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How to Decide Between an Electric or Manual Toothbrush


By Sarah Parker Ward

You’ve seen the ads, and you’ve seen them on the shelves at the grocery store – but which is better, a new electric toothbrush, or the tried-and-true manual kind? Each has pros and cons, so here’s what you need to know to decide which is right for you when it comes to electric vs. manual toothbrushes.

Traditional Toothbrushes

Woman brushing teeth with manual toothbrush

Benefits of Traditional Toothbrushes:

  • Plentiful options: Manual toothbrushes come in a vast variety of forms with many different bristles. The old-fashioned versions are also available in a lot of patterns and styles which can add some fun to an otherwise mundane activity for kids.   
  • Inexpensive: The average traditional toothbrush costs a fraction of its electric counterpart, typically falling between $2-$10. What’s more, many dentist offices offer complimentary toothbrushes during your regular appointments.
  • No batteries or charging: Besides toothpaste, there’s nothing else to remember!

Drawbacks of Traditional Toothbrushes:

  • Proper technique: With manual toothbrushes, you get out what you put in. In other words, you have to brush with the correct technique. Your dentist or hygienist can show you proper brushing technique.

Electric Toothbrushes

little girl brushing teeth with electric toothbrush

Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes:

  • Less work, for some: For people with limited dexterity, such as the elderly, one of the main benefits of electric toothbrushes may be that they are easier to use than a manual toothbrush.
  • Fun for children: Electric toothbrushes can add some fun to an otherwise boring activity – at a time when kids are already a little irritable. Some options play a fun song as the timer while others have blinking lights.
  • Timers: Dentists agree that optimal tooth brushing is a minimum of two minutes – yet many of us fail to make it the full 120 seconds. Electric toothbrushes come equipped with timers to make sure we brush the full time necessary for the freshest clean.

Drawbacks of Electric Toothbrushes:

  • Cost: While electric toothbrushes don’t cost nearly as much as they did when they first exploded in the 1990’s, they may still be a larger investment than the old fashioned version.  What’s more, the toothbrush heads for some electric toothbrushes are purchased separately, which can add up.
  • Durability: This isn’t to say the base of your electric toothbrush won’t hold up as along as a manual toothbrush, but if dropped on a hard surface – such as a bathroom floor - it can be significantly damaged.
  • Charging: If your electric toothbrush isn’t battery operated, and if you or your little ones are prone to racing out the door and leaving the house a disaster, remembering to put your electric toothbrush on the charger for the day might be a difficult habit to get into. That said, worst comes to worst, you just have to use it as an old-fashioned toothbrush that night.

That's the skinny, now the decision is up to you. Take our poll and tell us whether you prefer an electric or manual toothbrush, and why.


Links to third-party sources in this content are provided are for educational purposes only. No sponsorship or endorsement is implied. This article includes information from the American Dental Association and the National Institutes of Health.

©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019


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