Even Consumer Reports seems less than fully committal, saying that a “good soft-bristled manual toothbrush” is good enough – presuming “you take the time and effort” – but that powered brushes can be helpful.
But they can also be pricey – up to nearly $150 pricey. CR sounds a little skeptical as to whether any of them are worth the extra cost.
Yet increasingly, the science suggests otherwise. According to the latest Cochrane Review on the matter, there is moderate quality evidence that powered toothbrushes are better than manual at reducing both plaque and gum disease.
There was an 11% reduction in plaque at one to three months of use, and a 21% reduction in plaque when assessed after three months of use. For gingivitis, there was a 6% reduction at one to three months of use and an 11% reduction when assessed after three months of use.
Most of the 56 trials reviewed by the authors focused specifically on oscillating brushes. These brushes work by rotating extremely fast – many thousands of times per minute.
While this can help ensure more thorough cleaning, it’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world for some people. The vibration and noise can be bothersome, and electric brushes aren’t exactly the greatest for cleaning the tongue. Angling the brush can be a challenge, too, especially when cleaning the inner arches.
Ultimately, successful brushing is less about the kind of brush you use and more about how you use it.
While a powered toothbrush can give some extra oomph to your cleaning, it can’t do all the work. You still need to angle and control the brush properly, guiding it over both upper and lower, inner and outer arches; over both the chewing surfaces and sides of your teeth, and gently along the gum line.
And no brush – powered or manual – can thoroughly clean between your teeth.
In other words, yes, you still need to floss.
Image by K J Payne