Toothbrush Tips

Talking Toothbrushes: Manual vs Electric Toothbrush

Electric vs Manual Toothbrush

We all grew up with traditional manual toothbrushes, and most of us can remember getting a new one from the dentist after our routine cleaning after being reminded to brush twice a day. Technology has given us new options since then, and the traditional toothbrush may not be the best for our oral health. We’re going to take a look at both electric toothbrushes and traditional manual ones to see which is the better brush.

Cost and Availability

There’s no question that traditional manual toothbrushes are much cheaper than electric ones, running at only a couple dollars each. Traditional brushes are also available almost anywhere, in fact, your local convenience store probably has a few hanging next to the pain relievers right now. Based on the price and availability, it’s no wonder that many households and dental offices opt to stick with a traditional toothbrush.

Even though disposable, battery powered, toothbrushes are more common today, the price is still substantially higher than traditional ones and they not as readily available. A good, electric toothbrush is the costliest of toothbrushes, not only the initial cost but the replacement heads are substantially costlier than a new traditional toothbrush.

Travel Ease

For the most part, a traditional manual toothbrush wins hands done when it comes to portability. Travel toothbrushes make it incredibly easy to brush mid-day at work or school. Electric toothbrushes are not available in compact sizing which means you have to make sure your brush is charged and invest in a carrying bag to take it with you. For those with braces or other dental needs that require frequent brushing, a traditional toothbrush is at least the most convenient choice.

Ease of Use

Since most of us grew up with a traditional toothbrush, it only makes sense that we believe it is easier to use. A manual toothbrush is easier for toddlers and young children who are learning to brush and still mastering dexterity. It is easier to adjust the pressure on your teeth and gums with a manual toothbrush, and you can use a softer touch in sensitive areas.

An electric toothbrush, once you are used to it, is just as easy to use as a traditional manual one however. Like anything new, it does have an adjustment period while learning how to use, but especially for those with impaired mobility, the electric toothbrush is much easier to use. People with arthritis, shoulder, or wrist problems have a much easier time with their oral care when introduced to electric toothbrushes. It does need to be said that electric toothbrushes do allow for easier access to back molars and the inside of teeth which may be what makes the electric toothbrush the winner in ease of use.


Your brushing technique is one of the most important parts of oral health, so it’s no wonder that we are going to spend a bit of time talking about the difference in traditional manual and electric toothbrush. When brushing with a traditional manual brush, your technique is almost always the same, you hold your toothbrush the same way, and brush from one side to the other, using the same direction and pressure. You may even have fallen into a routine where you don’t even think about brushing while doing it, which can be detrimental to your overall oral health, especially if you’ve picked up any bad brushing habits.

Here is one area where electric toothbrushes come out a strong leader. The smaller head size allows you to reach the back and insides of your teeth easier and the actual movement of the head allows for increased cleaning. Electric toothbrushes have different abilities, some use oscillating technology, others utilize sonic technology, and still others vibrate or oscillate, each of these is valuable to your oral health. Pairing your regular brushing routine with the movement of your electric brush helps ensure your teeth are clean, early plaque is removed, and your gums remain healthy.

Overall Oral Health

This one is a bit trickier; it can’t be proven that electric toothbrushes garner better oral health, but it can’t be disproved either. It is very possible that if a person brushed with a traditional toothbrush perfectly for the full two minutes twice a day, that their oral health would be fantastic. The problem with this is that most people don’t brush for the full time and often miss hard to get areas allowing for plaque buildup and early cavity formation. Gum health is another concern when talking about traditional manual toothbrushes, and it takes practice and attention to ensure your gum line is being properly brushed with a traditional toothbrush.

Electric toothbrushes, which can move at 400 pulses per second, offer superior cleaning when put against a traditional toothbrush. The movement of the head and bristles basically does all the work for you, all you have to do is apply pressure and hit every tooth, front and back. The pulsing helps keep the gum line clean from food debris and early plaque delaying or even stopping future gum disease. Most electric toothbrushes today come with a built-in timer, which helps ensure you are brushing long enough to keep your pearly whites healthy and cavity free.

After looking at all areas, it would appear that the traditional manual toothbrush wins as often as the electric. It’s time though to look at the whole picture and see overall what the best choice is for your oral health.

Traditional toothbrushes are less expensive, easier to travel with, and more comfortable to brush with. For the average person brushing their teeth, technique may be inadequate and not long enough leading to plaque, gum disease, and cavities.

Electric toothbrushes are definitely costlier, and the size makes them harder to use when away from home. It does take a bit of time to get used to an electric toothbrush, but the movement of the head of the brush makes for superior cleaning of teeth and gum lines which may lead to decrease in caries, decrease in gum disease and reduced plaque between dental visits.

Looking at all areas combined, it seems clear that changing to an electric toothbrush, though costly, is vital for your overall oral health. If you are considering purchasing one, we have several guides to help you find the electric toothbrush that fits you best. Find our Oral-B Pro Electric Toothbrush Guide here and our Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush Guide here.