Anyone who has ever owned a TV will remember the anonymous dentist "Rob", who couldn't show you his face while advertising a toothbrush. The claim was that "more dentists use" that brand, therefore implying it must be the best, that dentists must have some secret information telling us that a particular brand of toothbrush is better than the rest.
From my experience, dentists aren't necessarily brand loyal when it comes to toothbrushes. I remember overhearing one dentist cheekily tell a sales rep at a conference "A dentist should never have to pay for a toothbrush, where are your free samples?”
What I can tell you is that every dentist I personally know uses an electric toothbrush. Why? There's a few reasons.
The research shows they work better.
We now have evidence that shows some electric toothbrushes do a better job of cleaning than a manual brush. Better cleaning was measured by a reduction in the amount of plaque, as well as a reduction in gingivitis, (gum inflammation caused by plaque). This only applies to electric brushes that have an oscillating action, that is, they rotate back and forth. Electric brushes that spin, vibrate, go back and forth in a straight line, or jiggle about in any other pattern were no different in effectiveness to a manual brush.
It's easier and faster.
An oscillating electric toothbrush simulates a correct brushing technique. Search the web for Modified Bass Technique if you're feeling nerdy, but the crux of it is using a gentle circular motion and focusing on only one or two teeth at a time. Scrubbing as hard as you can backwards and forwards is not the most effective way to remove plaque, and can actually damage your gums and teeth. To effectively brush with a manual toothbrush you need to spend about 10 seconds on each tooth surface. The same result is achieved with only 2 seconds when using the right electric toothbrush. Five times faster brushing? If it leaves more time for my morning coffee it sounds good to me! It's also a great way to get in and out quickly when brushing the teeth of a small child. I've used an electric toothbrush on my daughter since she was about one. She finds it fun, and it's much easier for me. Electric toothbrushes are also great for anyone with impaired dexterity. Because they take a lot of the skill out of brushing they are ideal for children, arthritis sufferers, or those who just find it difficult brushing their back teeth.
They have a fun factor.
I'm willing to admit that toothbrushing may not be the highlight of everyone's day. Anything that motivates better brushing has to be a positive, and this is something electric toothbrushes are good at. Many people have told me they actually enjoy brushing with their electric toothbrush. Particularly those that are into gadgets tend to get a bit of a kick out of using something a bit more high tech than a plastic handle with bristles on it.
So, are electric toothbrushes the be all and end all of good oral hygiene? No. If you're skilled and motivated enough, you can do a perfectly adequate job with a manual brush (and floss). If you find brushing a chore, are short of time, or feel a bit uncoordinated when brushing, electric could be just the thing to make keeping your teeth and gums healthy a breeze.