brand logo
Schedule
Find an office
06.20.2024

Everything you need to know about electric toothbrush vs. manual toothbrush

Explore the key differences between electric & manual toothbrushes. Learn which is more effective for your oral health.

In this video, you'll explore 50,000 ways to light up your smile explained by Dr. Rashad Altawaty.

What are the pros and cons of electric and manual toothbrushes? How do you know which one is right for you?

There is a long-standing debate about which type of toothbrush is better at maintaining your oral health—a manual or an electric. Many people assume that only depends on your personal tooth brushing preferences. Did you know that there are also pros and cons for both styles to consider? 

Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of manual and electric toothbrushes in this guide. We’ll cover the following topics:

  • The main differences between manual vs. electric toothbrushes 

  • The pros and cons of electric toothbrushes 

  • What the advantages and disadvantages of manual toothbrushes are 

  • How to maintain both types of brushes 

  • What toothbrush dentists recommend and which one is right for you?

Manual vs. electric toothbrushes 

These are the major differences between manual and electric toothbrushes 

While which style you choose is up to your personal preference, it’s helpful to know that there are a few differences between the two.

The major difference between an electric and a manual toothbrush is that with a manual toothbrush, you brush your teeth and gums yourself. An electric toothbrush is battery operated, rechargeable and designed to be guided through your mouth. Manual toothbrushes are probably what you’ve used since you were young and are what dentists usually hand out after your cleanings and checkups. Electric toothbrushes have been around for a shorter time, but many people like to use them because they do much of the hard work for you.


Some other differences between the two brushes include:

Cost

A manual toothbrush is more economical than an electric toothbrush, but doesn’t have all of the features.

Convenience

Electric toothbrushes have gained popularity because of their enhanced convenience. They’re designed to spin and rotate to thoroughly and easily clean your teeth. Additionally, people with limited mobility, as well as children, often find it easier to use an electric toothbrush.

Portability

Manual toothbrushes are super easy to pack and store. If you’re traveling with an electric model, you’ll need to make sure you also bring extra batteries just in case, as well as the charging station or case.

How to get the most out of your toothbrush 

No matter which type of toothbrush you decide to use, it’s important that you consistently follow a good oral health routine. Aspen Dental dentists recommend that you brush for two minutes twice a day. It’s important that you brush all around the teeth to remove as much food debris and plaque as possible.

When your toothbrush is starting to show signs of fraying, it’s time to replace it. Typically, this is around every three or four months, but make sure you replace it sooner if you notice it starting to deteriorate.


Close-up of a woman using an electric toothbrush to brush her teeth. The toothbrush bristles are in contact with the teeth, and the image displays a label reading "Electric toothbrush.

What are the pros of electric toothbrushes?

Now that you’re a little more familiar with the major differences between manual and electric toothbrushes, it’s time to discuss their pros and cons. There are many benefits to using an electric toothbrush, so maybe it’s time for you to make the switch.

Effective plaque remover

There are a variety of studies that have shown the rotating/oscillating heads of many electric toothbrushes are superior at removing plaque than manual brushes. The heads on electric toothbrushes are designed to maneuver around each tooth, clearing away any plaque or food debris in the process.

Depending on the type of electric toothbrush you have, the bristles can vibrate or even spin and vibrate at the same time. Depending on the type of electric toothbrush you have, the bristles can vibrate or even spin and vibrate at the same time. Less expensive, disposable models typically perform around 1,000 strokes per minute, while premium electric toothbrushes can reach up to 50,000 strokes per minute with additional settings. In comparison, the average person using a manual toothbrush only achieves about 200 strokes per minute. This significant increase in strokes can lead to more effective plaque removal and overall better oral hygiene.

These are engineered to help clean your teeth and gums and prevent plaque build-up. When you remove more plaque, not only will you have cleaner teeth and fresher breath, but you may also help prevent gingivitis and the potential for gum disease.

Easy to use

As we mentioned earlier, electric toothbrushes are simple to use. You simply push the button, and the head starts to vibrate or oscillate (or both), depending on the model you’re using. All you must do is allow the brush to clean each tooth, one section of your mouth at a time. Having a brush that moves around and gets in and around teeth is a great way to ensure they’re on the right path to better oral health.

Incorporate advanced technology

Electric toothbrushes can be very low tech and consist of a rotating head and a timer, or they can incorporate advanced technology. Some models come with different pressure levels, so you can find one that works for your teeth and gums. Others also allow you to sync with Bluetooth to track your pressure and brushing progress. 

More cleaning power

With an electric brush, you can expect to get a lot more power behind each stroke. Electric toothbrushes can rotate the brush head many more times per minute than you can with a manual brush. This helps the brush get a deeper clean in two minutes.

Built-in timers

Perhaps one of the most helpful benefits of an electric toothbrush is that most now come with timers. You can find brushes that time the full two minutes, or ones that let you know when it’s time to switch quadrants after 30 seconds.

Can help people with orthodontics

People who have braces can find it difficult to get their mouth clean. Using an electric toothbrush can make that a little easier. These types of toothbrushes can get in between the orthodontics and all around the teeth a little easier than a manual brush.

Are there drawbacks to electric toothbrushes?

What are some electric toothbrush cons?

While there are plenty of benefits to electric toothbrushes, if you’re seriously considering a switch, there are some disadvantages you may want to consider.

Cost

Regardless of the model of electric toothbrush you get, you can expect to pay a bit more for an electric toothbrush. Electric brushes that have a lot of technology and offer many options when it comes to pressure, reminders, or multiple timers will all cost more than your basic model.

Aren’t as eco-friendly

With an electric toothbrush, you’ll need to continuously replace the batteries and the brush heads, making them less eco-friendly than a manual brush.

Personal preferences

Some people do not like or cannot get used to the vibration sensation in their mouth as the brush head rotates. Because there is more power and rotation involved with electric toothbrushes, you may find it can also be messier.  If you’re worried about mess, it is good to note that most of these products are designed to be waterproof, and some people will use them while they are in the shower to maximize their time and contain the mess.

A close-up of an electric toothbrush being charged, with a charging cable inserted into the base. The text overlay reads, "Caring for electric toothbrushes.

How do you care for electric toothbrushes?

Caring for an electric toothbrush is relatively straightforward, but make sure to follow the instructions of your brush. After you’re done brushing, wash the brush and store it in its charging station so that it’s ready to go when it’s time to brush again. Every few days, wipe down the toothbrush stand with a clean cloth. It’s also recommended to replace brush heads every 3 months, or when they look visibly worn.

Several colorful manual toothbrushes are arranged vertically in a clear glass against a light blue background. The text "Manual toothbrush" is displayed at the bottom.

What are the pros of manual toothbrushes?

What are some of the benefits of using a manual toothbrush?

Manual toothbrushes have many benefits as well. They’re especially good if you’re looking for a straightforward and low-tech way to ensure your teeth are clean and healthy.

While they may look simple, there’s a reason why manual toothbrushes have been the same size and shape for a long time—because it works. Manual brushes are purposefully designed to be the ideal size and length for you to correctly clean your teeth and gums. Let’s discuss some of their other benefits.

Accessible and affordable

One of the best things about a manual toothbrush is that you can pick one up at a convenience store, a grocery store, online or at your dentist’s office. They are widely available and come in all kinds of shapes and textures, so you’ll find one that suits your needs.


Manual toothbrushes come in a variety of options based on:

  • Bristle hardness and pattern 

  • The shape of the head 

  • Handle design

You can try out different combinations of these and determine which one you like best or ask your dentist what they recommend.

Offers more control

A lot of people find that manual toothbrushes seem to offer them more control over how they clean their teeth and gums. If you prefer to brush at your own pace and determine at what speed you brush, you may want to consider staying with a manual toothbrush.

You can determine the amount of pressure

Along with having more control over how fast you brush, a manual toothbrush can also help you apply the appropriate amount of pressure. If you find that you have sensitive teeth or gums, you know how painful it can be to go over them too hard or fast with a toothbrush. When you use a manual toothbrush, if you experience discomfort due to sensitivity, you can easily change the pressure you’re applying.

Easy to travel with and store

Manual toothbrushes are typically smaller and less bulky than electric toothbrushes, and they do not require a charge to operate. This makes them very convenient when you’re traveling, since they are easily packable and can be used anytime you need them.

Are there disadvantages to using a manual toothbrush?

While a lot of this is based on your personal preference, it’s helpful to know if there are any cons to using a manual toothbrush.

Doesn’t clean as efficiently

With a manual brush, you must ensure you’re brushing at the right angle and getting each quadrant of your mouth. You also must ensure you’re using the right technique, such as circling and sweeping, around each tooth while you brush. Electric brushes, alternatively, make this very easy to do.

You may brush too hard

Because you have all the control when it comes to how you brush, it may lead you to brush too hard. When this happens, you may end up doing damage to your gums and cause abrasions, the most common cause of dental abrasion.

No timer

Most people who use manual toothbrushes do not brush for the full two minutes. As a matter of fact, the average person brushes for less than a minute, which is less than the recommended time for effective plaque removal. It’s hard to do because there is no built-in timer, like many electric toothbrushes have.

Close-up of a hand rinsing a manual toothbrush under running water, with the label "Caring for manual toothbrushes" at the bottom.

How do you care for manual toothbrushes?

After you’ve finished brushing your teeth, make sure to rinse your brush thoroughly. Refrain from capping it because that can lead to increased bacteria growth on the bristles. 

Make sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or if you notice damage to the bristles. It’s harder for the toothbrush to clean effectively when the bristles are damaged or frayed.

A dental professional in Aspen Dental scrubs smiles while speaking with a seated patient who has red hair and a green sweater.

Which toothbrush do dentists recommend?

If you’re not sure which toothbrush is right for you, consider asking your dentist. They can go over the specifics of both manual and electronic toothbrushes, and help you decide which one will meet your dental needs. Everyone has a personal preference, and if you’re brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes, flossing once a day, using mouthwash to rinse your mouth and seeing your dentist twice a year, both types of toothbrushes are acceptable.

Although the choice ultimately is yours, it is widely acknowledged among dental professionals that you will have a greater advantage of maintaining your oral health with an electric toothbrush if you follow its instructions for proper technique.

Many dental practices may offer special deals on their preferred electric brush and it may be covered by your HSA. Ask your dentist today to learn more about which brush will work best for you.

Your journey to a healthier smile starts here

Your new patient visit at Aspen Dental is our most important appointment together.



Schedule appointment >

Share