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Toothbrush Smackdown: Is a Regular Toothbrush as Good as an Electric One?

Powered (electric) toothbrushes can be quite expensive, and I know that many of our patients have asked us if they are really worth the money. Let's not drag this out- the answer is a resounding...Yes! Removing dental plaque plays a key role in maintaining our oral health. To determine how to do this most efficiently, we turn to the Cochrane Collaboration. The Cochrane Collaboration offers impartial advice on a large range of health care issues. They started in 1993 and are completely not-for-profit, making them a well-trusted organization.

They looked at forty-two different studies involving 3855 participants and this is what they found:

Powered toothbrushes like the Oral B Triumph which are rotation oscillation type toothbrushes (where the brush heads rotate in one direction and then the other) are better than manual toothbrushes at removing plaque and reducing gum inflammation, and is no more likely to cause injuries to the gums. This review did not allow direct comparison between the different types of powered toothbrushes.

Powered brushes were first introduced commercially in the 1960s. Many advances have been made over the years and the best ones come from two competing camps. They simulate manual toothbrushing in different ways (such as moving side to side or circular motions). The term “side-by-side” refers to the ‘sonic’ action found in toothbrushes such as the Sonicare toothbrush by Philips. The term "circular" is referring to the rotation, oscillation movements as seen on the Oral B Triumph.

A review of research on these toothbrushes included data from 17 trials with 1369 participants. After looking at all the data they concluded that the toothbrushes with a rotation oscillation action reduced plaque and gingivitis more than those with a side to side action. However, the difference was small and it's clinical importance unclear.

So, the sonic toothbrush has now been found to be less effective than their rotary headed cousins. Both, however, provide more dental protection than regular manual toothbrushes.

What do we see in our dental chairs in Camarillo? We see people doing way better with a powered toothbrush compared to a regular manual brush. It could be the 8800 oscillations per minute that the Triumph toothbrush does, or it could be the ease of use, or it could be the timer that lets you know that your time is not up yet- keep going.

Which one should you get?

The studies suggest that the Oral B brushes clean slightly better that Sonicares, but is it significant? Probably not. I see people doing great with their Triumphs as well as their Sonicares. Where I do see a difference is in the cheaper powered toothbrushes vs. more expensive ones. In this case, you really do get what you pay for. The brushes with a rechargeable battery do do a much better job compared to those with a replaceable battery. It is probably the power difference.

If you are interested in keeping your teeth for many, many more years, go ahead and invest in a good quality powered toothbrush. It is an investment that you will be smiling about for a very long time.