/ 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

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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.