What’s the Point of a Power Toothbrush

Have you gotten the question at the dentist about what toothbrush you are using? No doubt you’ve seen a plethora of different companies promoting their new power toothbrushes. I feel like there is a new company every day coming out with another product and somehow it makes it’s way onto your social media ads.

I’m going to be honest here right at the beginning of this post; I think you can achieve a healthy mouth with a regular manual toothbrush. I have seen patients be perfectly healthy using a manual toothbrush. Myself included, I interchange between my power and manual all the time and in regards to some angulation techniques, I just feel like I do it better.

However the patient HAS to know how to angulate the brush and they need to know what they tend to miss in order to focus on problem areas. As a quick reference I recommend holding the brush so that the bristles are not pointed straight at the teeth but instead at a 45 degree angle up or down to the gum line.

The reason being that a lot of food particles and plaque will sit at or just below the gum line. You will want to do small circular motions and progress one quadrant at a time. You have to know how to get to the furthest tooth and even clean behind it. If you are unaware of problem areas, just ask your hygienist where you have build up or bleeding.

Manual Toothbrush

Manual toothbrushes come in all shapes and sizes. I will always recommend getting soft bristles. Why? Because as long as you take your time cleaning and follow proper angulation, you don’t need to press hard on your teeth or have hard bristles. Patients have told me their teeth don’t feel clean unless the bristles are hard. I always tell them the same thing.

“You are making them dirtier because you are scratching the surface of the enamel over time and giving your teeth microscopic lines for the bacteria to grow.” Some power toothbrushes will have an indicator to tell you that you are brushing hard and unfortunately with a manual, you will just have to be aware of how hard you are pressing. If your bristles are becoming flattened to the sides, you are pressing too hard.

With any toothbrush you must either change the whole toothbrush or the head every 3 months and after getting over a cold or illness. This is not really a difference between manual and power but some power toothbrushes will have subscription services in which they will send you a head every 3 months so you don’t have to worry about it. Making a little reminder on your phone may help with toothbrushes where a subscription is not an option.

If you are more conscious of the environment or want to be, I recommend looking into wooden or bamboo toothbrushes. Again they will have to be changed at least every three months but sometimes they start breaking down before then. They are usually meant to be biodegradable and so they are expected to break down over time.

The bristles are also another thing to think about since they tend to fall out. They are usually inserted via a staple or simply inserted into a tight space. Most plastic toothbrushes will use some type of hardy glue that is not great for the environment. There are a lot more technicalities to biodegradable toothbrushes to think about but that will be in another posting. Comment if you’d like to read more about that.

Battery Powered Toothbrush

Between using my manual toothbrush, I do use my battery powered Quip toothbrush and have been using it for almost 2 years now. I will provide a link if you are interested in looking at those. They are very affordable and do have a subscription service. I will be honest as always, recently the head is slipping out as I brush and it is super annoying. I did drop the brush and I think I broke it so it may be my fault, I have to get a new head to see!

Most battery powered toothbrushes are affordable and easy to travel with but they have a big downfall as well. This is of course dependent on the brand but in some cases the brush may not be powerful enough to give you the benefits of a true POWER toothbrush. More on the benefits below in the chargeable toothbrush section.

The more somethings costs, USUALLY the better the quality. Some battery power toothbrushes just cannot get to a power level that rechargeable toothbrushes can get to. They may not be equipped in their hardware and material to have such power and function. I do believe some brands such as quip are able to achieve this but some off brand or no brand brushes I would be cautious of. Side note: I have heard the Burst is a great brush too, but I have yet to try it.

Chargeable Power Toothbrush

I hate having to travel with a big base and cords, and I know many other people do too so they end up using a manual toothbrush for travel. This aside, these toothbrushes are so impressive! Many times the capabilities are way too extra for even the most hygiene obsessed patient but impressive none the less.

I went to a dental hygiene convention last year in Louisville KY. First of all go to Louisville KY, so fun! They gifted us the newest model of the Oral B toothbrush which was retailing at about $250! The capabilities include:

  • Different brushing speeds for things such as gum care, whitening, sensitive teeth etc
  • Brushing Pressure Indicator
  • Timer
  • Bluetooth connectivity for brush mapping
  • Better battery power/longer use on one charge
  • Travel case and accessories

The biggest benefit with chargeable power toothbrushes is the ability to lavage and irrigate the tooth surfaces and gum line. What does that even mean? The amount of vibrations per second are at such speed that it can break up tartar and even cell walls of bacteria which will help to kill bacteria in the mouth.

If your toothbrush cannot reach a certain number of vibrations per second, it cannot kill bacteria or effectively remove tough staining and tartar. This is why buying just any power toothbrush can be a waste of money. Going back to manual toothbrushes for a second, of course we cannot vibrate our hands at high speed.

However we can still effectively remove plaque and bacteria by brushing slowly and carefully twice per day for at least 2 minutes. Research has shown that plaque starts to harden at 3 days of no brushing. This means that if you brush daily, chances are you will be effectively removing plaque and bacteria enough so that you can lower your risk of cavities and periodontal disease.

Does the Brand Matter?

Every brand will try to compete and stand out in some way. The Philips Sonicare is known to have a manual toothbrush head shape whereas the Oral B is known to have the round toothbrush head shape. Of course they all have options for shapes and sizes but they all have their pros and cons.

In either case, it is important to look at all the capabilities of the toothbrush and find out what it is you want from it. Do you want Bluetooth capabilities, ease for travel, or maybe you are concerned with the aesthetic of the toothbrush? Make sure to read about your toothbrushes and ask your hygienist what they recommend. They may even sell toothbrushes at your dental office for a discounted price!

How much Should I spend?

You can easily spend upwards of $200 and as little as $10 on a power toothbrush. There is a saturated market for power toothbrushes and so it is important to weigh your options. As mentioned above some toothbrushes will not have the capabilities of others and quality will matter in some ways.

The more expensive toothbrushes will have all the bells and whistles you could ever want in a toothbrush BUT do you need them? Focus on what you need and try not to fall for something you are not going to use. I loved that I can connect my Oral B to an app and see how well I was brushing. Upon getting the toothbrush I connected it right away and began using this function….for two days.

I did not have time to interact with the app and continuously check it to see my progress. To be honest, I didn’t really care that much either. The excitement quickly faded when it became more of an added task. Be realistic about what you will use and you should be able to find a moderately priced power toothbrush to fit your needs IF that is what you want in the first place!

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