Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush- Which Wins?

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Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush Which is better and why?

As a dental hygienist, one of the main questions I get asked is:

“Are electric toothbrushes better than a manual toothbrush?”

The short answer is yes, but I’m sure you definitely are here to hear the why.

First of all, I would like to say that as a pediatric dental hygienist, I see TONS of children. I know they are ALL very different and have different preferences and sensitivities.

There are some children who have sensory issues, especially oral sensory issues. Some children with these oral sensory sensitivities may not like an electric toothbrush.

On the other hand, they may love it.

So hear me when I say this…please use whatever type of toothbrush that will actually get used!

The important thing is that it actually gets done. If the teeth get brushed, I’m a happy hygienist. And your teeth are happy too.

If you or your child will use a manual standard toothbrush more effectively then that may be what is best suited.

With that being said, lets discuss the different types of toothbrushes.

Nitty gritty facts.

So here we go.

Electric toothbrush vs manual. Which one wins?

Standard Manual Toothbrush

manual toothbrush

First up we have your standard manual regular toothbrush.

It has been around for a VERY long time and not much has changed about it.

It can be very effective if used the proper way.

These toothbrushes come in many different bristle designs, and different feel of bristles. They come in different sizes from baby to adult size. They have hard, medium and soft bristles.

I’m not quite sure why they still make hard toothbrush bristles. Hard bristles can be very damaging to gums and teeth.

I’m hoping that people are only using hard bristle toothbrushes to scrub dirt off of their old tennis shoes! Check out this article on how to repurpose old toothbrushes.

The regular standard manual toothbrush is powered completely by your hand motion.

So these types of toothbrushes are very technique sensitive. The user must properly brush using the correct technique for the correct amount of time in order to be effective in plaque removal.

So this type of toothbrush relies solely on the user and their ability to brush properly. These manual toothbrushes are probably the most popular due to cost. You can typically find these at almost any store for $1-5.

Studies have shown that people using manual brushes can often brush too hard and damage gums, teeth.

If you brush too hard, you can irritate your gums or even worse, cause recession on your teeth. Recession can lead to lots of dental problems and sensitivity.

Additionally, there is not usually a built in timer on a standard toothbrush.. So often times, you will not brush for the recommended 2 minutes.

So lets recap standard toothbrushes…

Pros of a manual toothbrush

  • Affordable
  • Easily Available- sold nearly everywhere
  • Great for those with oral sensitivities to vibrations or sounds
  • Can be a good tool if with proper use
  • Powered only by hand motion

Cons of a manual toothbrush

  • Most people do not have the right brushing technique (technique sensitive)
  • Only has as much power as your hand motion
  • Can irritate gums from too much pressure
  • Can cause recession from too much pressure
  • No built it timer so user tends to not brush for 2 minutes
  • Small handle, not easy for those with limited hand function or arthritis

Electric Toothbrushes

Typically using anything besides a standard manual toothbrush will provide more motivation to do a better job brushing your teeth.

There are different types of electric toothbrushes. Although, most people typically refer to anything other than a standard manual toothbrush as an electric toothbrush.

However, the electric toothbrushes are actually quite different.

Different Types of Electric Toothbrushes

sonic electric toothbrush

There are sonic electric toothbrushes which use ultrasonic vibrations.

oscillating toothbrush

Then there are rotating/ oscillating toothbrushes that move clockwise and counter clockwise.

There are also non-rechargeable battery or simple vibrating toothbrushes but we won’t get into those because they are basically just a manual toothbrush with some added vibration.

Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are much better because they are less technique sensitive and you simply move the toothbrush from tooth to tooth.

Electric toothbrushes can also encourage children to get used to a higher powered toothbrush making dental visits easier.

Benefits of using an electric toothbrush

With both the oscillating and sonic brushes, you are only replacing the brush head itself as opposed to the entire toothbrush.

So this typically means less waste than a manual toothbrush. So it’s better for the environment! Check out this article about recycling and re-purposing toothbrushes.

I always recommend to re-purpose toothbrushes and toothbrush heads that way you have less waste since these can not be recycled.

Another bonus to an electric or sonic toothbrush is that there have been studies that show that people who use these brushes concentrate on their brushing techniques better. Which in turn, leads to a more effective brushing session.


Ah, braces. Have you had orthodontic appliances or braces before?

These can be a big chore to keep clean!

Electric toothbrushes can definitely help keep your orthodontic work in check!

Some electric toothbrushes have amazing bristle designs that really help get around the brackets and wires much more effectively than a standard toothbrush.

Oscillating or Rotating Electric Toothbrushes

oscillating toothbrush rotating toothbrush

First up, between the two different electric toothbrush types, we have the oscillating or rotating powered toothbrushes.

These typically have a toothbrush head that rotates or vibrates to help give extra brushing power.

These usually give about 2,500 to 7,500 strokes per minute.

That is definitely more impressive than the manual standard strokes of 300 or less per minute.

Research has shown that oscillating movements do better than standard manual toothbrushes. But not as good as sonic vibrations from a sonic brush.

Sonic Electric Toothbrush

Lastly, we have my personal favorite. The sonic electric toothbrush.

Sonic toothbrushes are like the superheroes of toothbrushes.

They come from several different companies and they usually have some pretty rad features.

Sonic toothbrushes have the ability to clean that extra mile.

Their high powered sonic vibrations can actually clean areas even further than what they are actually touching due to their extra fast sonic vibrations.

These fast high frequency vibrations force saliva, water and toothpaste around harder to reach areas. Their high velocity sonic vibrations really give your brushing technique that extra power!

In my research, the most interesting fact I found, is that the sonic vibrations are SO POWERFUL that they actually clean an area about 4-5 mm or a little over 1/8th of an inch away from where the bristles are actually even touching.

That is huge. So basically as your brush, the sonic vibrations are blasting off plaque and debris even 5 mm away from your toothbrush. We could all use that extra help.

The extra energy can help irrigate gum pockets and flush toothpaste and water in between teeth and even under the gum line and in between teeth!

How awesome is that???

Oh and I know what you might be thinking, and no this does not give you a pass to stop flossing!

Sonic brushes are great for getting around the gum line and getting in between the teeth better. This non-contact method of extra cleaning sends charged water particles all around your mouth and into harder to reach areas.

This can also stimulate blood flow to your gums and provide better oral health stimulation.

As you probably already know, your mouth contains LOADS of bacteria and plaque.

The areas that aren’t brushed contain bacteria colonies that will continue to multiply until removed! This is why you are supposed to brush and floss daily as well as see your dentist every 6 months!

So these super sonic vibrations can actually disrupt these bacterial colonies and kill off harmful bacteria!

Your mouth contains streptococcus mutans, a cariogenic (cavity causing) bacteria. Studies have shown that sonic brushes can actually KILL AND DESTROY THE CELL WALL plus it can inhibit their ability to attach to the teeth.

These sonic vibrations are also great for getting around and irrigating existing dental restorations, under bridges and around crown margins! So a sonic brush can help you keep your teeth and dental work protected!

So in reality, the sonic brush covers more surface area than a standard manual toothbrush can. The more plaque/biofilm removal coverage, typically equals less cavities and gum disease.

Sonic toothbrushes are pretty cool, eh?

Sonic brushes vibrations can go up to 33,000 (66,000 strokes) sonic vibrations per minute! Check out my favorite sonic toothbrush to recommend.

Holy Moly!

Sonic brushes are also great for those who are handicapped with limited hand mobility or have arthritis. Since the toothbrush itself does all the work with the powerful sonic vibrations, you can save your hands the extra effort.

Another bonus is most, if not all, sonic toothbrushes have a nice built in timer. The timer should be for 2 minutes. That is how long dentists recommend your brush your teeth to remove all the plaque effectively.

Even better, some of the toothbrushes, have a special timer that beeps or pauses every 30 seconds.

These toothbrush timers may beep or vibrate every 30 seconds to let you know to move to a different section of your mouth.

So you brush the upper right for 30 seconds, upper left for 30 seconds, lower right for 30 seconds and finally lower left 30 seconds. This ensures you are brushing ALL areas of your mouth for the correct amount of time and EVENLY.

As a hygienist I am always surprised to see how most people brush one side of their mouth so much more effectively than the rest. All in all, more people brush the correct amount of time when using a sonic toothbrush so that usually means more plaque and bacteria is brushed away. Win, win.

Like I mentioned before, there are a few people who will not like the sensation of electric vibrations. So I would definitely get one with multiple settings.

However, most electric toothbrushes have several modes that allow the user to choose the power they brush with. I always recommend to my patients to start with a sensitive or low setting when first using an electric toothbrush. As you get more used to it, then bump up the setting.

So lets recap electric toothbrushes…

Pros of an electric toothbrush

  • More motivation than a standard toothbrush
  • Less technique sensitive- does the work for you
  • Proven to clean up to 5 mm beyond where the bristles are touching
  • Force saliva, toothpaste and water into harder to reach areas
  • Stimulates blood flow=healthier gums
  • Disrupt bacterial colonies
  • Sonic vibrations kill the cell wall of bacteria plus ability to reattach to teeth
  • Covers more surface area
  • Better plaque removal
  • Great for irrigating around & under existing dental restorations
  • Prepare children for dental office cleanings
  • Better for the environment. Less waste
  • Helps irrigate gum pockets and in between teeth
  • People tend to concentrate on brushing better
  • Great for those with limited hand mobility or arthritis
  • Great for braces

Cons of an electric toothbrush

  • Can be more expensive than a standard toothbrush
  • Some people may have not like the vibration
  • Have to keep charged

In Conclusion

So in the face off between an electric toothbrush vs manual toothbrush, an electric toothbrush wins hands down. 

After much research and after testing all of these out myself as well, the sonic electric toothbrush proves to be the most effective for so many reasons!

Get one today so you can see and feel the difference! Your teeth and dentist will be very happy you did!

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or drop a comment below!

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I make a commission.

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Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush- Which Wins?

Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.

This article and all advice on this website, Toothbrush Life, is intended to help people gain knowledge about general oral health topics. No articles or advice on this website are intended to replace professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or qualified healthcare provider to help you with any questions you have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

1 thought on “Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Toothbrush- Which Wins?

  1. Reply
    Free Stuff - June 3, 2019

    You can definitely see your skills in the work you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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