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  • Writer's pictureDr Donna Hill

A Comprehensive Guide to Switching from Manual to Electric Toothbrush

a comprehensive guide to switching from manual to electric toothbrush

Lots of people nowadays are switching from manual to electric toothbrush, but why this change in habits? In this blog post we will look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of both of these ways of cleaning your teeth, as well as answering some of the common questions people ask about making the change.

Let's first look at how electric toothbrushes work.

How do electric toothbrushes work?

There are principally 2 different types of electric toothbrush:

  1. Rotary.

  2. Ultrasonic.

Rotary toothbrushes have a rotating head which are circular. The circular head oscillates backwards and forwards. The Oral B toothbrush is the most popular version although there are other versions available.

oral B toothbrush head

Ultrasonic toothbrushes have a regular shaped toothbrush head but oscillate at a very high frequency, they have a high- pitched buzzing sound whilst they are working. Phillips Sonicare is the most popular version although there are other versions available.

Phillips Sonicare toothbrush head

With both rotary and ultrasonic toothbrushes there are also a variety of brush heads available, these include:

  • Whitening - these often have a small rubberised section in the middle which is able to polish teeth and remove excessive surface stain.

  • Soft - these can be particularly useful for people with delicate gums or sensitive teeth.

  • Interproximal cleaning - these are designed to be able to reach in between the teeth better and good for people that find flossing or interdental brushing difficult… Although it's important to state that you should be flossing in addition to brushing.

  • Plaque cleaning - this type of head has bristles which are little shorter and closer together meaning they are more adept at removing the plaque on the surface of your teeth. They very often have shaped section towards the tip of the brush head enabling you to clean in between your teeth better.

You may need to try different brush heads for a while after you switch to an electric brush to find one that works best for you.

Why is an electric toothbrush better than a manual one?

  • A deeper clean - because an electric toothbrush agitates the fluid in your mouth the cleaning action is extended beyond the head of the toothbrush. This means you can clean deeper into harder to reach areas where a regular toothbrush won't touch. Even though the bristles of an electric toothbrush may still not reach these areas, the oscillating or ultrasonic effect of the brush will and it is this which will facilitate deeper cleaning.

  • The brushing is usually timed - the general advice is that you brush your teeth for 2 min spending 1 min on the top and 1 min on the bottom. Most electric toothbrushes have a built in time which will give an indication as to when it's time to move on.

  • More gentle brushing - many electric toothbrushes have a pressure sensor built in, this means you get a warning if you are pressing too hard meaning you are less likely to cause enamel wear or gum recession.

Pressure sensing toothbrushes

Wherever possible we always recommend using a pressure sensing toothbrush. These are often more expensive than the basic electric toothbrush but have the advantage of being able to sense if you are pressing too hard.

We often find that patients feel the need to press quite hard when they clean their teeth, this can lead to tooth erosion and gum resorption. Both of these can then in turn lead to tooth sensitivity making everyday life uncomfortable.

By using a pressure sensing toothbrush they will give either an auditory or visual warning that you are pressing too hard, you may be surprised at how light you need to go when brushing your teeth!

pressure sensing toothbrush

How often should you change your electric toothbrush head?

Most dentists will recommend you change every toothbrush, whether it be a manual or electric, every 3 months.

Some of the more expensive tooth brushes will have an automatic sensor in them that already know when the head needs changing. Of course, these electronic toothbrush heads are more expensive as they need to store this information and communicate it to the brush handle, this then gives you the warning that the head needs to be replaced.

A simpler way of knowing when to change a toothbrush head is to purchase one which has wear indicators. These are usually bristles which change colour over time.

We highly recommend that you follow this advice, if you use a toothbrush head which has worn out then the bristles will be splayed at different angles. Rather than clean your teeth you will find that these bristles aggravate the gum, causing inflammation and making them sore.

What are the best electric toothbrushes on the market?

Our recommendation is to go for the best toothbrush you can afford, they will all oxalate or rotate and therefore give the advantages of a deeper clean. Most brushes have a timer enabling you to brush for exactly the right time. The more expensive brushes have pressure sensors which can also ensure you don't brush too hard and brushes at the top of the range brushes have timers, pressure sensors and let you know when the toothbrush head needs replacing.

Switching from manual to the electric toothbrush

When you first start using an electric toothbrush you may find the sensation rather odd. The oscillation or vibration of the brush can feel disconcerting at the beginning. Some brushes, like the Philips Sonicare offer a 'new user' setting, this makes the brushing slightly more gentle for the first few brushes until you have got used to it.

You may also find that the toothpaste froths up more than you're used to, so keep your head over the basin to ensure you don't dribble toothpaste when you 1st start using an electric brush.



Doctor Donna Hill

After qualifying in 1992 in Birmingham, Donna moved to Cornwall then helped to set up Trinity Dental Centre in 2000, with the aim of providing kind and gentle dental care. Donna's interest is in the cosmetic field and she frequently updates her knowledge in this area. Outside of work she likes to read and to cook. She is married to Rodney and they have two sons. View all posts by Dr Donna Hill ➤ .


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