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Ordinary vs. Powered Toothbrushes

Stroke of Genius?
By
WebMD Feature

Nine-year-old Nicholas Racobaldo doesn't remember what it's like to clean his teeth with an ordinary toothbrush. For two years, he's been using an electrically charged gadget with high-speed, rotating bristles.

"I like it because it tickles," he says, and imagines that now a regular toothbrush would feel "yucky" in his mouth.

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Nicholas isn't the only kid who prefers the powered devices.

Eileen Hermiston, RDH, a pediatric dental hygienist at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, says many of her patients think the high-tech brushes are fun.

"It can be a big power struggle getting children to brush their teeth," she notes. "If you can inspire enthusiasm in children with power toothbrushes, daily tooth brushing becomes easier."

If the increased amount of space taken up on store shelves is any indication, the electric brushes are growing in popularity. Some of them are kid-friendly: The toothbrush handle may take on the shape of a racing car or a mermaid or a cell phone, and its color may resemble army camouflage.

Many patients are now asking their dentists about these mechanical tools so much that the American Dental Association (ADA) has issued several news releases on the matter.

The organization says manual toothbrushes can be just as effective as powered ones. The key to preventing tooth decay, say experts, lies in the way a toothbrush -- electric or otherwise -- is used.

"If you are a wonderful brusher and a wonderful flosser ... then the manual toothbrushes are just great," says Kimberly Harms, DDS, an ADA consumer advisor who is also a dentist in Farmington, Minn. However, she says powered devices can help people who have trouble physically moving their brushes around their mouth to clean all teeth surfaces. These may include anyone with a motor disability or arthritis.

More Power Per Dollar?

There was a time when toothbrushes were considered luxury items.

According to the ADA, wealthy Europeans in the Middle Ages used twigs made of sweet-smelling wood to clean their teeth. Then, in 1498, the emperor of China developed a device with hog bristles placed in a bone handle. This type of toothbrush became so popular that in Europe even the common folk used it. The price of hog bristles was so steep, however, that a whole family would share the same toothbrush to cut costs.

Today the cost of a powered toothbrush can be more than triple that of a manual one. Modern society's obsession with cleanliness, however, has generally made it unacceptable to share toothbrushes.

Thirty-year-old Kevin Wong doesn't even like the idea of his electronic toothbrush falling on the floor and getting dirty. He says he worries about that happening since he finds it difficult to find a slot in his regular toothbrush holder for the small brush head, which detaches from the more bulky handle.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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