Study: Advantage Seen in Electric Toothbrushes

Better at Fighting Plaque, Gum Disease; Manual Brushes Still Good

April 19, 2005 - Certain types of electric toothbrushes may be better at fighting plaque and gum diseasefighting plaque and gum disease than manual toothbrushes, say British researchers.

Specifically, they're talking about electric toothbrusheselectric toothbrushes with bristles that rotate in one direction, and then the other -- rotational oscillating toothbrushes.

When used for three months, those electric toothbrushes removed plaque 11% more effectively than manual toothbrushes, a review of toothbrush studies shows. They also reduced gingivitis by 6% over manual toothbrushes. This represented a 17% reduction in bleeding of the gums.

The report appears in The Cochrane Library, which focuses on health care research.

Nothing Wrong With Manual Toothbrushes

You don't have to have a toothbrush that James Bond would love. You don't even need a powered brush of any kind. Manual models can do the same job, say Peter G. Robinson, PhD, and colleagues.

"There is overwhelming evidence that toothbrushing reduces gingivitis. It may prevent periodontitis [gum disease] and certainly prevents tooth decay if carried out in conjunction with fluoride toothpaste," the researchers write.

"These benefits occur whether the brush is manual or powered and the results of this review do not indicate that toothbrushing is only worthwhile with a powered toothbrush," they write.

Research Reviewed

Robinson's team reviewed 42 trials of various kinds of toothbrushes. The studies had a combined total of more than 3,800 participants.

Some of the reviewed trials were sponsored by companies that make electric toothbrushes, and others didn't specify their funding source. Commercial funding didn't seem to affect the results, says Robinson's report.

Longer studies are needed, says Robinson. Toothbrushing and oral health have been linked to lower risk of heart disease.linked to lower risk of heart disease. But the studies reviewed were too short to tell if electric toothbrush use had health benefits beyond plaque and gum disease.

Personal Preference Counts

Cost and reliability of toothbrushes weren't major topics in the reviewed studies. Manual toothbrushes are less expensive and don't have gears that could break.

Some people might prefer electric toothbrushes because they love gadgets or find it hard to use a manual toothbrush, says Robinson.

The American Dental Association recommends that people ask their dentists about what types of oral care products will be most effective for them.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Robinson, P. The Cochrane Library, April 2005. News release, Health Behavior News Service. American Dental Association, "Cleaning Your Teeth And Gums (Oral Hygiene)."
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