be a good time to mention that manual toothbrushes don’t require ANY recharging? 🙂

We do test all our electric toothbrushes for how quickly the battery recharges (http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/bathroom-and-personal-care/guides/how-we-test-electric-toothbrushes/).

Although the best ones take around 12 hours to charge, which you may think is still too slow…

If electricity is the way forward how come dentist still give out manual ones free?

Ah I’ve got you all here :p

Keep the arguments for manual coming, Lee.

Judging from the current poll results, I’m being taken to the (teeth) cleaners…

Lee, there’s no such thing as a free toothbrush! Unless you have a free dentist.

In response to wavechange’s charging time, my Oral B slows down when the battery begins to get low, a recharge-needed light flashes, so I stick it on charge and by the next oral hygiene event it is whizzy again for at least a week. Maybe I have got the GT version. I have never mastered the art of moving the manual brush bristles vertically within my mouth to clean the gaps; my electric brush has.

“Lee, there’s no such thing as a free toothbrush! Unless you have a free dentist. ”

I do lol.

Well, not really free, I do secret work for NHS Leeds so get strange perks. Can’t say what i do as last time i talked about it (on BBC Radio 4 you & yours) I got told off by my boss.

Thanks Malcolm. My previous two electric toothbrushes started to slow down, which alerted me of the need to charge them in the next day or so. I guess mine has overzealous circuitry to protect the battery from being discharged excessively.

It’s time for Braun/OralB to look at their smartphone and work out that it should not take hours to charge a battery. Other brands are using lithium batteries these days.

This Conversation has led me to realise that what I need is electric teeth that I could switch on in the dark, rotate to apply the appropriate molar to the meat, make a better job of my nails, crack open walnuts and brazils, and cut through string and sticky tape with ease. The occasional rinse with WD-40 would be all the servicing required.

I see it is now possible to buy Bluetooth toothbrushes. 🙁

I won’t bother because mine are white, or nearest offer.

What happens to old batteries?

“Battery recycling is a recycling activity that aims to reduce the number of batteries being disposed as municipal solid waste. Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals; their dumping has raised concern over risks of soil contamination and water pollution.[1]”

I wonder what percentage of batteries are recovered and do not go to land fill. I see that the head can cost around £3.

each for Oral B but clones can be 40p per head but of dubious quality. I am a simple man and think I will continue with a manual toothbrush at 40p a pop from Aldi.

That’s a very good point Dieseltaylor.

Several years ago I dismantled a Braun/OralB toothbrush with the intention of either replacing the battery or at least disposing of it and the electronic components in the correct way. The manufacturer could not have made this more difficult if they had tried and I damaged a component.

How difficult would it be to make an electric toothbrush that enabled users to replace rechargeable batteries or to dispose of them correctly when the product was disposed of. Perhaps Braun should forget Bluetooth connectivity and other gimmicks and give a little thought to environmental considerations. The same applies to many other manufacturers of rechargeable products, of course.

I would be interested to learn if there is any gender preference also how many people secretly keep a spare manual just in case they forget to recharge!

The very thought of putting an electrically charged gadget in my mouth makes me bristle which is one reason why I eschew from using one. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet Adam and at least give one a go.

Electric toothbrushes and energy saving? Baloney.
Do you really think you will save the world depending on your toothbrushing method? For the oldies,before Ted Teeth, (sorry, Heath) was brought down by the miner’s strike one Tory goon suggested we brush our teeth (manually in those days) in the dark!
Carry on greenies as you wish but your energy prices will still rise – odd that.
Anyway what electric toothbrush is best?
The circular ones (which probably go round in different diections, according to brand.or next year when they decide to “improve” the design). But what about the straight ones? I use a straight Oral B but wonder if the sharp bristles make my teeth bleed or whether it’s periodontitis.
Electric Toothbrushes:”Dentists use them” or “Recommend them” – wow, they must use a lot of varieties and block the bathroom morning and night! Don’t any dentists uae or recommend manual brushing?
Funny how Africans and Asians have great teeth using twigs as flosses, if anything. I bought some from the supermarket but Twiglets were anothe bad buy.
Carry on charging folks, just like the Power-Supply Companies.

Yes I remember when we were urged to brush our teeth in the dark. A miner problem, though it dis help me be well prepared for power cuts ever since.

You should ask your dentist about your gums.

As you can’t see inside much of your mouth you might just as well brush your teeth in the dark.

Wavechange, we keep asking Patrick if we can edit posts. I don’t have fat fingers and only use two, but still get the right letters in the wrong order, or the wrong letters in the right order. Parhaps a campaign is called for?

I’m a touch-typist with nine wayward fingers, hence ‘dis’ instead of ‘did’ in my previous post. I can recall Patrick having made three comments suggesting that comment editing might be coming, one on 5 August this year. 🙂

I would love to edit posts too. My spelling is awful and even tho I read over a comment 2 or 3 times before i post i sometimes still make mistakes that i would like to correct.

I have a plan…. Meanwhile, back with toothbrushes.

Beryl asked if electric toothbrush owners keep a manual toothbrush handy. I have two electric toothbrushes and use them alternately, so there is always a charged one handy. I do the same with a pair of rechargeable electric shavers. But I use a manual toothbrush on holiday.

Both my electric beard trimmer and toothbrush are ‘travel’ versions that use rechargeable batteries. I have a pair of AA (toothbrush) and AAA (beard trimmer) spare fully charged ready for quick change.

I have a separate intelligent charger that I use for all my devices that require batteries… and there’s so many when you count remote controls, clocks, radios, toothbrushes, razors, C/H programmer, iBoost intelligent water timer, torches, home energy meter and my multimeter.

An advantage of the travel versions (Toothbrush/razor) is that they are cheaper because they don’t have any charging circuitry or device.

Old toothbrushes are excellent for cleaning into small places like washing machine soap dispensers around taps, ornaments etc. I always keep one handy.

Hi guys, sorry for the delayed response. Just on comment editing – believe it or not, an edit function would require a new commenting system. We did look at this early on in the site’s development, but we decided not to add one for a very good reason. People could edit comments to change their argument after others had replied. Therefore, to do editing right, we’d need there to be a time limit, giving you enough time to edit your typos but not so long that you could go back and change your argument after a debate had already taken place.

But there is a silver lining. We are looking into a major site redevelopment, and this is on the list of features. In fact, most of the suggestions you have made over the years are on there – and if you’d like to make anymore, just ping me an email here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

Thirdly – please don’t worry about your typos. As Ed says below, as long as we can understand what you’re saying, it’s of no consequence that you’ve made a typo (most of the time anyway!)

Thanks Patrick – makes sense. I hope the new site will not be like M&S who moved from a succesful Amazon platform (I believe) to their own – and now Mrs R can’t find her way around it. Perhaps that is also a silver lining?

Thanks Patrick.

Obviously, editing would be more than useful. I frequently see mistakes AFTER I have posted, but understand that we don’t want edit/backtracking, just for typos or clarification: so a 20 minute delay would be good.

terfar, I think the editors derision may be final? 🙂

Yes, wouldn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater Malcolm.

Tanks very much Terfarr 😉

Not disheartened, I will look forward to the unveiling of a new site at some time in the future. Whether or not the pterodactyl can be retained as a legacy feature remains to be seen.

If he keeps his teeth in good condition, I’m sure he’ll make an appearance 🙂

Ty for advice to visit dentist, wave. I plan to, although he and his assistant seem intent on choking me to death by squirting the water-jet down my throat:).
Seriously, I too have two electric toothbrushes. One round and one straight on different charge schedules.
My concern is this. When using on the left-hand side of the mouth, I assume the brush lifts out the plaque from the gum/tooth margin but what happens when I use it on the right-hand side of the mouth – I wonder whether if it pushes the plaque down into the gum/tooth margin. Similarly front versus back and straight across or vertical.
Regarding editing, spelling mistakes don’t matter so long as the message is understandable. I’m not sure if I’m spelling “plaque” right but I’m not going downstairs for a dictionary as you all no wot I meen.

Plaque is an example of a biofilm, in which one or more types of bacteria stick to a surface in a soft gel. Plaque accumulates at the base of teeth and between them, protected from being rubbed off except when we clean our teeth. Some of the bacteria in plaque produce acid that can slowly erode the protective tooth enamel and exposing the more vulnerable dentine below, which can result in decay. Plaque is soft and is easy to remove by brushing but if allowed to remain it becomes mineralised, forming calculus (tartar) which is hard and resistant to brushing. Certain sugars such as sucrose (table sugar) are particularly good at promoting growth of plaque. Any plaque forced between the gum and the tooth will probably not have much access to sugars or other nutrients for bacteria to grow. If the gum is damaged or diseased then bacteria and trapped food will have access and we can end up with an infection or abscess.

If your dentist or oral hygienist does not need to clean your teeth then that suggests that your cleaning technique is good.