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Elizabeth Turkenkopf has been using an electric toothbrush for more than seven years, and has been impressed with the results -- cleaner teeth and minimal plaque build-up, which translates into less scraping at her regular dental check-ups.

She hasn’t had a cavity since she made the switch from a hand-powered toothbrush, and her gums are in good shape. Although she can’t say for sure her pristine oral health is the result of her electric toothbrush, she’s not messing with success.

It’s your technique -- not the toothbrush -- that makes the difference. It’s really a matter of preference. And, of course, no matter what brush you use, you still need to floss properly, use a mouth rinse each day, and see your dentist every 6 months. 

“Power toothbrushes have come a long way,” says Terrence Griffin, DMD, an associate professor and chair of the department of periodontology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston.

Your personality, your teeth, or your affinity with technologies may make one type more appealing to you.

Power Toothbrushes: Electric and Sonic

Electric toothbrushes were first introduced in the U.S. in 1960 by a company called Squibb, and marketed under the name Broxodent. Today, there are dozens of different brands available, with a myriad of features, including re-chargeable batteries, compact designs, and bristles built for optimal cleaning.

The two main types of power toothbrushes are electric and sonic -- the difference between the two really comes down to numbers.

Electric Toothbrushes: With 3,000 to 7,500 rotating motions a minute, electric toothbrushes are powered to replicate the motion of your hand -- doing the muscle work for you. The bristles on these toothbrushes either rotate or move back and forth to help remove plaque and reduce gingivitis.

Sonic Toothbrushes: Offering 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute, sonic toothbrushes rotate in a back and forth vibrating motion. The rapid motion is the sonic toothbrushes' claim to fame. But ultimately, it also aims to remove plaque and keep teeth and gums healthy and clean.

For a little bit of perspective, the old-fashioned way of brushing your teeth rings in about 300 strokes per minute -- if you brush properly. So over the two-minute recommended brushing time, your teeth are hit with 600 strokes … a far cry form the thousands you might get with the high-tech variety.

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