The Pros and Cons of Manual and Electric Toothbrushes

Most people know to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day for optimal oral health. However, not everyone knows that oral hygiene correlates to your overall well-being – serious, seemingly unrelated health conditions like diabetes and heart disease are closely associated with gum disease. In addition to maintaining good brushing habits, it is paramount you use a toothbrush that is right for you.

There are many factors to consider, but the biggest decision you will make is whether to use a manual or electric toothbrush. While the American Dental Association (ADA) has confirmed that both types are effective for removing plaque, there are some differences you should keep in mind.

Manual Toothbrushes

There is a good chance you have used a manual toothbrush many times in your life. Though archaic versions date back to 3500 B.C., modern iterations have been around since the 1930s.

Brushes have since evolved and are now available in a variety of grips, head sizes and bristle types. For optimal plaque removal, the ADA recommends using a brush with multi-level, soft bristles.


  • Availability – Have you ever forgotten your toothbrush on a road trip? There is no need to worry, since manual toothbrushes are sold in just about every pharmacy, gas station, grocery store and dollar store across America.
  • Affordability – Depending on where you shop, an ADA-approved toothbrush costs as little as $2 to $3. This is major plus for large families or individuals on tight budgets.
  • Use it anywhere – No matter where you are, if you have toothpaste and a splash of water, you can use a manual toothbrush to keep your smile healthy and bright.


  • Brushing can be harsh One study found that people who use manual brushes tend to brush harder than those who use electric, which can cause gum abrasion.
  • Difficult to handle – For individuals with arthritis, disabilities or dexterity issues, brushing motions can be uncomfortable.
  • No built-in timer – Most people only spend 45 seconds on average cleaning their teeth. Manual brushes do not have the convenience of a timer unlike many electric brushes, making it difficult to known when the job is done.

Electric Toothbrushes

It is easy to think of electric toothbrushes as a modern tool, but they have also been around since the late 1930s, though they were not available to the public until several decades later. Today’s electric brushes use fast micro-movements to remove plaque.


  • Easier to use for some – For people with mobility issues or chronic pain, electric brushes are typically easier to use because the micro-movements do the brushing for you.
  • Good for kids – Many parents will attest that getting kids to brush regularly can be a challenge. Many dental professionals recommend electric brushes to parents because they can be more engaging for children. Some even play music to let youngsters know when to stop brushing!
  • Slightly better for plaque removal – Though brushing frequency and technique are the biggest oral health factors, studies have shown electric brushes have a slight edge in plaque removal and prevention of gingivitis.


  • Needs electricity or batteries – Electric brushes need power to work as intended. They can be used manually, but for people with limited mobility, no electricity could mean having to skip brushing.
  • More expensive – Rechargeable brushes can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on the model. Battery-powered brushes are less expensive, but require replacement batteries and heads.
  • Maintenance is necessary – Electric brushes require upkeep, like replacing batteries, recharging and purchasing replacement heads. Plus, not all stores carry the same brands – you may have issues finding the head to match your model brush, especially when traveling.

The Main Takeaway

If you are stuck choosing between the two, remember it is more important to use a toothbrush that helps you brush correctly – whether that means the convenience of electric or the reliability of manual.

Proper technique and frequency are more impactful to your oral health than the type of brush you use. Even for individuals with orthodontic appliances – both manual and electric toothbrushes are equally as effective when used correctly.

Improve Your Smile at Serrano Orthodontics

Regular brushing is just one way to ensure you and your family have beautiful teeth. Orthodontic treatments like braces and Invisalign® can go a long way toward creating straight, stunning smiles. If you have questions about how braces could help you or a loved one, Serrano Orthodontics has the answers. Our staff has provided the Valley of the Sun with quality orthodontic treatment for more than three decades.

Call our Phoenix office at (602) 274-7840, our Chandler office at (480) 899-1633 or schedule your FREE consultation online.