Brushing your teeth is the cornerstone of good dental hygiene. Your toothbrush is an important tool in guarding against plaque, cavities, and gum disease. According to the American Dental Association, if used correctly, both manual and electric toothbrushes effectively remove plaque. So, is it worth purchasing an electric toothbrush? Weigh the pros and cons to decide if the powered version of this old staple is right for you.

Pro: Improves Brushing Focus

Over time, people generally feel an improvement in cleaning efficacy when using an electric toothbrush. An electric brush can improve technique because the vibrating head does much of the work. Researchers have found that people who use electric toothbrushes are more concentrated and focused when brushing. This increased focus may improve how well they clean their teeth.

Many electric brushes come with a built-in timer. This feature provides users with increased awareness of how long they actually spend brushing. After two minutes, the brush will turn off automatically, letting the user know they have brushed for long enough.

little girl brushing with an electric toothbrush


Pro: More Effective at Removing Plaque

Studies show that powered toothbrushes can be more effective at removing plaque than their manual counterparts. Plaque is a sticky film containing bacteria that leads to gum disease and tooth decay. An electric brush's rotating or vibrating movements remove more plaque from gums and teeth than the simple back and forth motion of a manual brush.

One consumer report from 2015 found that electric toothbrushes remove 21% more plaque than manual brushes. Electric brushes are available with a variety of head movements. According to scientists, oscillating brushes are superior to sonic-powered brushes when it comes to this perk.

dentist examining patient's teeth


Pro: Good for the Gums

People who use electric toothbrushes have overall healthier gums. The vibrating and rotating movements make powered brushes more effective at maintaining gum health than manual ones. Researchers have found that electric toothbrushes reduce gingivitis in both children and adults. Studies also show that electric brushes can slow the progression of periodontal disease.

woman brushing teeth in bathroom


Pro: Help People With Dexterity Problems

Electric toothbrushes are very user-friendly. As long as the head is angled correctly, the brush does most of the work. People with dexterity problems or limited hand mobility sometimes find powered brushes easier to use. For example, seniors, children, and those with developmental disabilities often prefer electric toothbrushes because they maneuver more easily than manual ones. The handles are easier to hold, and the vibrations mean vigorous hand movements are not necessary. As well, people with arthritis sometimes find that an electric toothbrush allows them to clean their teeth with less pain.

older woman brushing her teeth


Pro: Help People With Appliances

Electric toothbrushes have been found to be particularly useful for people with dental appliances. Plaque tends to build up in difficult to reach places when people have braces or retainers. A powered toothbrush makes the cleaning process easier by providing better mobility and access to hard to reach areas. One study found that patients with orthodontic appliances have better gum health if they use an electric toothbrush. The patients experienced less inflammation and bleeding than those who used manual brushes.

young woman with braces brushing her teeth


Con: More Expensive Than Manual

Although there are some more affordable options, electric toothbrushes are inevitably more expensive than manual options. The cost of an electric brush ranges from $10 to $250, whereas a manual brush can be purchased for less than $1. In addition to the initial purchase price, you'll need replacement brush heads every three months. Sometimes, manufacturers make brushes specific to them, which may mean that replacing heads can be difficult and expensive.

The ADA has determined that both manual and electric brushes effectively clean teeth, so whether going electric is worth the expense is just personal preference.

woman choosing between toothbrushes at the store


Con: May Damage Teeth

One study found that electric brushes are more likely to cause abrasions to dentin, the tissue underneath the tooth’s enamel. It may become exposed if gums recede or if the enamel is worn away. Sensitive teeth and increased risk of cavities are associated with dentin abrasion.

However, the damage is only likely to occur to teeth or gums if the user pushes the brush too hard on certain areas of the teeth. Generally, people who are mindful of the pressure they apply do not have these issues.

woman with mouth pain


Con: Sometimes Causes Discomfort

The best toothbrush for a person is the one they are most likely to use. Some people find the feeling of powerful vibrations on their teeth unpleasant. Although most people adjust, some people cannot. In particular, it may cause discomfort for people with sensitive teeth. Electric brushes are also significantly louder than manual brushes, which some find disruptive. When a person enjoys using a toothbrush, they are more likely to brush twice a day and for the full two minutes. So, people should choose whichever brush they prefer to use.

woman awkwardly brushing teeth with electric toothbrush


Con: More Breakable

Like all electronics, electric toothbrushes have a shelf life. Powered brushes are more susceptible to damage and eventually, they will break or need an upgrade. Manual toothbrushes have fewer breakable parts and are therefore more durable. For example, if you drop a manual toothbrush, it will likely remain intact, whereas a fall may be fatal to an electric brush. Because electric brushes are often quite pricey, this disadvantage can be costly. Taking care to protect the toothbrush and ensure it is stored in a safe place will help it last as long as possible.

manual and electric toothbrushes


Con: Can Be Inconvenient

One downside of an electric toothbrush is the inconvenience, especially for people who travel often. Powered brushes require more than just the brush to operate. They need a charger, battery, and fresh brush heads. People who travel frequently may be inconvenienced by the bulkier brush and the extra parts they must pack. Furthermore, because powered brushes need electricity, it can be a hassle for people who are on the road or use a bathroom that doesn’t have an electrical outlet.

old electric toothbrush head


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