Are Electric toothbrushes really better? It all depends on who you talk to. I’ve practiced Dental Hygienist for over 20 years and have seen just about every conceivable version of electric tooth brush known to man. There is not a week that goes by where I’m not detained by a ridiculously good-looking sales rep touting the greatest development in oral home care. Each claims their innovative product to be superior and more cost effective than the competition, and If we sign a purchase agreement today, they will gladly grandfather us into their VIP buyers program. Consequently, I’ve got a box of Electric toothbrushes slated for the Salvation Army. So now you’re probably wondering “OK, which toothbrush do you use”? Well it’s simple, I use a manual tooth brush and here’s why.
What big budget Oral Care companies fail to tell you, and won’t tell you, least it impacts the quarterly statement, is that IF used correctly, a manual tooth brush is just as good, and just as effective as that sonic / rotary toothbrush that cost 22 million to develop. The operative phrase being if used correctly.
Be it manual or electric, most people brush their teeth on auto pilot without any consideration to what they’re physically doing. When you brush are you thinking about angles and position, or are you thinking about getting little Joey packed up, and out the door for the school bus? People don’t really give their mouth the needed attention unless they have a date utilizing a familiar French custom. Statistically speaking, 70% of people brush like this and accordingly 70% of people have gum disease right now.
The problem is not the Brush…It’s the brusher.
For most of us, brushing is taught at an early age where just getting the brush in the mouth can be an exercise in futility. As children, we’re typically taught silly circles, and (up and down) strokes. Accordingly, we develop a muscle memory in our arm (based on this method), which subsequently transitions into our adult lives. This is where the disconnect happens, and where we as Dental Hygienist spend most of our time; re-educating patients on proper brushing technique. However, on the rare occasion we will recommend circles, and (up and down) techniques for people who are over aggressive, show signs of gum recession or toothbrush abrasion.
The American Dental Association endorses, and Dental Schools teach a brushing technique called the Bass Method. It’s been proven by research to be the most effective way to brush. In a study performed on dental students; results showed no difference between a sonic powered electric toothbrush, and a garden variety manual toothbrush. Why? Because dental students don’t brush on autopilot. They pay attention to angles and positions least they get chastised by their classmates during the next clinic session. When brushing, the dental student can see the teeth with the mind’s eye.
The Bass Method requires placing the bristles at a 45° angle into the gum line and applying short back and forth strokes. This ensures that the bristles penetrate below the gum line into the sulcus (a small pocket just below the gum line). This is where gingivitis and gum disease start. Keep this area clean, the gums won’t get inflamed or bleed, and you’ll be golden. Electric toothbrushes mitigate this precision by utilizing brute force. Now to be clear, I’m not saying that electric brushes don’t work, because they do, and in some cases, are preferred. However, I can’t really justify the expense and battery hassle of an electric brush if all that’s really needed is modifying the brush angle and tweaking the thought process. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time”. Electric toothbrushes can unwittingly provide a false sense of security. I frequently diagnose gingivitis and periodontitis on patients who say, “but wait I use an electric brush”, where my response is, “well it’s not working for you, let me show you a better way”.
A big toothbrush company used to have a slogan’ “brush like a dentist”. I agree with this completely, but to brush like a dentist, you must first “Think like a Dentist”. Healthy teeth and healthy gums are not necessitated by blue tooth enabled, roto pulsed, sonic power; just good technique.
Floss your teeth. If your gums bleed or the floss stinks, you need to change your brushing technique; and that may require changing the way you THINK about brushing. Additionally bleeding gums are an indicator of gum disease which has now been link as contributing to heart disease and diabetes. If You are up to the challenge I recommend the MD Brush. It will force you to brush 45 degrees into the gum line until it becomes second nature.
I recommend an Electric Toothbrush for the following.
• Conditions that effect mental or physical dexterity
• Teenagers with orthodontics
All others I teach the Bass Method with a good manual toothbrush