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The toothbrush as we know it hasn’t changed much since the 1930s -- with one exception. In the 1960s, the first electric models hit the market at a higher price. And for 50 years, people have been wondering if they’re worth the extra bucks.

The short answer: Probably so, since research shows 90% of us don’t use proper brushing technique.

Benefits of Power Toothbrushes

We don’t always hit every tooth or brush long enough. That’s where the power assist comes into play. When you brush by hand, you make about 300 strokes per minute. Electric brushes rotate 3,000 to 7,500 times a minute. Sonic brushes make 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute.

While manual and power brushes offer about the same level of effectiveness, sonic models result in less plaque and fewer bouts of gingivitis, a Cochrane Oral Health Groupstudy shows.

“Power brushes can be very helpful for children, the elderly, or anyone with trouble using their hands,” says Kimberly Harms, DDS. She's a Minnesota-based dentist who’s also a consumer advisor to the American Dental Association. “They may also be a good option if you are helping someone brush their teeth."

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

So, what’s the bottom line?

You pay as much or as little as you’d like for one of these devices. A manual toothbrush should cost in the single digits, depending on where you live. The battery-operated ones start as low as $5 and can go up to $25. A rechargeable model sells for about $200. A sonic system will set you back about $100.

These days oral care has gone digital -- you can find brushes with apps that sync with your smartphone and track your brushing habits for around $150. Want something to listen to while you brush? The free app, Brush DJ, plays 2 minutes of music from your iPhone or Android to make sure you brush long enough. It also provides oral care tips.

“Anything that helps you get that stuff off your teeth every day is wonderful,” Harms says. “I’m excited to see these things developing. I hope my grandchildren can grow up in an era where they never have a cavity.”