In theory a manual toothbrush should do the job just as good as an electric one. Given that your manual toothbrush is in good condition and that you brush using the right technique, it should make no difference whether you choose to use a manual toothbrush or an electric one.
So then why is it that most dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush?
Well this is mostly to avoid the human errors and bad habits that we can develop over time and that might compromise our oral care. Even if you care about your oral health and invest a good amount of time into keeping your mouth clean and healthy it’s almost impossible to void falling to some bad habits which might even lead to oral issues over time.
Let’s say for instance that you are a righty (also applies to lefties, just change “left” for “right and vice versa). Brushing the left side of your mouth is a bit easier than brushing the right side, the angle in which you have to place the toothbrush is simply more natural when you aim for the left side than the right one. This might lead us to actually spend more time brushing our left side than our right side, which is obviously not how you want to be brushing your teeth.
It’s also hard for us to have a clear perception of time. If we are stressed or in a rush 30 seconds might seem like a long time, whereas if we are relaxed or sleepy 5 minutes might not seem like that long. Dentist recommend that we brush for 2 minutes, but let’s face it our perception of what 2 minutes are changes a lot, and our teeth pay the consequences…
So let’s take a closer look at some aspects in which an electric toothbrush might actually help you brush better.
Intensity and consistency
Professional marathon runners aim to keep a constant speed over the whole 2 hours + race. However more inexperience runners usually start off at a very good pace only to find out there were probably too optimistic half way through and start running slower, even walking, as they get close to the finish line.
The same thing happens when brushing your teeth. In most cases you will start brushing your teeth with a certain intensity and speed, only to start slowing down and applying less pressure after a while. The truth is you are probably over killing it when at the beginning, which means you are being too harsh on your teeth and gums, and underperforming towards the end, which means you are not cleaning your teeth properly and probably leaving plaque and even food particles behind.
When using a manual toothbrush, you are probably being too aggressive with one part of your mouth and too soft with the other part, and since we usually always brush our teeth in the same order (even when we don’t thing about it) this means that over time you might be hurting yourself on one side and plaque and bacteria will start building up on the other side. This is why people who get several cavities usually find them to all be on the same side of their mouth.
An electric toothbrush will help you improve these factors over each brushing session. An electric toothbrush head will always pulse and turn at a constant speed, and in most cases the weight of the toothbrush alone is enough so that you don’t have to manually press or lift it. This helps keep both the speed and pressure at which your brush consistent throw-out the whole session.
Timing is everything
Dentist recommend that you brush for 2 minutes every time. Not only that but you should also be spending the same time in each part of your mouth, which is why they recommend that you picture your mouth as having four quarters and spend 30 seconds brushing each quarter; the upper left, the upper right, the lower left and the lower right.
It is almost impossible for us to do this right without the help of a watch or a timer. We perceive time differently depending on many factors such as stress, happiness, our energy level or simply how many other things we have in our minds. This makes it difficult for us to estimate how 2 minutes actually last and even harder to divide those 2 minutes into four and spend 30 seconds brushing each quarter of our mouth.
Most electric toothbrushes come with a built in timer that will warn you every 30 seconds so that you know it’s time to move to the next quarter. The more basic electric toothbrushes will simply vibrate every 30 seconds as a warning, whereas more high end ones might have an electric display with a countdown so that you can see how many time you have left at each time.
Protect your gums from yourself
Sometimes when we want to do things right we actually overdo them… Brushing our teeth is no different. Sometimes when we want to make sure we are brushing well we actually brush harder, as if doing so meant that the toothbrush filaments would reach better in between our teeth. The truth is they don’t.
When we brush to hard we are actually hurting, not our teeth, but our gums. Gums are made from a soft and sensitive tissue which can be easily irritated if you apply too much pressure on them with your toothbrush, which might eventually lead to a case of gingivitis.
Most electric toothbrushes come equipped with a pressure sensor which will alert you if you are applying too much pressure when brushing. Some models will beep or flash an LED warning light when you press too hard, others even go to the extent of coming to a full stop so that you can’t actually keep brushing that hard even if you want to.
Let’s get smarter
Technology is reaching every part of our homes on our daily lives these days. Activity trackers are becoming more and more popular each day, showing us our exercise patters and teaching us how to live a healthier live. Our cars are getting smarter too thanks to their built in sensor. Some of the latest models can now park themselves or even break for you if you are about to crush into something. Or homes are also getting smarter with products such as the NEST thermostat which studies our routines to make sure our home is always at the right temperature when we need it to be using the least amount of energy possible.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our tooth brushes are also getting smarter by the day. Many electric toothbrushes come with the capability of connecting to your smartphone via Bluetooth and keep track of your brushing habits. They will notify you if you haven’t brushed for longer than usual, they will show you which parts of the brushing procedure you are doing right and which ones you could do better. They will even allow to run some friendly competitions with your loved ones to see who takes better care of their oral health, which in some cases might just be the extra motivation you or your kids need to take brushing their teeth more seriously.