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Electric vs manual toothbrushes – which gets your pick?

Toothbrush with toothpaste tube

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.

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 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

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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.


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.

Swede says:
9 November 2012

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.


Thanks for the recommendation, Swede.

Alan says:
9 November 2012

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.


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


…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.

Margaret says:
9 November 2012

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