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Powered/electric toothbrushes vs. manual toothbrushes: which is better for maintaining oral health? A systematic review

ToothbrushesThis summary is based on the Cochrane Systematic Review: Powered/electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes for maintaining oral health (June 2014)

Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, Deery C, Walmsley AD, Robinson PG, Glenny AM


Good oral hygiene, through the removal of plaque (a sticky film containing bacteria) by effective tooth brushing has an important role in the prevention of gum disease and tooth decay. Dental plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis (gum inflammation) and is implicated in the progression to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that affects the tissues that support the teeth. The buildup of plaque can also lead to tooth decay. Both gum disease and tooth decay are the primary reasons for tooth loss.

There are numerous different types of powered toothbrushes available to the public, ranging in price and mode of action. Different powered toothbrushes work in different ways (such as moving from side to side or in a circular motion). Powered toothbrushes also vary drastically in price. It is important to know whether powered toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes, and whether their use reduces the inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and prevents or slows the progression of periodontitis.

Purpose of the Review

This review has been conducted to assess the effects of using a powered (or ’electric’) toothbrush compared with using a manual toothbrush for maintaining oral health.

Key Findings

  • Powered toothbrushes reduc
    e plaque and gingivitis more than manual tooth brushing in the short and long term.
  • The evidence produced shows benefits in using a powered toothbrush when compared with a manual toothbrush. There was an 11% reduction in plaque at 1 to 3 months of use, and a 21% reduction in plaque when assessed after 3 months of use. For gingivitis, there was a 6% reduction at 1 to 3 months of use and an 11% reduction when assessed after 3 months of use. The benefits of this for long-term dental health are unclear.
  • Few studies reported on side effects; any reported side effects were localised and only temporary.


  1. George Cadigan December 8, 2014

    I have tried them all. The best, by far, is the Sonicare. I feel that if that were the only one tested then the results would be more dramatic and the benefits conclusive.

    1. Galina Mohebat December 9, 2014

      Totally agree with you in regards to Sonicare.

      1. VR December 9, 2014

        We only dispense the Rotadent at our office. It’s the only one rotating 360 degrees, gentle on fillings (Sonicare vibrates restorations which is their reason for producing a new one with lower vibrations) and made in USA. I threw my free Sonicare sample out in the garbage. They won’t even do studies comparing to Rotadent because they lose. Zila used to have studies (now Den-Mat owns the company) to show efficacy versus other oral devices and manual).

        1. Anonymous December 10, 2014

          Of course it does. Kinda biased though, don’t ya think?

    2. Rod Chow December 10, 2014

      Some years ago I had ortho treatment in my late 30’s. I bought a sonicare but found I always had to re brush using my Braun electric. I found Sonicare did not remove food from around my brackets as well as Braun electric.I eventually threw out the Sonicare.

    3. kal December 13, 2014

      I think all powered (rechargeable)brushes do much better than manual ones however I believe that rotating round brushes such as Rodadent and Oral B are more user friendly. Due to their circular strokes, they are less prone to angling errors that Sonicare maybe more likely to have. Also, Sonicare’s vibrations are uncomfortable to some patients specially kids.Overall, Sonicare does an excellent job in the right hands (specially if you are a hygienist or a dental professional)but laymen are more likely to not angle it correctly.

  2. Dr.Pran Vashisht December 9, 2014

    It is a well known fact that powered tooth brush definitely does a better job than Manuel tooth brush to remove dental plaque .Mouth feels fresher in less time

  3. Bobby December 10, 2014

    I noticed a most common side effect with electric tooth brush is gum recession and it increases incidents of sensitivity but definitely it reduces the amount of plaque .

    1. Marlene December 11, 2014

      Strange my periodontist recommended I use an electric brush to avoid further recession.

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