We have had some very interesting discussions around the office lately about how to use modern oral care products to help make home care both more efficient and effective. One of the largest differences can be made with an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes aren’t exactly new, in fact they have been around since 1954. When the first electric toothbrushes hit the market we offered and recommended them to patients who had a hard time brushing adequately with a manual toothbrush such as those individuals with arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. The dental community then began recommending them to patients who had shown signs and progression of gum disease. Today electric toothbrushes are as common in the dental care isle as toothpaste and we highly recommend them to everyone. However, the choices can be daunting. So, we thought it might be helpful to help you wade through the options.
The motion the brush head makes when the unit is powered on is a large part of the difference. Most of the more cost friendly models offer an action that is a simple spin or turn, back and forth.
The Oral-B toothbrush models actually have a patented spin and turn action with a little push and pull into the gums to help it reach in between the teeth.
Finally, another patented design is from Phillips called Sonicare. Sonicare brushes offer an action that moves several hundred complete back and forth motions in a second. It also claims to effectively flush toothpaste and water through the tooth contacts.
All of the designs are better than nothing especially if you or someone you know struggles with adequate brushing.
Unfortunately, the old adage “You get what you pay for” applies to the electric tooth brush market. The more cost friendly brushes also tend to have the shortest life and it may be more advantageous to simply replace the entire brush as opposed to replacing the brush tip every six months.
The opposite is true for the higher end brushes. An Oral-B or Sonicare brush may cost you a little more up front but you can expect years of life and continued cleaning efficiency with new brush heads every six months. The brush heads run about $10 each.
The original electric toothbrushes from the 50’s and 60’s plugged into an AC wall outlet, much like a hair dryer would. Today, every electric toothbrush is equipped to accept or include batteries. Again most of the more cost friendly models require either AA or AAA batteries and the higher end models are equipped with lifetime rechargeable lithium batteries and most can hold a charge and provide 2-3 weeks of use without needing to be recharged. Plus the higher end Oral-B and Sonicare models include a container or sleeve to carry the tooth brush with you in a convenient way.
Effectiveness of care:
First, Let me say that ALL tooth brushes whether electric or manual are limited by the individuals habits. How long do you brush?, How frequently do you brush?, How thoroughly are you brushing? The higher end brushes from Oral-B and Sonicare attempt to help you comply with your hygienist and dentists’ recommendations. Both companies offer some form of a timer with the brush to help you clean your teeth for the recommended 2 minutes, Oral-B makes a timer that you can visualize while you brush, but also the brush automatically turns off after 2 minutes. Sonicare offers a series of pulses as prompts to keep you on track and moving throughout the mouth until you have reached the 2 minute mark and it too will power off.
Both companies also help you focus your brushing by helping you make sure you don’t miss any teeth by breaking the 2 minutes up into four 30 second cycles. The intent is to guide you towards brushing in “quadrants” for instance the upper right molars to the right front tooth is 1 quadrant.
In conclusion, If you are thinking about buying an electric toothbrush then congratulations because you are about to experience a new level of at home care and more than likely healthier gums. All of the the electric tooth brushes work and are an improvement from the manual tooth brush and companies like Oral-B and Sonicare offer products that are not only more effective than a manual brush but also have some feedback prompts to help you do a better job at brushing as well. My recommendation is to find a toothbrush that appeals to you and is within your budget, take it home and give yourself a few days to get used to it then enjoy better check up’s from your dentist and hygienist.
Brandon L. Esco DMD