Electric Toothbrush vs Manual Brush

So, here it is – the time to buy a new toothbrush. Oh, the dreaded dilemma- manual, electric, this brand, or that… so many to choose from, and all promising the best oral benefits.

We are all frightfully aware of the importance of good oral health, and of course we want to pick the best brush that will make that goal easier to achieve; but how do you choose?

The hardest choice when choosing a toothbrush is not brand, but rather, whether to shell out the money for an electric bush or just stick with your standard manual.

The truth is, both a manual and an electric brush have their benefits, and of course both will lead to better oral health.

However, you may find that an electric powered brush is well worth the extra investment; because they’re scientifically proven to remove more plaque, they clean teeth more efficiently and with less effort, come recommended by dental professionals, and improve overall oral health.


The battle of saved money is understandable, so we lay out the pros and cons of both manual and electric to help clarify your decision.

Our teeth and gums are at constant risk of decay, infection and degradation. That’s why maintaining good oral health is so important – and at the core of any oral hygiene routine is the toothbrush.

Of course, there’s always the age-old (okay, more like decades-old) question of whether an electric toothbrush is the superior choice.

Let’s see how the trusted manual toothbrush stacks up against the technologically advanced electric toothbrushes of today.


How Does a Toothbrush Work?

The manual, throw-away toothbrush we know today was first patented in 1857. But the toothbrush has a longer history than that, with the earliest word “toothbrush” mentioned in 1690.

And even further back in history, the very first toothbrush resembling the manual toothbrush of today was recorded thousands of years ago during the Tang Dynasty in China. The toothbrush at that time had a handle made from bone or bamboo, and hog hair was used for bristles.

The humble toothbrush has come a long way.


A toothbrush is a simple device, consisting of a handle, and a brush head, which holds in place a series of small, flexible bristles.

When the bristles move against your teeth and gums, plaque (a sticky bacterial film responsible for tooth decay and gum disease) and small food particles are dislodged and swept away.

It’s a simple, effective design that hasn’t changed much in hundreds of years.

The Case for Manual Toothbrushes

Manual brushes come in a vast array of shapes, colours and sizes, with soft, medium, and hard bristle choices, and even personalized handles with smooth or rubber grip for comfort.

There is literally a perfect brush for every individual. If you’re brushing for at least twice a day, for 2 minutes at a time, manual brushes do a great job at removing plaque and maintaining overall dental health.

Manual toothbrushes have a few good things going for them:

The Pro’s

  • They’re inexpensive. A decent manual brush can be had for just a few pounds.
  • They’re lightweight—easily transported in even the flimsiest of toiletry bags.
  • Manual toothbrushes are ubiquitous – if one gets lost or worn out, it’s easily replaced.
  • No batteries or electricity are required – a manual toothbrush can be used anywhere, any time.
  • A manual toothbrush, as the expression goes, gets the job done, sufficiently cleaning teeth and gums, so long as correct brushing technique is used.

Some Con’s

Brushing Technique: In order to properly remove plaque, prevent tooth decay and gum disease, proper brushing technique is a must. This requires brushing of all teeth and around the gum-line, for 2 minutes, twice daily; however manual brushes do not have a timer to ensure this is achieved.

Full Mouth Clean: Manual brush heads are generally larger than electric brush heads. This makes it more difficult for the brush head to reach every tooth, resulting in certain parts of teeth not being fully cleaned.

Self Powered: With a manual brush, the user must do all the work, resulting in a less powered job. Furthermore, the most adequate clean comes from a gentle circular motion, while most people hastily scrub their teeth.

Abrasive Technique: While using a manual brush, you’re not always aware or how hard you’re brushing, or how much pressure you’re applying. Over-brushing can cause damage and irritation to the teeth and gums.

Standard not Clinical: Some electric toothbrushes are recommended by dental professionals around the world because they produce a professional quality clean. A manual brush provides an adequate clean, but it does not provide the same clinical-grade clean that electric brushes promise.

Why an Electric Toothbrush is better – The Pro’s

Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with a manual toothbrush. Used correctly, it’s a valuable ally in the fight against tooth decay and gum disease.

But human innovation, and the need to evolve and improve brought us the electric toothbrush, which provides a number of distinct advantages or manual.

Superior Cleaning Performance

Sometimes, faster is better—and the advanced motors found in today’s electric toothbrushes move the brush heads far more quickly than even the fastest-handed manual brusher ever could.

In fact, an electric toothbrush can make up to 48,800 movements per minute. Compare that to a manual toothbrush, capable of delivering, at best, 600 movements per minute.

As a result, an electric toothbrush can remove (according to manufacturer’s claims) between one and three hundred percent more plaque.

Part of an electric toothbrush’s efficacy is due to fluid dynamics – a complicated-sounding term for how fluid surrounding the teeth actually breaks apart plaque when agitated by a rapidly moving brush head.

(Some studies – such as one undertaken by Proctor & Gamble, and research performed by the Cochrane Oral Health Group – show that electric toothbrushes provide a more modest performance advantage, though it is an advantage nonetheless.)

In addition, some electric toothbrushes—most notably those designed and manufactured by Oral-B—provide three types of cleaning action: Oscillation, rotation and pulsation.

Pulsation loosens plaque, while rotation and oscillation sweep plaque away.

It’s important to note that these three movements occur simultaneously—something simply not possible when using a manual toothbrush.

Sensors and Timers to Help Overcome Poor Brushing Technique

A surprising number of people brush their teeth incorrectly, applying too much pressure, or brushing for too short a length of time.

Such issues are easily overcome with an electric toothbrush—most feature integrated pressure sensors and timers, to protect both sensitive gum tissue and the toothbrush head against excess pressure, and to help people brush for a full, dentist-recommended two minutes.

The best electric toothbrushes utilize timers that remind the user to move to a new quadrant of their mouth after thirty seconds, ensuring that all teeth are thoroughly and evenly cleaned.

Brushing Modes and Changeable Heads Offer Greater Versatility

Both manual and electric toothbrushes do one thing—but what sets an electric toothbrush apart is the many ways in which it accomplishes its task.

Most electric toothbrushes feature between two and six brushing modes, from those appropriate for daily use, to modes for sensitive teeth, gum massage, deep cleaning, whitening and tongue cleaning.

These modes are determined primarily by the speed and frequency at which the brush head oscillates.

Maximizing the benefit of multiple brushing modes, changeable brush heads are designed with varying degrees of bristle density, shape, angle and arrangement, each variation tailored to a different task (i.e., whitening, polishing, gum cleaning, etc.).

And the unique bristle arrangements, in conjunction with the slender necks of the brush heads, allow an electric toothbrush to reach further between teeth and along the gumline than is possible with a manual toothbrush.

Changeable brush heads make it easy to keep your electric toothbrush performing at its best—indicator bristles fade when it’s time to replace the brush head.

And, being smaller than a standard disposable toothbrush, changeable brush heads result in less waste over time.

Recommended by Professionals


Dentists know teeth—as well they should, spending countless hours peering into people’s mouths!

Dental professionals wholeheartedly endorse the use of electric toothbrushes, for their performance, ease of use and versatility.

The British Dental Health Foundation—a not-for-profit charity that provides impartial and expert advice on all aspects of oral health—has this to say about electric toothbrushes:

They are especially useful if you have limited movement or find cleaning particularly difficult. These toothbrushes usually have heads which either rotate and oscillate, or pulsate… Power toothbrushes with rotating and oscillating heads have been proven to be the most effective. Many power toothbrushes have timers built in to help you brush for the correct amount of time.

Kid Friendly

Electric toothbrushes are better choice for children because they make brushing easier, more fun and more effective.

With a kids electric toothbrush the child doesn’t have to do all the work, the brush can help reach parts of their teeth they may otherwise miss with a manual brush, and the timer ensures they’re brushing for the full recommended 2 minutes.

child using an electric toothbrush

Children are also attracted to the bright colours, fun vibrations, and the fact that so many brands offer musical and fun activity options. The whole experience makes electric better!

Gum Health & Cleaning Modes

Electric toothbrushes are medically proven to improve gum health within the first month of use. The brush heads on electric brushes are intricately designed to clean along the gum line and all those other hard to reach areas within the mouth; helping to prevent decay, bad breath, and gingivitis.

A lot of electric brushes come equipped with multiple cleaning modes, such as gum health, sensitive, and shine, to promote an individualized, optimized clean.

Cons of Electric Toothbrushes

Wait, you mean there are drawbacks to using an electric toothbrush?

Well, yes – though they are few.

Foremost is upfront cost.

When a manual toothbrush can be had for a mere £2, a good-quality, high end electric toothbrush can seem eye-wateringly expensive.

You will need to replace your brush head every three months. Replacement electric brush heads can be considerably more expensive than replacing a manual toothbrush.

However, an electric toothbrush (and brush heads) is a solid investment in your health, and, properly taken care of, can provide years of service, paying for itself over the long term.

Cost aside, electric toothbrushes are just that—electric. If a battery or internal componentry fails, or you find yourself without access to electricity for weeks on end (thankfully, an unlikely scenario), an electric toothbrush won’t be of much use.

All said and done, however, the pros of an electric toothbrush far outweigh the cons.

Your First Electric Toothbrush: The Oral-B Pro 2500

If considering making the switch from a manual to an electric toothbrush, take a look at the Oral-B Pro 2500. At just a little over £30, it’s quite affordable—but its budget-friendliness doesn’t mean it skimps on important features.

oral-b pro 2500 power brush in box

Like other Oral-B electric toothbrushes, it oscillates, rotates and pulsates, providing superior cleaning action – and the integrated, illuminated pressure sensor and quadrant timer protect your gums and prolong the life of the brush head, while keeping your brushing on track.

Daily Clean and Gum Care modes are ideal for most users, providing excellent all-round cleaning performance, made all the better by the included CrossAction brush heads, whose bristles are set at an optimum 16-degree angle, allowing them to reach far between teeth, and sweep away stubborn plaque.

The long-lasting battery provides up to a week of brushings between charges, and the included travel case make it easy to protect and store the Pro 2500.

Bottom Line

To sum it up in a few words, any toothbrush is good—but as far as professional endorsement, versatility and performance are concerned, an electric toothbrush is best.