Manual vs Electric Toothbrush? Which is better for my child? 

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It's February 2021 already!  And here in Texas, we are experiencing unprecedented below-freezing temperatures!   I hope you are all staying safe and warm during this crazy winter!

The month of February is also celebrated as National Children's Dental Health Month! So in the spirit of this, I want to review one of the basics of oral health :  the tool of the TOOTHBRUSH.  

Here are some common questions/points:  

  1. Many parents ask me:  "Which is better  - the manual toothbrush or the electric toothbrush?"  

The short answer is:  The best toothbrush for your child, is the one they will actually use!"  

The logic is, if your child is doesn't like the vibration of the electric toothbrush, then its better that they use the Manual Toothbrush with the correct technique, than pretending to use the electric toothbrush.  

Remember that the END GOAL of brushing their teeth is simply:  to remove plaque (food and bacteria) off their teeth after meals.  This can be done adequately with both a Manual and Electric Toothbrush.

2.   Is it safe for my toddler to use the electric toothbrush?

Being a pediatric dentist, I typically see children in my office as early as 1 year old, so I often get the question "Is it safe for my child to use the electric toothbrush?" and "When do I transition my child to an Electric Toothbrush?"

In babies/ toddlers, it is generally not safe to use the Electric Toothbrush because children at this age tend to move a lot.  If you introduced a vibrating toothbrush into their mouth, and they jerk their head, the toothbrush head can cause damage to their cheeks, jaws or throat.  

Generally, for kids 3 years old and younger, I prefer to use a child-appropriate sized Manual Toothbrush (soft bristles) and the correct technique to brush their teeth (see below).  

3.   What is the best technique to brush with a Manual Toothbrush?  

  • Position of the Toothbrush:   Angle the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle, with bristles resting against the gum-line (where the tooth meets the gums) 
  • Brush in small circles, sweeping the toothbrush bristles along the gum-line and teeth, moving from tooth -to-tooth 
  • Brush all surfaces of the teeth: outside (surface that faces the lips/cheeks), chewing surfaces, and the inside (surface that faces the tongue)

4.  If your child is old enough to be okay with both a manual and electric toothbrush, then there is a better choice:  the Electric Toothbrush!

Studies have proven that Electric Toothbrushes remove 11% more plaque between 1-3 months of use, and 21% more plaque after 3 months of use, compared to using a Manual toothbrush.  These are also easier to use because the technique is more simple - place the bristles on the teeth and slowly glide across all surfaces of the teeth!  The rotating action or the vibrating action of the Electric Toothbrush should remove the plaque for you. 

However, not all electric toothbrushes are created the same!  Some are battery-operated, others are rechargeable; some have rotating brush-heads, others have sonic vibrations that oscillate. It can all be quite confusing!  However, going back to Point #1 - choose the Electric Toothbrush that your child will use! 

Practically-speaking, I have noticed that the smaller the Electric Toothbrush Head, the more compliance from kids.  I don't mean the Toothbrush Handle, but look closely at the Toothbrush Head itself when comparing brands  (See Image Below).  The smaller toothbrush heads are also great for those with a sensitive gag reflex.  

Generally, I find that some 4 year olds will allow introduction of an Electric Toothbrush. Again, their first one should have as small a toothbrush head a possible.  Also, slowly introduce the new toothbrush to them!  Maybe, set the weekends as "Electric Toothbrush Days", and weekdays as "Manual Toothbrush Days". That way, its not so much change all at once.   

If you are in the North Dallas area and have any questions, please feel free to reach out at [email protected] or 469-277-1787!  

Thank you for reading and stay safe and warm!

Dr. Karrie

How to choose an electric toot

Parts of an electric toothbrush

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.