Are Electric Toothbrushes Really Better?
Electric vs manual, which one is better?
It all depends on who you talk to. I’ve practiced Dental Hygienist for over 20 years and have seen just about every conceivable version of electric toothbrush known to man. Furthermore, there’s not a week that goes by where a sales rep doesn’t confront me touting the greatest development in oral care; claiming their new product to be superior and more cost-effective than the competition. Consequently, I’ve got a box of Electric toothbrushes slated for the Salvation Army. So now you’re probably wondering “OK, which toothbrush do you use”? I use a manual toothbrush and here’s why.
What big budget Oral Care companies fail to tell you least it impacts their quarterly statement, is that IF used correctly, a manual toothbrush is just as good, as an electric brush that cost 22 million to develop. The operative phrase being IF used correctly.
Be it manual or electric, most people brush their teeth on autopilot without any consideration to what they’re physically doing. When you brush are you thinking about angles and position, or are you thinking about getting little Joey packed up, and out the door for the school? 70% of people brush like this and likewise, 70% of people have gum disease right now.
The problem is not the Brush…It’s the brusher.
For most of us, brushing is taught at an early age where just getting the brush in the mouth can be an exercise in futility. As children, we’re taught silly circles, and (up and down) strokes. As a result, we develop a muscle memory in our arm (based on this method), which is carried into our adult lives. This is where the disconnect happens, and where I spend most of my time; re-educating patients on proper brushing techniques. However, occasionally I do recommend silly circles, for people who are over aggressive, show signs of gum recession or toothbrush abrasion.
Electric Vs Manual
The American Dental Association endorses, and Dental Schools teach the Bass Method. It’s been research proven to be the most effective way to brush. A study on dental students showed no difference between a sonic toothbrush and a garden variety manual toothbrush. Why? Because dental students don’t brush on autopilot. In contrast, they pay attention to angles and positions at least they get chastised by their classmates during the next clinic session. When brushing, the dental student can see the teeth with the mind’s eye. This is what you should be doing as well.
The Bass Method requires placing the bristles 45° into the gum line with short back and forth strokes. This ensures that the bristles penetrate below the gum line into the sulcus (a small pocket just below the gum line). This is where gingivitis and gum disease starts. Keep this area clean, the gums won’t get inflamed or bleed, and you’ll be golden. Electric toothbrushes bypass this precision with brute force. Now to be clear, I’m not saying that electric brushes don’t work, because they do, and in some cases, are preferred. However, I can’t justify the expense and battery hassle if all that’s really needed is modifying the brush angle and tweaking the thought process. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
Electric toothbrushes unwittingly provide a false sense of security. I frequently diagnose gingivitis and periodontitis on patients who say, “but wait I use an electric brush”, where my response is, “well it’s not working for you, let me show you a better way”.
A big toothbrush company used to have a slogan’ “brush like a dentist”. I agree with this completely, however, to brush like a dentist, you must first “Think like a Dentist”. Healthy teeth and healthy gums are not necessitated by blue tooth enabled, sonic power; just good technique.
Thus, Floss your teeth. If your gums bleed or the floss stinks, you need to change your brushing technique and this will require changing the way you THINK about brushing. Additionally, bleeding gums are an indicator of gum disease which linked to heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, If you are up to the challenge I recommend the MD Brush. It will force you to brush 45 degrees into the gum line until it becomes second nature.
I recommend an Electric Toothbrush for the following.
• Conditions that affect mental or physical dexterity
• Teenagers with orthodontics
All others I teach the Bass Method with a good manual toothbrush
MIKE DAVIDSON – MAVERICK DENTAL HYGIENIST AND CEO MD BRUSH