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Electric Toothbrush - The Pros and Cons

An electric toothbrush is a toothbrush that makes rapid automatic bristle motions, either back-and-forth oscillation or rotation-oscillation where the brush head alternates clockwise and counterclockwise rotation, in order to clean teeth. Motions at sonic speeds or below are made by a motor. In the case of ultrasonic toothbrushes, ultrasonic motions are produced by a piezoelectric crystal. A modern electric toothbrush is usually powered by a rechargeable battery charged through inductive charging when the brush sits in the charging base between uses.

Types of Electric Toothbrush

Electric brushes can be classified into two categories according to the type of action that they employ: vibration or rotation-oscillation. When using vibrating toothbrush, a brushing technique similar to that used with a manual toothbrush is recommended, whereas with rotating-oscillating brushes the recommended cleaning technique is to simply move the brush slowly from tooth to tooth.

Electric toothbrushes can also be classified according to the speed of their movements as standard power toothbrushes, sonic toothbrushes or ultrasonic toothbrushes. If the motion of the toothbrush is rapid enough to produce a hum in the audible frequency of human range (20 Hz to 20,000 Hz), it can be classified as a sonic toothbrush. Any electric toothbrush with movement faster than this limit can be classified as an ultrasonic toothbrush. Certain ultrasonic toothbrushes, such as the Megasonex and the Ultreo, have both sonic and ultrasonic movements.

Advantages of Electric Toothbrush

More effective at removing plaque - A review of studies showed that, in general, electric toothbrushes do decrease more plaque and gingivitis than manual toothbrushes. After three months of use, plaque was reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent. Oscillating (rotating) toothbrushes seem to work better than just vibrating toothbrushes.

Built-in timers - A timer built into an electric toothbrush can help you brush your teeth long enough to sufficiently remove plaque from your teeth and gums.

May cause less waste - When it’s time for a new toothbrush, you only have to replace an electric toothbrush head in many cases, so it may be less wasteful than throwing away a full manual toothbrush. However, if you use a single-use electric toothbrush, you’ll have to completely replace it when it’s time to do so.

May improve your focus while brushing - At least one study found that people were more focused when brushing their teeth using an electric toothbrush. This could potentially improve how well you clean your teeth.

May improve oral health in people with orthodontic appliances - One study found that electric toothbrushes were particularly helpful for people with orthodontic appliances, such as braces, because it made brushing easier. Among people with appliances who already had good oral health, plaque levels were about the same, whether they used an electric toothbrush or not. But if you find it difficult to clean your mouth while having orthodontic therapy, the electric toothbrush may improve your oral health.

Fun for kids - Not all kids are interested in brushing their teeth. If an electric toothbrush is more engaging to your child, it can help accomplish good oral cleaning and set healthy habits.

Safe for gums - Used properly, an electric toothbrush should not hurt your gums or enamel but instead promote overall oral health.

Disadvantages of Electric Toothbrush

Expensive - Electric toothbrushes are more expensive than manual ones.  Price ranges between $15 and $250 per brush. New replacement brush heads usually come in packs of multiples and cost between $10 and $45. Totally disposable electric toothbrushes cost $5 to $8 plus the cost of batteries.

Brush heads for replacement is not easily available - Finding the right replacement brush heads may not always be easy or convenient, either, since not all stores carry them, and your local stores may not have the correct brand. You can purchase them online, but this isn’t convenient for everyone, and it’s not a great option if you need a new head right away. You can stock up and have enough on hand to last a year or more but that adds to upfront cost.

All electric brushes do not worth the cost - In two studies among seniors, electric toothbrushes didn’t significantly remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes. This doesn’t mean electric toothbrushes don’t work, but it might mean they aren’t worth the extra cost.

Battery usage makes it less eco-friendly - Plug-in versions may not be a good option if you travel internationally, since you’ll need a backup travel toothbrush in these cases. Even though electric toothbrushes may produce less waste, because they require electricity or batteries, they are less eco-friendly than manual ones.

Overall experience is not pleasant always - Not everyone likes the vibrating feeling, either. Plus, electric toothbrushes create a bit more movement of saliva in your mouth, which may get messy.

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