Are you looking to upgrade your toothbrush from a traditional manual brush to something a bit more high-tech? Maybe you're already an owner and fan of some kind of electric toothbrush, but are looking for something new? It might help to know a little bit about electric toothbrushes, such as the various types and a little about how they work. Below, we'll examine these things and a few other details which might help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

brushingteeth_large“Electric” vs. “Rechargeable”

One important distinction in the electric toothbrush world is the proper terminology. While effectively a matter of semantics, the term “electric toothbrush” is often reserved for toothbrushes which do not feature a rechargeable battery pack, but rather run on a single-use battery or replaceable third party batteries. These non-rechargeable toothbrushes tend to be somewhat less high quality than their rechargeable counterparts, and some are designed to be disposable. In contrast, rechargeable brushes are often the higher priced and more feature-rich models, and often incorporate changeable brush heads so they are not entirely disposable.

In this article, we will use the term “electric toothbrush” to refer to both types of brush. Generally speaking, besides the inclusion of a rechargeable battery the feature set between the two tend to be comparable.

Brushing Action

There are a few different methods employed by electric toothbrushes to actually clean the teeth. Most of these rely on some kind of mechanical action which is provided for by small electric motors within the brush. The varieties of brushing actions include: oscillation, counter oscillation, circular, and side-to-side.

Some of these names are pretty self-explanatory, but lets take a closer look.

  • Oscillation rotates the brush head, which is usually round, in both directions in sequence (see Oral-B Pro 6000 Toothbrush)
  • Counter oscillation uses multiple moving components adjacent to one another which rotate in one direction and then the other.
  • In circular, the brush heads rotation is unimpeded and it moves in only one direction constantly.
  • In side-to-side, the brush head is often square and configured to move side-to-side or up-and-down depending on how the brush is held.

These methods are the most common employed by electric toothbrushes of all varieties to provide their cleaning capabilities. A last method not yet mentioned is the sonic brushing method, where high frequency sound uses acoustic vibrations to vibrate the bristles as well as help in dislodging gunk, plaque and debris to clean.

toothbrushes_mediumIs It Really Better Than A Manual Toothbrush?

This is a question to which the answer defies a simple yes or no. While some studies have shown improve oral hygiene from the use of electric toothbrushes, these benefits are likely to be variable between different users. The technique employed by the user will have an impact on the quality of clean provided by each brushing session, and this is true for both manual and electric toothbrushes. For some users with excellent technique with a manual toothbrush, the benefits from a switch maybe negligible. On the other side of the token, a user with poor technique and a manual brush may find themselves with a much, much cleaner mouth thanks to the addition of some mechanised cleaning power.

Some electric toothbrushes also incorporate features which are quite helpful to brushing and not something found on manual brushes. For example, pressure sensors are common on higher-end electric toothbrushes, like the Oral-B Pro 3000 Toothbrush, which warn the user if they are applying too much pressure while brushing which can potentially damage enamel.