The average person spends around $1,000 per year on dental care - and that figure increases significantly if you need multiple crowns, root canals, or dentures. That’s why it’s super important to invest in a top-notch toothbrush.
An electric toothbrush can’t correct a crooked smile, but it can help brighten dingy teeth, freshen foul breath, and prevent dental decay from forming. Sounds good, right? Yeah, but we realize it can be difficult to find a toothbrush that gets the job done.
We’ve scoured the Web and gathered questions from people just like you to make sure we cover everything you need to know about electric toothbrushes (and brushing in general). Here we go!
What is an electric toothbrush?
An electric toothbrush is a device that relies on a moving bristle head to clean teeth. After you power on an electric toothbrush, the bristles on its head quickly rotate back and forth. They may also move in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion. We’ll talk more about this below.
How does an electric toothbrush work?
Simply put, an electric toothbrush works by loosening plaque and other unwanted debris from your teeth with help from an oscillating brush head. A rechargeable battery pack typically powers the electric toothbrush, but some corded models exist.
Want to get more technical? Let’s start by listing common parts in an electric toothbrush:
- Outer case
- Cam and gears
- Circuit board
- Charging coil
- Brush head
- On/off button
When you press the on/off button on an electric toothbrush, the button sends a signal to a switch in the circuit board. The switch carries power from the battery to the motor, which spins the cam and gears.
The movement of the cam and gears reaches the brush head, which reacts by quickly spinning. The rapid spins emulate the method we use to brush our teeth with a manual toothbrush.
As the bristles on the head spin against your teeth, they gently yet effectively remove debris from your mouth.
What’s the difference between an electric toothbrush and a manual toothbrush?
An electric toothbrush moves across your teeth with help from a power supply, but you have to move a manual toothbrush back and forth yourself. A manual toothbrush does not have a battery or electrical cord.
When the bristles are bad on a manual toothbrush, you probably throw out your brush. When the same thing happens to the bristles on an electric toothbrush, you replace the brush head but keep the rest of the brush.
What are the benefits of electric toothbrushes?
Electric toothbrushes have numerous benefits, including:
- Long-lasting design - You replace the brush head, not the entire brush
- Ease of use - Individuals with limited dexterity may find it easier to use an electric toothbrush than a manual toothbrush
- Effective performance - When used properly, electric toothbrushes remove 21% more plaque than manual toothbrushes
Is an electric toothbrush better than a manual toothbrush?
Yes, if you use it correctly. As we mentioned above, an electric toothbrush gets rid of 21% more plaque than a manual toothbrush. Consumer Reports also mentions that an electric toothbrush can reduce gingivitis by 11% after 3 months of regular use.
What do professionals think of electric toothbrushes?
Depends on who you ask. We talked to several dental experts, and they all admitted that they prefer their patients use electric toothbrushes.
However, the articles we reviewed online say that many dentists don’t have a preference. They just want their patients to brush twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time, whether it’s with a manual brush or an electric brush. The American Dental Association shares these beliefs.
Why do some occupational therapists use electric toothbrushes on their patients?
Occupational therapists use electric toothbrushes to help kids and adults with sensory issues. This includes patients with autism and sensory processing disorder, but there are also people with other conditions who benefit from electric toothbrushes.
People with sensory issues often find it difficult to brush their teeth. Brushing can cause significant discomfort for someone with sensory issues, even when done gently with a soft-bristled brush. Occupational therapists help patients overcome this issue by incorporating electric toothbrushes into multiple therapy sessions until the aversion becomes less severe.
This is also true for patients who have an aversion to noise rather than the brush itself. Over time, a patient may become desensitized to noisy devices and find it easier to brush his teeth.
And it’s not just occupational therapists who use electric toothbrushes during therapy sessions. Some speech therapists use electric toothbrushes to help patients strengthen or develop oral-motor skills.
Selecting an Electric Toothbrush
What should I look for when choosing an electric toothbrush?
Start by asking your dentist if he has any recommendations, such as soft bristles or side-to-side movement, for your unique dental needs. If not, look for the following things when you choose an electric toothbrush:
- User-friendly design
- Comfortable grip
- Built-in timer
- Long-lasting power supply
- Multiple brushing modes, such as massage mode and cleaning mode
- Accessories, including a case and stand
And let’s be honest: Appearance matters to many of us. If you don’t want to brush with an ugly toothbrush, don’t buy one.
Is a sonic toothbrush the same as an electric toothbrush?
A sonic toothbrush is a type of electric toothbrush. When you brush with a sonic brush, the head moves side to side 10 times faster than a manual toothbrush. It produces as many as 62,000 brush strokes if you brush for 2 minutes!
Other types of electric toothbrushes include ionic, supersonic, and rotary. Supersonic and rotary brushes both have moving heads. An ionic brush head doesn't move; instead, it attracts plaque with an electric current.
What is the best electric toothbrush?
Our experts can’t stop raving about the Oral-B Pro SmartSeries 5000 Electric Toolbrush. It tackles tough stains with innovative Bluetooth technology and allows you to customize your personal hygiene routine with 5 different brush modes.
Here are a few of the other best electric toothbrushes we’ve discovered:
- Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush
- Oral-B Vitality Power Brush Electric Toothbrush
- Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush for Kids
- Philips Sonicare Essence Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush
Now, keep in mind that our favorites might not be your favorites. When you shop for an electric toothbrush, look for one that has a comfortable grip and bristles that aren’t too hard or soft.
What is the best electric toothbrush for kids?
We think the Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush for Kids is the best electric toothbrush for kids. Adults and kids have different dental needs, so that’s why we recommend a brush specifically designed for children. It has a built-in timer that encourages your little one to brush for 2 minutes, plus a small brush head that won’t make toddlers gag.
Kids love the interchangeable stickers included with the brush. These colorful stickers let little ones create unique designs that make brushing fun.
What is the best cheap electric toothbrush?
With a budget-friendly price of around $20, the Philips Sonicare Essence Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush is easily the best cheap electric toothbrush on our list of favorites.
This dentist-recommended toothbrush has a built-in timer that lets you know when you’ve brushed for a full 2 minutes. The extended battery life means you can brush regularly without worrying about recharging or replacing your power supply.
Using Your Electric Toothbrush
Do you use toothpaste with an electric toothbrush?
Yes, an electric toothbrush can’t work its magic without toothpaste, tooth powder, or tooth cream. In other words, put whatever you use on a manual toothbrush on your electric toothbrush.
If you’re worried your toothpaste will splatter everywhere, don’t turn on your electric toothbrush until it’s inside of your mouth. This helps prevent toothpaste from decorating your bathroom walls and mirror.
How do you use an electric toothbrush properly?
Rinse your electric toothbrush, then coat it with a thin layer of toothpaste or dip it in a container of tooth-cleaning powder.
Angle the brush’s bristles at a 45-degree angle (and you thought you’d never use geometry as an adult) toward your gumline. Gently jiggle the brush head in a circular motion, starting with your front teeth and working your way toward the back.
Move the brush gently; you don’t want to scrape away enamel or make your gums bleed. Don’t forget to carefully brush your tongue in a circular motion when you’re done with your teeth.
How long should you brush your teeth?
The American Dental Association says you should brush your teeth for 2 minutes. Do this twice a day.
Brushing your teeth for less time can make it difficult for you to get all the plaque off of your teeth. If you brush for too long, you may damage your teeth. This can make them more sensitive to cold and heat.
How often should you brush your teeth?
According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you chug soda all day or eat a bunch of sticky candy, you may need to brush more often.
Talk to your dentist if you’re unsure how often you should brush.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on unbrushed teeth. It’s made of decay-inducing bacteria, which is why it’s important to get rid of plaque with a toothbrush.
Sometimes a toothbrush isn’t enough, though. Make sure you also floss daily, and talk to your dental provider about other steps you can take for plaque-free teeth.
Caring for Your Electric Toothbrush
Can you rinse an electric toothbrush with water?
Yes, you can rinse an electric toothbrush with water.
Should you directly submerge your entire electric toothbrush in a sink or tub full of water? Probably not.
How do you clean an electric toothbrush?
Clean the bristles of your electric toothbrush by running them under warm water after you brush your teeth. Move your fingers gently around the bristles to help the water reach all of them.
If the body of your electric toothbrush gets dirty, you can rinse it with warm water. Use a bit of nontoxic soap if needed.
Your toothbrush may require additional maintenance, so check your user’s manual to see what needs to be done.
How long is an electric toothbrush supposed to last?
An electric toothbrush can last for years if you buy a high-quality model and use it as directed. However, you need to replace the bristled head of your electric toothbrush every 3 months.
Contact the manufacturer if your toothbrush stops working sooner than you expect. The company may send you a replacement brush or share tips to help you get your brush working properly.
How do you know it’s time to replace your electric toothbrush?
You should replace your electric toothbrush when it no longer meets your dental needs, even if the brush itself is fine. You may find that you only need to replace the bristle-filled head, not the entire brush. For example, if you previously used medium bristles but now have sensitive gums, you might want to switch to soft bristles.
Here are some signs it’s time to replace the actual brush, not just its head:
- The brush’s motor makes a loud noise when you use it
- You have trouble getting the on/off button to work
- The body of the brush is badly stained or damaged
- Special features, such as Bluetooth technology or a built-in timer, no longer work
- You feel like the brush isn’t performing as well as it once did
Many people use the same electric toothbrush for years, so don’t feel like you need to replace yours on a set schedule.
How do you store an electric toothbrush?
Store your electric toothbrush in an upright position until it dries. After that, use a case or tray, preferably one that shuts or has a shield. If you leave your toothbrush on the bathroom sink, it may pick up harmful bacteria that’s invisible to the naked eye.
Don’t place your toothbrush in a case until it’s completely dry. A wet toothbrush in an enclosed space encourages the growth of bacteria and other organisms.
Avoid leaving your electric toothbrush in extremely hot places, such as the trunk of your vehicle. Excessive heat may damage the power supply to your toothbrush, resulting in a costly repair or replacement.
Can an electric toothbrush wear away enamel?
Yes, but so can a manual toothbrush. However, this is often a bigger concern for people who use electric toothbrushes because it’s easier to overbrush.
When your enamel wears away, your teeth can chip, crack, or develop an unsightly color. They may also become more sensitive to the temperatures of food and drinks, such as ice cream and hot coffee.
Is an electric toothbrush bad for sensitive teeth?
It depends on why your teeth are sensitive. If they’re sensitive because the enamel has started to disintegrate, brush carefully so you don’t make the situation worse.
Some electric toothbrushes have special settings for sensitive teeth. The bristles rotate and jiggle less frequently than they do on other settings, making you less likely to hurt yourself during your twice-a-day cleanings.
Talk to your dentist about alleviating the issue. You may find that using softer bristles or switching your brand of toothpaste helps. Sensodyne offers several toothpaste options tailored toward sensitive teeth.
Can I use an electric toothbrush if I have braces?
Yes, unless your orthodontist advises against it. Oral-B makes a special brush head just for people with braces. It’s called the Ortho Brush Head, and it effectively cleans teeth without damaging delicate dental hardware.
Is an electric toothbrush okay for people with dentures?
We’ve found conflicting reports on this topic, so it’s best to talk to your dental practitioner. They will know exactly what kind of dentures you have and can offer advice tailored to your situation.
Some dental experts believe that an electric brush is too rough for dentures, while others say it’s fine as long as you use one with soft bristles. If you damage your dentures, they may break or develop harmful bacteria, so be careful if you decide to try an electric toothbrush.
Should I stop using my electric toothbrush if my gums are bleeding?
Yes, at least until you talk to your dentist. You may just have sensitive gums, especially if they also bleed when you use a manual toothbrush.
Switching to a head with soft bristles may help, but make sure you give your dentist a heads up anyway. Sometimes bleeding gums are a sign of a serious dental issue.
Can mold grow on an electric toothbrush?
Yes, mold can grow on an electric toothbrush. Mold loves dark, damp areas, so that’s why we recommend placing your toothbrush upright to dry before you store it in a case.
If mold grows on your electric toothbrush, discard the brush head immediately. Do not attempt to sanitize it, as many mold removal substances are toxic when consumed. Save the bleach for your laundry!
Should I throw out my toothbrush if someone else uses it?
Yes, unless you like sharing bacteria and bodily fluids. You can get very sick if someone else uses your toothbrush; many common illnesses can be transmitted through saliva. You can even contract a sexually transmitted disease from a used toothbrush.
Don’t play Russian Roulette with your health. Replace your brush head right away if someone helps himself to your toothbrush.