Q&A With Dr Emma
Hi Emma, are electric toothbrushes better than manual brushes? If so, can you please offer some advice in terms of which electrical toothbrush is best to purchase? Regards Conor, Belmont WA
For a long time it was thought that electric toothbrushes just made the task of cleaning your teeth a bit easier. I used to explain to my patients that you can get just as good a clean with a manual toothbrush as with an electric, it just takes a lot more skill and effort. This is because the movements of an electric toothbrush simulate a correct brushing technique, and the bristles move far faster than you'd be able to achieve manually.
Then in 2009, a group from The Cochrane Collaboration reviewed the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of manual and electric toothbrushes. They found that electric toothbrushes remove more plaque, and result in healthier gums. The catch is that this is only the case for electric toothbrushes with oscillating heads. That means the brush rotates backwards and forwards. Electric toothbrushes that jiggle backwards and forwards in a straight line, vibrate, or go around in a circle were no better than a manual brush.
So yes, I absolutely recommend using an electric toothbrush. The evidence base tells us your gums will be healthier for it, and that you should go for one with an oscillating action. Personally I'd recommend getting a model which is rechargeable, because human beings, (myself included), tend to be a bit slack when it comes to replacing dead batteries. I'd also suggest researching the availability and cost of replacement heads. You'll need a new head every 3 months, so you don't want them costing a fortune or only being available mail order from Iceland.
The most popular brand of electric toothbrush seems to be Braun Oral B. Their entire range meets the criteria I've described above, so all you need to do is decide how many fancy features you'd like, then get brushing!
I've also written a previous article "Power brushing" which I think you may find useful.