Are electric toothbrushes worth it?
November 8, 2005 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Are electric toothbrushes worth it?

I'm thinking about getting a nice electric toothbrush, but I'm looking for justification. Do they clean your teeth better? Has any research been done? Or is it just a big scam?
posted by blue_beetle to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I can't stand them. I've always used the cheapest toothbrush that I can find, and I've never had a cavity.
posted by TurkishGolds at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2005

My dentist recommended that I use an electric toothbrush, even if it's just one of the $7 drugstore ones.
She said an electric toothbrush can complete many more brush strokes than you can on your own, so it should get your teeth cleaner.
posted by Coffeemate at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2005

My dentist told me to use them, as I was brushing so ferociousy with my normal brush (being a smoker, black coffee and red wine drinker) that I was wearing my gums away.

I love em noe, and don't feel clean without it.
posted by Pericles at 7:53 AM on November 8, 2005

As a child, I once asked a dentist (perhaps a nurse) this during a presentation at school. Her response was that they were good for disabled people, but that normal people certainly didn't need them.

Well, that put me off electric toothbrushes pretty quickly. In retrospect, not a very PC answer.
posted by GuyZero at 7:54 AM on November 8, 2005

Since I tend to wear through toothbrushes with alarming speed I asked my dentist if I should change brushes/brushing technique. He told me to get an electric. He said he used an electric toothbrush. So I guess that's some pretty high reccomendation. However, I can't use them. None of them (I tried 2 or 3) can brush your teeth with the same vigour and control that a normal hand/toothbrush combo can. If I were you I would buy a cheap one and see if you like the feel and the job it does, it's down to personal choice.
posted by fire&wings at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2005

I really like mine. I've got one of the Braun/Oral B ones. When I travel I take a manual and always feel like I've got hairy teeth after a day or two. It's a relief to use the electric when I get back home. My desntist thinks I've got much less plaque as well, so we're both happy.
posted by bonehead at 7:56 AM on November 8, 2005

My hygenist recommended I get one, not for the cleaner teeth aspect (no problems in that area) but for the benefit to the gums. Supposedly they do a better job of getting under there where stuff hides, as well as the massaging action. They recommended a water pik, too, but I did not get one. FWIW they told me that the el cheapo Braun spinny kind ($20 or less) would be more than sufficient. That's the kind I have. I have noticed a difference in general freshness that is not present from normal tooth brushing, but perhaps it's wishful thinking.
posted by contessa at 7:58 AM on November 8, 2005

I've tried several electric toothbrushes, but (for me) the one that blew all others out of the water was the Sonicare. Once I decided to spend the $100 on it (they're much cheaper these days), I never looked back. I've been using it almost every day for about three years. When I travel, and it's not convenient to take it with me, I actually miss using it. I'm not aware of the scientific research on how much better it actually is compared to non-electric brushing, but my teeth certainly FEEL about 10 times cleaner with the Sonicare than when I brush manually.

It does take getting used to, but it becomes addictive.
posted by evoo at 8:00 AM on November 8, 2005

My dental hygienist just the other day not only recommended the sonic type toothbrushes but specifically the kind that rotate, like the regular electric toothbrushes (rather than the kind that go back and forth). As contessa said, the rotating kind are supposed to be better than the other kind when it comes to gum care.
posted by kimota at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2005

I used to use an Oral B, but switched to a Sonicare last year. It's a little pricey, but worth every penny in my opinion. I can't speak to any hard numbers, but my mouth feels a hell of a lot cleaner than it used to, my breath has improved, and my problem teeth haven't gotten any worse since I switched. I couldn't imagine going back to an old-school toothbrush now.
posted by Oops at 8:03 AM on November 8, 2005

This is an old story but worth a glance if you're dubious.

I still use electric and find my teeth much clearer for it, for what it's worth.
posted by londonmark at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2005

I have an Oral-B 3d electric toothbrush. Er, toothcare system. I like it a lot. Before I had it I begrudgingly brushed my teeth, not very carefully, and not regularly enough. The electric one made it easy enough that I brush much more often. Silly to be that lazy, but glad to find an easy solution.
posted by Nelson at 8:06 AM on November 8, 2005

You can buy a battery powered Oral B toothbrush with a circular brush with replaceable heads for like $12 at any CVS/Rite-Aid/Payless whatever. It's almost identical in design to the same electric Oral B I had in college that cost like $60.

Totally worth it. They also make an even cheaper electric brush ($6!) that vibrates at a very high frequency and works very well. But it's much more like a conventioanl brush and you can't replace the heads or battery. But it lasts for a long, long time.
posted by Heminator at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2005

I am not a dentist, but if the electric one makes you brush more and longer, then get it. It's the same with floss. Whatever gets you to take care of your teeth will be a wonderful investment. Crowns are very very expensive these days, certainly much more than a nice new sonicare brush.
posted by bilabial at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2005

Some studies done suggest that electric toothbrushes with rotating-oscillating action (different brands and models use different actions/techniques) are slightly better than manual or even other electric toothbrushes.

I have a rechargable Braun/Oral-B AdvancePower 900 series that I got at the drugstore for less than $20. I've also seen them on eBay for similar prices. That was the cheapest Oral-B model that has the rotating-oscillating action; some of the cheaper models, and perhaps all the battery models (though I'm not sure) use something other than rotation-oscillation...and truthfully, I think having a rechargable is cheaper in the long run anyhow, as buying batteries gets expensive.

My teeth feel cleaner when I use an electric toothbrush rather than a manual one. Part of that may be that the quasi-excitement of a power toy (of sorts) keeps me brushing longer, but in the long run, whichever brush makes you brush for the right amount of time is the one to use.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2005

The one thing I get out of my electric (it's like the one needs more cowbell linked to) is that it's got a built-in timer. I had no problem with brushing my teeth manaully in the past, but it wasn't until I got the electric that I realized that I wasn't brushing as long as I thought I was.

I have experienced less plaque in the three years I've been using mine, but I think that can be explained by the fact that I'm brushing longer, not necessarily better.
posted by flipper at 9:21 AM on November 8, 2005

Stop reading.
Go out and get one!
You will not be disappointed.

I will never go back to manual...
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2005

My dentist recommended I get one. I did. I like it a lot. Makes brushing a whole lot easier.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:37 AM on November 8, 2005

I got one after being told that I was scrubbing too hard with a manual brush, and generally recommend the electrics.
posted by aramaic at 9:39 AM on November 8, 2005

another vote yes. go spend five bucks at the supermarket for one of the battery-powered ones (i like the oral b) and then try it out. if you like it, you can get a high-end one, and if you don't, you're out a whopping five bucks.
posted by judith at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2005

I can feel a difference throughout the day when I am traveling and using a standard toothbrush rather than my Oral-B electric. Enough so that I think in the future I will travel with it.

Another try-and-return concept might be to buy one and a refill and use the refill brush. You can probably return it if the brush is unused. There is a notable improvement between the disposable ones and the rechargable ones. Hell, there's a difference in vigor between the $40 one I have and the $100 newer model my girlfriend has.
posted by phearlez at 9:50 AM on November 8, 2005

Sonicare Electric Toothbrush: $139
Gingivectomy or Gingivoplasty: $176
Crown (Noble Metal): $680
Osseous Surgery (including flap entry and closure): $1075
Comprehensive Orthodontic Treatment of the Adult Dentition: $5450
Pleasant, Uneventful Trip to the Dentist: Priceless

Yes, electric toothbrushes are worth it!

Most adults using ordinary (non-electric) toothbrushes are brushing too hard (and damaging their gums). Electric toothbrushes will keep teeth cleaner with less damage.
posted by cup at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2005

I love my Sonicare. I "upgraded" last year to the one that beeps every thirty seconds so it's supposed to prompt you to move to a different "zone", giving you two minutes brushing time. I go through two cycles so I'm sure I've brushed for 4 minutes. My gums feel good and I kid you not, I think my teeth are whiter for it.
posted by like_neon at 9:53 AM on November 8, 2005

Another vote yes. Go spend five bucks and try it out.

IMO, electric toothbrushes are oral sex.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 AM on November 8, 2005

I remember a review by Consumer Reports about a year ago. The $100 electrics were slightly better than brushing by hand. Like mentioned above, the main advantage they had was that they have a built in timer. Most people brush for less than a minute by hand. The good electrics have a timer built in that indicates when two minutes have gone by.
posted by fhqwhgads at 10:02 AM on November 8, 2005

Sonicaire. . .trust us, you'll be glad.
posted by Danf at 10:24 AM on November 8, 2005

I spend less time at the dentist from using one (Oral B circular). It just removes plaque better, or allows me to remove plaque easier. The 2-minute timer is key. Less plaque=less scraping/cleaning time at the dentist.

I do keep a manual around though, in case of a nuclear fallout.
posted by hellbient at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2005

I and my whole family use Sonicares and would never think of using anything else. I have been using mine for about five years (using replacement heads of course, you should change them every six months). They really work well.
posted by Mr T at 10:33 AM on November 8, 2005

My dentist recommended the Sonicare. He actually made a deal with me, that I could come to see him twice, instead of three times, a year, if I got the Sonicare. That's a pretty serious recommendation--he'd deprive himself of money for the sake of my teeth. I've used it for, oh, three years now, and love it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:36 AM on November 8, 2005

The Sonicare folks claim that the brush breaks up plaque in between teeth with sonic waves (Please correct me if I'm wrong).
I guess I just don't believe this. Can anyone vouch for this? Or make an argument as to why anyone should spend $140 on a Sonicare over $20 for an Oral B circular?
sorry for the piggyback, b_b.
posted by hellbient at 10:54 AM on November 8, 2005

Oh, Sonicare. I've only been using it for a short while, but my boyfriend remarked that after a tooth cleaning at the dentist that his mouth didn't feel especially clean and fresh, like it used to after a professional cleaning; that's how it feels every day.
I love the beep-every-30-seconds model, also. It makes sure that you're getting to all your teeth evenly.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:59 AM on November 8, 2005

I've been using a Sonicare since 1998. Now that I think about it, I'm amazed it's lasted me that long. Before the Sonicare I used to get all sorts of lectures about gum care and flossing and such from my dentist. Now I just have painless twice-yearly checkups. For that alone, it's worth the money. I've also grown accustomed to that extra-clean feeling, and miss it when I travel.
posted by ambrosia at 11:41 AM on November 8, 2005

'nother vote for Sonicare.

According to their literature, it's not sonic waves per se, but "dynamic fluid cleaning action", if that's any clearer. Basically though, the things move really fast. It makes sense to me that a vibrating head (given sufficient movement and speed) would outperform an oscilating head.

Anyway, I think they rock, though you may get teased for having such a bourgoise toothbrush, depending.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:00 PM on November 8, 2005

I have sonicare, and can't recommend it enough. My dentist recommmended it, and ever since I started using it, I get a lot less plaque build up, and my teeth feel a lot cleaner. Go out and get one, you won't be sorry.
posted by unreason at 1:37 PM on November 8, 2005

The Sonicare Elite 7500 is on sale at Linens and Things for $99 right now (per their website).
posted by nancoix at 2:02 PM on November 8, 2005

Both my dentist and orthodontist (been in braces a little over 2 years... god, aren't my teeth straight yet?) strongly encourage them -- as other folks have noted, more for their plaque-fighting capacity than for preventing cavities. I use one of the Oral-B battery brushes, but am planning on asking for a Sonicare for Xmas.
posted by scody at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2005

Sonicare has a very successful program where dentists sell the product in their office, but I haven't seen any research that suggest it is significantly more effective than any other electric toothbrush. It does cause significantly more bacteremia, so I have avoided it.
posted by grouse at 2:40 PM on November 8, 2005

If I could only bring 5 things with me on a deserted island, one of them would be my electric toothbrush. How I would keep it charge would be interesting. Get one than rotates and pulsates. You will never manually brush again.
posted by jasondigitized at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2005

grouse, do you have a link or any additional info about the bacteremia?
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:49 PM on November 8, 2005

grouse, do you have a link or any additional info about the bacteremia?


Pediatr Dent. 2002 Jul-Aug;24(4):295-9.

Transient bacteremia induced by toothbrushing a comparison of the Sonicare toothbrush with a conventional toothbrush.

Bhanji S, Williams B, Sheller B, Elwood T, Mancl L.

PURPOSE: Several investigations have demonstrated toothbrush-induced bacteremias. Transient bacteremias are well tolerated by healthy individuals but may increase endocarditis risk in patients with cardiac conditions. This study assessed bacteremia levels after brushing with either the Sonicare electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush. METHODS: Fifty healthy children receiving dental treatment under general anesthesia with oral intubation were randomly assigned to a manual or Sonicare group. Plaque levels and gingival health were scored and a blood sample collected. Teeth were brushed for 1 minute and a postbrushing blood sample was drawn. Samples were analyzed for aerobic and anaerobic bacterial growth. RESULTS: Gingival health and plaque scores did not differ between groups. No correlation was detected between plaque and gingival scores and occurrence of bacteremia. The frequency of bacteremia was 46% with manual brushing: 18% aerobic, 9% anaerobic and 73% both. This differed significantly (P = .022) with 78% bacteremias in the Sonicare group: 22% aerobic, 22% anaerobic and 56% both. CONCLUSIONS: The Sonicare induced significantly more bacteremias than manual toothbrushing. These results show that vigorous brushing increased bacteremia from one brushing but does not answer whether bacteremia incidence would decrease with a program of vigorous daily brushing; this should be clarified before recommending brushing methods for patients with compromised cardiac conditions.

posted by Wet Spot at 6:41 PM on November 8, 2005

Ok, thanks for the advice every. I crumbled before the might of peer pressure and picked up a Sonicare Elite 7500 at Linens and Things ($99, thanks nancoix!). And my mouth feels all tingly and clean! Thanks Metafilter!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:19 PM on November 8, 2005

ahem everyONE...
posted by blue_beetle at 9:20 PM on November 8, 2005

Jasondigitized, you'd probably want a windup toothbrush, hmm? Like this? (warning - LARGE html conversion of PDF, 100 pages)
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:09 AM on November 9, 2005

Sonicare. It's like there's a party in your mouth and everyone's invited.
posted by quiet at 9:16 AM on November 14, 2005

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