Take a walk down the toothbrush aisle of any store, and you may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices on display. Sensitive toothpaste, whitening toothpaste, alcohol or alcohol-free mouthwash, manual or electric toothbrush…no one could blame you for simply grabbing the first item you see! When it comes to toothbrushes, however, electric might have a slight edge over manual for patients undergoing orthodontic treatment.

Good oral hygiene can sometimes be a challenge for orthodontic patients in braces because food can be easily trapped around the brackets and under the archwires. In a study comparing electric toothbrushes with manual toothbrushes, the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics found that there was significantly greater plaque removal with an electric brush over a manual brush.

At Coppe + Sears, we want every patient we see to achieve success with their orthodontic treatment, resulting in a beautifully healthy smile. Many of our patients clean their teeth perfectly with a manual toothbrush, however some really benefit from using an electric toothbrush. If you wear braces and use a regular toothbrush in your daily dental hygiene routine, keep reading to find out how an electric toothbrush may be a better choice for you in the long run.

The basics of brushing

Pair of toothbrushes

Before we get into a discussion about the merits of electric brushes over manual brushes, let’s take a quick look at the basics of brushing your teeth while wearing braces. To get the best results from your dental hygiene routine, you should be:

  • using fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles
  • brushing at least three times per day, after breakfast and dinner as well as after getting home from school
  • brushing gently at a 45-degree angle toward the gumline and around the top and bottom of the braces, moving the toothbrush in a small circular motion across all surfaces of the teeth in order to effectively remove bacteria, as well as any trapped food particles
  • replacing your toothbrush or brush head every 3-4 months, or sooner if it shows signs of wear, or if you have a cold or any other illness
  • making it a point to look for clean and shiny braces, with the edge of the brackets clearly visible, as fuzzy-or dull-looking metal can indicate poor brushing habits
  • flossing at least once per day to remove bacteria and any food that has accumulated, taking advantage of tools like floss threaders and waterpiks if you are having difficulty getting into the tighter spaces
  • using antimicrobial and fluoride mouthwashes such as ACT mouthrinse

Daily brushing and flossing help to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath, whether it is done with a manual toothbrush or an electric one. In many ways, brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush is very similar to brushing with a plain one, but there are quite a few ways using an electric toothbrush can help you get a little extra out of your oral hygiene routine.

What gives electric toothbrushes an advantage?

Multiple studies have shown that electric toothbrushes remove significantly more plaque and do a better overall job of cleaning than manual brushes. In fact, the top models on the market may remove up to 2x more total plaque. What is it about these brushes that gives them an edge over manual toothbrushes for patients in braces?

Deeper and more effective cleaning – Electric toothbrushes are designed to drive fluids between the teeth, providing the best efficiency in cleaning possible. The brackets and wires used in braces treatment create many nooks and crannies that are hard to reach, and these brushes are often able to get to all of them. Most models also produce thousands of movements per minute, which is impossible to achieve with any manual toothbrush.

Cleaning modes – Many electric toothbrushes have customized cleaning modes that are designed specifically for a certain purpose. There are sensitive modes for sensitive teeth, whitening and polishing modes for the removal of stains, tongue cleaning modes, and more.

Less room for error – You may be surprised by how many people don’t brush their teeth in the correct manner, though cavities and gum damage can often be avoided just by cleaning our mouth the right way. The timers, sensors, and modes of electric toothbrushes can take much of the guesswork out of it, making the most of each brushing session.

Brushing timers – Most electric toothbrushes have a built-in 2 minute timer that alerts the patient when it is time to stop brushing. Many kids (and adults!) who use a manual toothbrush use it for just a few seconds and think that the full 2 minutes has passed. A timer helps patients brush for the full recommended times.

Choosing an electric toothbrush

Just like manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes come in a variety of types and offer many different features. If you are not sure which type would work best for your particular case, Drs. Coppe, Sears, and Karapetian are happy to make a recommendation to help you make the best decision.

Electric toothbrushes generally come in two types: battery-powered and rechargeable. Both offer certain advantages and disadvantages that are worth considering before choosing one.

Battery-powered toothbrushes

These brushes will normally run on an AA or AAA battery. They are handheld and work similarly to a manual toothbrush as far as technique is concerned. The difference lies in the brush head, which has bristles that spin or pulsate, putting extra power behind your brushing. This model may still require a brushing motion, since the power is only meant to enhance its cleaning ability. Many models have replaceable brush heads that you can change out when they wear down, while keeping the same battery-powered base. Of the two, battery-powered toothbrushes are the least expensive option, though you will need to be sure you replace the batteries as soon as they run out. If you leave dead batteries in your toothbrush, the acid could leak, ruining your toothbrush.

Rechargeable toothbrushes

These brushes generally recharge in a base that plugs into a wall outlet, so there is no need to replace batteries. Rechargeable brushes will often offer more high-tech options, such as timers, pressure sensors, and replacement reminders. They may also have a variety of brushing options, like oscillation or vibration. The electric power of these brushes provides all the brushing you need, so you will normally only have to guide the brush across your teeth. These extra bells and whistles do come at a price, and these types of electric toothbrushes will normally be significantly more expensive than battery-powered and manual brushes.

Electric toothbrush features  

Both types of electric brushes offer different features. By weighing your options and deciding what you consider essential to your routine, you will be able to pick the best toothbrush for you. Some of the more common features you are likely to find on various electric brushes are:

Timers – Some electric brushes include timers that will let you know how long you have been brushing. This is useful if you have trouble keeping track of time or brushing long enough. There are some especially sophisticated timers that will even keep track of how long you are meant to brush in each quadrant of your mouth!

Pressure sensors – Some rechargeable brushes include a sensor that tracks your pressure and lets you know if you are brushing too hard. This is a helpful feature for anyone suffering from sensitive teeth or weak enamel.

Multiple brush head compatibility – Most electric toothbrushes have detachable brush heads. This allows you to replace the brush when the bristles wear out, but keep the electric base. Some bases will only fit one type of brush head, but others are compatible with multiple types, giving you more variety to choose from if you have a preference for softer or firmer bristles.

Different brush settings – There are brushes that offer multiple settings for more variety. Some different settings include rotary (the head rotates only in one direction), counter-rotational (the head rotates in various directions), rotating-oscillating (different lengths of bristles rotate in opposite directions), and oscillating-pulsating (in addition to the oscillatory motion, there is an added pulsating motion to further enhance cleaning.)

Discovering your best smile with Coppe + Sears

Coppe + Sears Team

Whether you choose an electric toothbrush or stick with a manual one, always look for one that is approved by the American Dental Association. Brushes with the ADA seal have been studied and tested for safety and effectiveness, and are guaranteed to perform as promised. It is also wise to replace any toothbrush or brush head more often when you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. Braces are tough on bristles and can wear them out more quickly.

Whatever your preference, Coppe + Sears is here to help support you as you work towards a more healthy smile. Drs. Coppe, Sears, and Karapetian are happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you ever have, or simply provide extra encouragement if needed. Your smile is always a priority with us!