Picking a toothbrush is no longer a simple choice, as these days, technology offers bristles that vibrate, spin and wiggle—and they all have the potential for a better brushing experience than old-fashioned manual brushes, according to area dentists.

“Using an electric toothbrush helps to brush the teeth more thoroughly,” says Dr. Chuck Niesen of Brentwood Dental Group. “Manual dexterity and technique are less demanding with an electric toothbrush, which can be helpful for younger children, people with physical disabilities and older folks with arthritis in their hands.”

As the electric brush contacts each tooth, the bristles work off plaque through the brush’s motion. The result is cleaner teeth. “Both clinical research and observational data support the superiority of electric toothbrushes over manual ones,” notes Dr. Robert Boyle of Clarkson Dental Group. “We observe less plaque on teeth, and therefore a reduction in tooth decay with improved gum health when patients use a good electric toothbrush.”

But are all electric toothbrushes equally effective? Boyle has a definite preference. “The Oral B toothbrush, which spins, is a very effective brush. However, we believe the Sonicare electric, which vibrates, is even more effective in improving gingival (gum) health and reducing tooth decay, by removing plaque. Both, when used properly, are superior to a manual brush.”

Choosing the best electric brush depends, in part, on individual dental needs. “Electric toothbrushes have various features that may make one brush preferable to another, but the features are less significant than the differences between electric brushes and manual brushes,” Niesen says. “For children, battery-operated ‘spin’ brushes are an economical alternative to electric brushes, but an electric brush is a good, long-term investment. Children and adults with orthodontic appliances on their teeth can benefit greatly from an electric brush. Folks with artificial teeth that cannot be removed (fixed bridgework) and those who are susceptible to periodontal disease (gum disease) can remove bacterial plaque more thoroughly and stimulate the gums with an electric toothbrush.”

Boyle adds that some kids love electric brush technology, while others complain that it ‘tickles’ or feels funny in their mouth. If a child refuses to brush because of an unpleasant sensation caused by the movement of an electric toothbrush, then it’s far better to go with a manual brush and teach the child proper brushing technique. Dental hygienists are pros at instructing kids, and will help ensure that whichever brush used is positioned properly and used for a long enough period of time to adequately clean the teeth.

“While more expensive, the electrics are better than manuals,” Boyle concludes. “Get the smallest replacement head (brush part) available for your electric brush, which may not be the head that comes with the brush. Use it at least twice each day, the most important time being just before bed. If your electric has a timer, use it—it will help you achieve even better results.”

And finally, don’t forget to floss.

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