Electric Toothbrushes: Getting Down To Basics

Electric Toothbrushes: Getting Down To Basics

A common misconception in regards to dental care is that the toothbrush you use doesn’t matter. In fact, the toothbrush you use plays a huge role in how healthy your teeth are.

Most people don't know the difference between a manual toothbrush and an electric one. Those who do have a hard time distinguishing which toothbrush they need.

Keep on reading to find out more information on electric toothbrushes and how they can positively affect your dental hygiene.

What Is An Electric Toothbrush

An electric toothbrush functions automatically to perform swift bristle motions that either move in a rotation or a back and forth fashion. It was an innovation of the original toothbrush- the manual toothbrush.

Head Of Sonic Electric Toothbrush

You can typically control the speed of the toothbrush, so it can move at sonic speeds or just below. The powerhouse behind the toothbrushes speed is its motor.

History Of The Electric Toothbrush

Before the electric toothbrush entered the market, manual toothbrushes were all people had available to them. The electric toothbrush was an improvement on the manual model since it provides a deeper cleaning and is easier to work with.

Back in 1954, Dr.Phillipe-Guy Woog from Switzerland was the first to invent the electric toothbrush, but it still required improvements. This version ran on live voltage, which is considered to be dangerous by many people nowadays.

The electric toothbrush was originally intended to be utilized by patients who have limited motor skills or by patients who wear braces. As you can tell, today those aren’t the only group of people who use this device.

It was around the 1960’s when General Electric invented the first portable electric toothbrush. This toothbrush ran on batteries, which was a step up from the original 1954 model. The toothbrush proved to be difficult to use since it was bulky in size and the battery life ran short.

Old Illustration Of Woman Holding Electric Toothbrush

None of the batteries were replaceable, so when the electric toothbrush stopped working you had to throw it out and buy a new one. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that a rechargeable electric toothbrush entered the market.

When technology and safety standards improved around the 1990's, the electric toothbrush needed to change its high voltage to a lower level. This made the device safer to use and forced companies to develop electric toothbrushes with rechargeable batteries.

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrush

The world of toothbrushes is vast, so you need to know the proper information to buy the toothbrush the suits your needs. Some people genetically have superior teeth, but for those who don’t, you need to take into consideration what tools give you the optimal outcome.

Studies have shown that when compared to a regular toothbrush, an electric toothbrush reduces dental plaque 21% more and reduces gingivitis 11% more after three months of consistent use. This means less receding gums, so fewer visits to the dentist.

Manual Toothbrushes: The Breakdown

Manual toothbrushes work splendidly if you’ve developed the proper technique as to how to brush your teeth. Without that technique, your teeth will suffer, which is a common problem amongst a majority of regular toothbrush users.



  • Inexpensive and readily replaceable
  • Variety of styles, heads, and bristles
  • Convenient for travel
  • No batteries or charging required
  • Requires specific physical movement
  • No timer
  • Doesn’t clean teeth efficiently

Electric Toothbrush: The Breakdown

Whenever you go to a dentist's office for deep teeth cleaning, your dentist only uses an electric toothbrush to complete the job. As technology progressed so did medical devices, so it shouldn't surprise you that electric toothbrushes function better than manual ones.

Electric toothbrushes perform more varied movements, which cleans spaces that you normally couldn't reach with a manual toothbrush. In fact, electric toothbrushes deliver around 48,000 movements per minute, while a regular toothbrush provides around 400 to 600 movements per minute.

What’s great about electric toothbrushes is that dentists opinions are always taken into account during the design process, so you know the device you use is of professional quality.



  • Incredibly easy to use
  • Requires less work, but delivers better results
  • Removes 100% more plaque than manual toothbrushes
  • Preferred by children
  • Comes with built-in timer
  • Ideal for people with arthritis
  • Charging required
  • Expensive
  • Less varied brush head and style options
  • Replacement parts are expensive as well
  • Fragile

How To Use An Electric Toothbrush

If you've never used an electric toothbrush before, don't worry. The process is easy and efficient, and by the end, you'll be wondering why you haven't made the switch sooner.

When using a rechargeable electric toothbrush, all you have to do is place some toothpaste on the brush head and hold the brush as you would a manual one. This means you should hold the electric toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.

Woman Using Electric Toothbrush

Next, you turn on the toothbrush and move it from tooth to tooth. You should make a path with your toothbrush that cleans the back surfaces, front surfaces, and chewing surfaces of your teeth.

It's recommended to spend two minutes brushing your teeth with an electric toothbrush, which is the same time spent using a regular toothbrush. When you're done brushing your teeth, you have to simply rinse the toothbrush head with water and let it air dry.

Different Types Of Electric Toothbrushes

There are two types of electric toothbrush models you can choose from. A differentiating feature between the two models relies on the type of action they each can perform. Below is a detailed look at both electric toothbrush models.

Vibration Electric Toothbrush

Vibration electric toothbrushes utilize sonic technology to make the brush vibrate at around 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute. The vibration causes a significant amount of motion and energy, which powers toothpaste, saliva, and water into hard to reach spaces between teeth and below your gumline.

These toothbrushes have brush heads shaped similarly to manual toothbrush heads, but its defining feature would be its vibrating motion. Even though regular toothbrushes have the same brush head, they can’t clean teeth as well as a vibrating electric toothbrush can.

Two Vibration Electric Toothbrush

When you turn on a vibrating electric toothbrush, it'll begin to vibrate side to side. You might feel a tingling sensation when you run the toothbrush along with your teeth, which means the bristles are cleaning areas where your typical toothbrush couldn't touch.

Rotation-Oscillation Electric Toothbrush

The electric toothbrush discussed above moves in a vibrating fashion, while an oscillating toothbrush moves in a rotating fashion. These toothbrushes turn in rapid speeds both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Oscillating toothbrushes perform anywhere from 1,300 to 7,000 stroke per minute, but this fact is entirely dependent on the toothbrush manufacturer. As you can tell, vibrating electric toothbrushes perform more strokes per minute, which is something to take into account.

These toothbrushes have smaller brush heads than your regular toothbrush and come in a round shape. With this toothbrush, you can target smaller spaces and effectively remove plaque to reduce tooth decay and other dental issues.

Speed Differences

The faster the speed, the more efficient your electric toothbrush will be at breaking up plaque, so look out for the number of pulsations, rotations and vibrations.

Standard Power Electric Toothbrush

Your standard power electric toothbrush is one that rotates rather than vibrates. This would be called a rotating oscillation electric toothbrush, which was mentioned above.

Li Ion Battery Electric Toothbrush

When compared to manual toothbrushes, the standard power electric toothbrush can move at a much higher speed since you’re not limited by your hand and wrist. These toothbrushes can perform around 1,300 to 7,000 strokes per minute, which is an improvement on a manual toothbrushes 300 to 600 strokes per minute.

Standard power electric toothbrushes have frequencies that range anywhere from 200 to 400 Hz. The higher the frequency, the more pulsing motion your toothbrush can achieve.

Electric toothbrushes that generate high frequencies emit a pulsing motion that removes plaque from places where their bristles don't even make contact. This is an added perk that not all standard power electric toothbrushes have.

Sonic Electric Toothbrush

Sonic electric toothbrushes run on sonic technology, which is synonymous with high vibrational speed. These toothbrushes generate higher level frequencies than you standard power electric toothbrush.

In fact, the maximum frequency this type of electric toothbrush can emit is around 20,000 Hz. This high frequency explains how sonic electric toothbrushes perform such high vibrational speeds.

Sonic brushes utilize a side to side motion rather than a rotational one and move at speeds ten times that of a standard power electric toothbrush. In fact, sonic electric toothbrushes can perform about 31,000 strokes per minute, which is the highest amount out of any electric toothbrush.

Sonic Electric Toothbrush

The high-speed vibrations cause a wave movement, so when your brush head makes contact with your teeth, it can target areas that are 1/8 inches away. This means your toothbrush has a wider cleaning range, which comes in handy for hard to reach places between bridge work, teeth, and along the gumline.

Sonic electric toothbrush's advanced speed technology creates pressure on bubbles and liquids found in your mouth. This can be anything from saliva to toothpaste. The additional pressure varies the fluid's dynamics, so it reaches further surfaces of your mouth than a manual brush can.

Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush

For those who want a stronger version of the sonic electric toothbrush, the ultrasonic electric toothbrush will meet your expectations.

Ultrasonic electric toothbrushes emit a wave of 20,000 Hz, which translates to about 2,400,000 strokes per minute. This toothbrush performs significantly more strokes per minute than any other electric toothbrush available.

There is a dividing feature between sonic electric toothbrushes and ultrasonic ones, and that would be their varying amplitude.

Sonic toothbrushes have a high amplitude, which accounts for its sweeping motion that makes it difficult to remove a chain of bacteria. Ultrasonic toothbrushes have high-frequency waves but low amplitudes, so it effectively targets bacterial chains found in your mouth. These bacterial chains are responsible for plaque build-up.

Powering Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush

Ultrasonic electric toothbrushes emit vibrations that can work as far as five millimeters below your gumline. These are areas in your mouth that contain the most bacteria and don't experience any cleaning when you use a manual toothbrush.

Ultimately, an ultrasonic toothbrush can simply clean all areas of your teeth by just resting the brush on it.

For those who are torn between a sonic toothbrush and an ultrasonic toothbrush, there are ultrasonic toothbrushes that come with sonic technology features. This means you can make an ultrasonic toothbrush work at sonic toothbrush levels, so you get two electric toothbrushes for the price of one.

Electric Toothbrush Specs

A variety of features ensure that you brush each section of your teeth for the right amount of time and apply the correct amount of pressure.


Typically, all electric toothbrushes have similarly sized bodies, but have brush heads that vary in size. Your standard electric toothbrush will have a height of at least seven inches, which is suitable for both adults and children.

Power Source

The energy source fueling an electric toothbrush depends on the toothbrush model. Most popular electric toothbrushes run on lithium ion batteries since they last longer and don't age as quickly as other batteries. In fact, batteries are also a safer option as a power source.

Li Ion Battery Cell On Grey Background

Also available are rechargeable electric toothbrushes. All you have to do is plug in the toothbrush's battery compartment, and the charge level indicator lights will alert you when the device is fully charged.

If you recharge an electric toothbrush every night, you run the risk of damaging its battery, which negatively affects performance quality.

There are also electric toothbrushes that run on voltage and come with a power cord. These are not as popular and are considered hazardous to use. Your best option would be an electric toothbrush that runs on batteries.

Brush Head Type

You can divide electric toothbrushes based on their brush heads, so brush heads are electric toothbrushes defining characteristic. There are two types of brush heads which are rotating or vibrating.

Rotating brush heads have a small circular shape that rotates to clean one tooth at a time deeply. These brush heads are smaller than those on your standard manual toothbrush, so you can clean specific areas of your teeth that you normally couldn't reach.

Vibrating brush heads have a conventional shape that looks similar to the brush head of a manual toothbrush. Rather than rotate, these brush heads move in a side-to-side motion at extremely high speeds.

Different Tootbrush Heads

Vibrating brush heads are scientifically proven to remove larger amounts of plaque than a rotating brush head, but both provide better teeth cleaning results than a manual toothbrush.

Timer Option

Dental experts agree that a majority of people don’t spend the necessary time cleaning their teeth. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth for two minutes or longer if you want to keep your gums and teeth healthy.

High-grade electric toothbrushes will automatically brush for a full two minutes and then stop once the two minutes are up. You don’t have to set a time or even think about how long you need to brush your teeth because an electric toothbrush will take care of that for you.

Some electric toothbrushes also have an interval timer that pulses every 30 seconds to alert you about when you need to move on to brush another section of your mouth. This 30-second alert system ensures you clean every quarter of your mouth evenly.

Not all electric toothbrushes have an automatic brushing timer, so make sure the one you buy comes with this feature.

Preasure Sensor Option

You know you have bad teeth cleaning technique when you apply too much pressure on your teeth while you brush them. Thankfully, some electric toothbrushes come with a pressure sensor that beeps to warn you when you're applying high levels of pressure on your teeth.

Electric Toothbrush Pressure Sensor

In fact, some electric toothbrush models will even stop pulsing when they sense too much pressure. For those with sensitive teeth, this feature will make brushing your teeth an enjoyable experience.

Iluminated Display

Almost all electric toothbrushes come with an illuminated display that indicates distinct modes that the toothbrush can perform. Most electric toothbrushes offer various unique cleaning modes that suit your teeth cleaning needs for that day.

Whether you have sensitive teeth or just want to whiten them, there's a cleaning mode that performs that particular task. More importantly, you choose the desired mode via the illuminated display. When you turn the device off, the display will disappear until you turn it back on.

Noteworthy Manufacturers

So what are the best toothbrush brands? Users looking for a new toothbrush will want to research a variety of different brands to find the one that best suits their needs, based on make, texture and effectiveness.


Oral-B is internationally known to be a leader in the dental care market. The company has been around since the 1980's but has merged with other companies since to solidify itself as a dental care leader.

Oral B Electric Toothbrush

Today, Oral-B manufactures both manual and electric toothbrushes for adults and children. A majority of dentists use Oral-B toothbrushes and recommend the same to their patients. Other Oral-B dental accessories include dental floss and other interdental products.


Braun is now under the Oral-B brand and manufactures the same type of electric toothbrush. The company also makes grooming products as well as beauty care essentials.

Braun partnered with Oral-B around the 1990’s to create a massive dental care manufacturer that now is one of the largest oral care manufacturers in the world. Both Braun and Oral-B products are made the same and pertain to the same designs.


When it comes to sonic electric toothbrushes, Philips is the manufacturer to trust. Philips has won awards for its electric toothbrush design, which means their devices are of professional dental quality.

Other than selling products related to dental care, Philips is a leader in applying advancements made in technology to home appliances that can make your life easier. This means Philips manufactures all types of products such as razors, kitchen appliances, and beauty tools as well.


If you take a look in your bathroom, you may already have some Colgate products. You can find Colgate products at any drugstore, and they are typically reasonably priced. Colgate specializes in dental products since they have entire lines of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and mouthwash.

Colgate Electric Toothbrush In Bathroom

Colgate initially started as a local soap and candle business in New York City around the early 19th century. Over 200 years later, Colgate became an international company that serves millions of consumers needs for dental care.

Maintenance And Cleaning

Everyone who buys an electric toothbrush wants to get the most mileage possible out of the brush, while still using it in a safe, healthy way.

How Often Do You Need To Replace The Electric Toothbrush Head

For those who have a manual toothbrush, the American Dental Association recommends changing your toothbrush once every four months. The same logic applies to your electric toothbrush head since dentists recommend replacing the brush head once every three months.

How Does An Electric Toothbrush Get Dirty

Typically after someone brushes their teeth, they leave the electric toothbrush to stand on its designated platform. The toothpaste and other remnants from your last brushing session roll down to the base of the electric toothbrush.

As a result, the toothbrush's base develops a dark, slimy texture, which is accumulated water, bacteria, and toothpaste scum. If you never dry your toothbrush after every use, water will continue to drip down and allow mold and bacteria to grow.

How To Take Care Of An Electric Toothbrush

You’ll be paying a lot of money for an electric toothbrush, so it’s important you take good care of it. There are several ways you can clean an electric toothbrush, and you can try all of them till you find a cleaning method that best suits you.

Man Cleaning Electric Toothbrush

Denture Tablets

You can buy denture tablets at any drugstore, and they won't cost you much money. All you have to do is place the brush upside down in a cup filled with warm water. Once the brush is in the cup, add one to two denture tablets. The more tablets you add, the more thorough the cleaning.

You can leave your brush sitting in the cup overnight, and when you wake up in the morning, you can rinse it.

Dentists recommend towel drying your electric toothbrush after every use, so water doesn’t build-up to create an environment full of bacteria.

Hydrogen Peroxide

The electric toothbrush you buy will most likely come with removable brushes that unclip for easy cleaning. This feature also comes in handy after three months pass by and you need to replace your brush head.

Once a week, dentists recommend unclipping the brush head and soaking it in a solution of hydrogen peroxide. Make sure the hydrogen peroxide you use is labeled to be 3% because anything stronger will cause damage to the electric toothbrush head.


Maintaining proper dental hygiene is essential to having a fully healthy body. The more you take care of your teeth, the less you have to spend on dental visits. Hopefully, after you're done with the reading, you'll start using an electric toothbrush to give your teeth the deep cleaning they deserve.

Woman Washing Teeths

If you want a more detailed look on certain electric toothbrushes, you should consider reading our buying guide. It’ll give you the rundown on certain electric toothbrushes as well as go into more detail about electric toothbrushes in general.

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