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The biggest decision you used to make when buying a toothbrush was soft, medium, or hard bristles. Now there are dozens of types, from simple toothbrushes to pricier electric versions.

Are power brushes worth the extra cash? Here’s the buzz.

Manual vs. Electric

Regular toothbrushes get the job done when you use them the right way, says Kimberly Harms, DDS. The problem is that many of us don’t use them for the recommended 2 minutes or get to every tooth.

That’s when a little extra power may come in handy.

An electric toothbrush can cover a larger area faster, so you clean more surfaces in the same amount of time. When you brush by hand, you make about 300 strokes per minute. Compare that to the thousands -- in some cases tens of thousands -- of strokes per minute a power one makes.


Power toothbrushes are better at cleaning your teeth than manual ones. One recent studyshowed people who used them had less plaque and gum disease.

“Electric toothbrushes are helpful for certain people, such as those who have trouble using their hands,” says Eugene Antenucci, DDS, a clinical assistant professor at New York University College of Dentistry.

Other people they benefit include:

Children: Kids may think that electric ones are more fun and easier to use.

People with braces: They can clean in and around the metal parts.

Lazy brushers: If your dentist finds you’re not removing enough plaque with a manual toothbrush, he may suggest an electronic one. 


The main drawback is the cost. Regular toothbrushes usually cost a few dollars, while you can spend up to $100 or more on an electric one. Brush heads for power gadgets need to be replaced as often as old-school brushes, too. The extra expense can add up.

“They may also lead to a false sense of accomplishment,” Antenucci says. “You may feel like you’re brushing better because you spent $60 on an electric toothbrush, even though you’re not.”

The power ones are also bigger and bulkier, which makes them harder to stash in your purse or suitcase.