The Great Electric Toothbrush

BY Emily Birch

I would like to focus on the topic of electric toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes are a fantastic tool when used correctly, and therein lies the issue. Most people buy electric toothbrushes and begin using them without reading the instructions, or informing their dentist or hygienist that they have an electric toothbrush. Why would one need to do that? Well, if used incorrectly electric toothbrushes can do harm to the gums, and supporting structures of the teeth and in extreme cases even the teeth themselves. It’s like Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”


So what is the correct way to brush with an electric toothbrush? I tell my patients that especially with an electric toothbrush, the goal is to brush more not to brush harder. We have a tendency to grab our toothbrushes and start scrubbing away at our teeth and gums, in a no-pain-no-gain kind of way and even with a manual toothbrush that can be harmful but that risk of damage is more so with an electric toothbrush. With an electric toothbrush, all the movements are built into the head of the toothbrush and because of that, there is no need to scrub at all. When you begin to brush simply lay your toothbrush on your teeth, turn it on and slowly move around each side of the tooth, don’t scrub let the toothbrush do what it was designed to do, it has dreams too! A great instructional video can be found here.


What about the pressure? Only light pressure should be applied with the toothbrush is on. Most of the newer toothbrushes have a pressure sensor that either blinks a red light or somehow alerts you if you are using too much pressure. Be aware when you brush and pay attention to what the brush is telling you. Another method to ensure you aren’t using too much pressure is to hold the toothbrush with just two fingers.


Is an electric toothbrush really better than a manual toothbrush? Technically no, one can get similar results using a manual toothbrush versus an electric toothbrush. With that said, I have seen visible results from patients switching from a manual to an electric toothbrush. I have seen gums become healthier, patients with less buildup and less calculus on their teeth, making their overall oral environment healthier after switching to an electric toothbrush. So it’s up to you and your dentist or hygienist. If you are getting consistently good results with a manual toothbrush then, by all means, continue that. If you are noticing more build up, sensitivity and bleeding in your gums then perhaps it would be a good time to chat with your dental professional and discuss the use of an electric toothbrush.

You still want to make sure you are getting the full 2 minutes everytime you brush, which should be twice a day. Again, most of the newer electric toothbrushes have a timer but if yours doesn’t use a timer on your phone or a kitchen timer.

Electric toothbrushes can be a fantastic tool! There is a wide assortment of toothbrush heads which ensures that you get the right brush for your teeth and gums. It is just important that when it is used, the toothbrush is used in a way where no harm is caused.



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