Manual vs electric toothbrushes: which is better?
Oral Health

Manual vs electric toothbrushes: which is better?

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Is an electric toothbrush better for your teeth? Find out the pros and cons of powered toothbrushes and who can benefit from going electric.

5 minute read

Brushing twice a day helps to keep your teeth free from tooth decay and cavities, but some people find this more of a challenge than others. If you're having trouble keeping your teeth clean with a standard toothbrush, your dentist might recommend that you switch to an electric model.

But do electric toothbrushes really clean better, and are they worth the investment? Read this guide to find out what the evidence says about manual vs electric toothbrushes, the pros and cons of both options and what else to look for when choosing the perfect toothbrush. 

What does the evidence say?

What does evidence say about electric toothbrushes

There's a growing body of research that suggests using an electric toothbrush can clean your teeth better than a manual brush.

  • A 2014 review of studies found that subjects who used powered toothbrushes had 21% less plaque and 11% less gingivitis after 3 months compared to those using standard toothbrushes (1)
  • A longer-term study published in 2019 also found that participants who used powered toothbrushes tended to have better dental health after 11 years than those who didn't (2)
  • Electric toothbrushes with oscillating (rotating) heads were found to clean better than vibrating heads, as power rotation can help to loosen and break up plaque as it cleans

Does that mean everyone should throw away their manual toothbrushes and go electric? Not necessarily. While some people find electric brushes easier or more comfortable to use, you don't need to make a change if you're already seeing good results with a normal toothbrush.

Who can benefit from an electric toothbrush?

Who can benefit from an electric toothbrush

An electric toothbrush can make brushing easier and more convenient for some people, especially those who may struggle to use a standard toothbrush. This can include:


Children's dentists may recommend trying an electric toothbrush from around the age of 3 if they think it could help your child. Young children often struggle to move a toothbrush across their teeth properly, and a powered toothbrush can take care of the brushing action for them.

Children's toothbrushes that feature lights and sounds can also be more appealing for reluctant brushers, while built-in timers can help kids and their parents to make sure they're brushing for the recommended two minutes.

People with restricted mobility

People who have limited movement in their hands or joints may find electric toothbrushes easier to use and their larger handles easier to hold than a standard toothbrush. This includes people with arthritis and other joint conditions, carpal tunnel syndrome or disabilities.

People with braces or orthodontic issues

If your teeth are crooked, crowded or otherwise misaligned, this could make it difficult to reach some parts of your mouth with a standard toothbrush. This could make an electric toothbrush more convenient.

Wearing braces to correct an orthodontic issue can also make teeth brushing harder and more time consuming as you have to work around the wires and brackets. Electric toothbrushes can make brushing with braces easier, leading to reduced plaque and improved oral health for people who find manual brushing difficult. (3)

People with poor oral health

If you're prone to tooth decay, gum disease or other oral health issues, your dentist might recommend trying an electric toothbrush to see if this leads to improvement. They can give you advice about the type of electric toothbrush to buy and the right way to brush to make sure you're removing plaque.

Electric toothbrush benefits

Electric toothbrush benefits

An electric toothbrush can only do its job if you use it properly. Reasons why you could be better off with a powered toothbrush include:

  • Improved results – if you find it difficult to use a standard toothbrush, an electric brush could help you to reduce plaque and associated oral health risks.
  • Easier to use – power rotation takes care of some of the work for you, so all you need to do is slowly move the toothbrush around your mouth.
  • Reducing sensitivity – if you have sensitive teeth or gums and you sometimes brush too roughly, some electric toothbrushes have warning lights that will alert you if you're using too much pressure.
  • Special features – you can find models with lights and sounds to make brushing more fun for kids, built-in timers to help you brush correctly and compatibility with mobile toothbrushing apps.


Manual toothbrush benefits

Manual toothbrush benefits

If it ain't broke, don't fix it! If you're already comfortable using a manual toothbrush and you don't need to improve your oral hygiene, there's no reason to change your routine. Many people prefer a manual brush for a number of reasons, including:

  • More control – you control the speed, pressure and movements of your toothbrush for what feels comfortable for you. This can be especially important for people with receding gums.
  • More variety – you can find adult and child toothbrushes in a wider range of shapes, sizes and designs and you don't have to worry about compatibility with an existing device.
  • Cheap – even a high quality manual toothbrush is much cheaper than an electric toothbrush, and replacing your toothbrush every few months can be cheaper than buying replacement heads.
  • Portable – with no need to charge or plug in, a manual toothbrush is ideal for travelling or overnight trips, even as a supplement to your everyday electric toothbrush.

Are electric toothbrushes safe for kids?

Are electric toothbrushes safe for kids?

Switching to an electric toothbrush can take some getting used to, even as an adult, so parents might worry about giving one to their child. However, most children who are already brushing their own teeth should have no trouble adapting to a powered toothbrush. They may even find it more appealing or easier to use than their normal toothbrush, which could mean improved results.

Electric toothbrushes are not suitable for infants and young children who need gentle manual brushing. It's also recommended that kids learn to brush their teeth using a manual toothbrush specially designed for children, as these are generally lighter and can be easier to hold.

As your child grows, their dentist may recommend giving them an appropriately sized electric toothbrush if they think this could help to improve their oral health. This depends on the child, as many children prefer to stick to what they're used to.

Whichever type of toothbrush your child uses, you should supervise their brushing to make sure they're doing it correctly, for the recommended two minutes and always spit out the toothpaste.

How to choose the right toothbrush

How to choose the right toothbrush

Electric or manual is just one thing to consider when buying a new toothbrush, which could involve more decisions than you realise. These include:


The head of the toothbrush should fit comfortably in your mouth (or your child's mouth) so it can reach all areas. The handle should also be long enough that you can hold it comfortably. Children's toothbrushes have smaller brush heads and shorter and wider handles that are easier to grip.


Toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads are available with a choice of hard, medium or soft bristles. Soft bristles are recommended for most people, especially if you have sensitive teeth or gums. Medium or hard bristles may cause irritation or even damage the teeth and gums.

You should also look for a brush with angled or stepped bristles with rounded ends. These can offer a better clean than flat bristles.

Seal of approval

If you want peace of mind that you're buying a high quality toothbrush, look for the Australian Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. This certifies that the product and materials used are safe, but you should still talk to your dentist if you have sensitive teeth or other concerns.

Toothbrushing tips

Toothbrushing tips: only use a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste

The toothbrush you choose is only as good as your brushing technique. To make sure you're removing as much plaque as possible and lower your risk of oral health problems, we recommend:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day – ideally in the morning after breakfast and before you go to bed – unless your dentist advises more frequent brushing.
  • Use a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste. Children under 7 should use low-fluoride children's toothpaste.
  • Brush for two minutes, spending an equal amount of time on every tooth.
  • Brush in circular motions, cleaning the front, back and chewing surfaces.
  • Don't brush too hard, or you could damage your teeth and gums.
  • Brush your tongue gently using the back of the toothbrush or a tongue scraper.
  • Floss before brushing once a day to clean the places your toothbrush can't reach.
  • Rinse your toothbrush before and after each use and store it upright away from the toilet or in a cupboard
  • Replace your toothbrush or swap electric toothbrush heads every 3 months, as soon as the bristles look frayed or following an illness.
  • Visit your dentist once or twice a year for a check-up, professional teeth cleaning and hygiene treatments.

Oral hygiene in Victoria Park

Has it been longer than 6 months since you last visited a dentist? Contact EVP Dental in East Victoria Park to book a comprehensive check-up and professional scale and clean with our dedicated hygiene department. We can also answer any questions you have about how you or your family can take better care of your teeth and gums every day.

Call us today on 08 9470 3944 or book online.