If there’s one point that dental professionals all agree on, it’s this: Brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day, is the most effective step you can take for oral health.
This helps get rid of bacteria that causes plaque, a sticky, germy film that adheres to teeth. When plaque builds up, it can cause tooth decay as well as gum disease.
But ever since the advent of the electric toothbrush—battery-operated devices whose bristles vibrate or rotate rapidly—in the 1960s, debate has raged over whether powered or manual brushes do a better job at cleaning teeth. And whether one type is safer than another for your teeth and gums.
Despite the current glut of advertisements for electric, or powered, devices, manual brushes are still by far the most common. According to a recent report by Mintel, a consumer marketing analysis firm, only 36 percent of adults say that they use a powered toothbrush.
But powered brushes become more popular as both age and income increase. According to Mintel, almost half of people 55 and older with annual incomes of $75,000 or more prefer powered brushes to manual ones.
There are, of course, cost differences. You can buy a manual toothbrush for less than a dollar, and basic powered models—which run on replaceable batteries—can be had for less than $10. Those with rechargeable batteries (for which a single charge lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks) start as low as $20. But you can spend more than $250 for high-end “smart” powered toothbrushes that sync with an app on your phone, and offer recommendations on improving your brushing technique.
Which should you choose? Dental experts point out that each has its pros and cons, and that personal preferences and factors such as your age and general health might play a role in what kind of toothbrush is best for you.