We are honored that we were recently asked to contribute to an expert roundup on the subject of whether electric brushes or manual brushes are the better options for one’s oral health. Like so much ‘news’ in these days which take the form of quick tidbits of information, we often find that such blog posts, while helpful, can often leave much information out of the story in order to appeal to the ‘Can I read it in less than 5 minutes’ internet mentality.
So, rather than just leave it with our ‘less than 50 words’ answer, we decided to give you our full discussion on the subject here! 🙂
Like many ‘one size fits all’ musings, this question ‘which is better, electric or manual brushes?’ leaves much out of the discussion. So let’s blow this question out and give it the attention it deserves.
We see several questions within this that need to be addressed, including:
If a person is looking to clean their teeth to lower the plaque (biofilm) which is implicated with tooth decay, what is the best method to accomplish this? For this application, is electric brushing or manual brushing more helpful? If electric, which brands/style of brush perform best? If manual, which brands/style/brushing technique perform best? And why? Where is the research that shows this benefit? What do clinicians report when it comes to electric or manual brushing and their relative benefits of reducing plaque? Given the plaque these clinicians find, did they take into consideration the foundational influence of what foods the patients consume on a regular basis and the relative plaque the clinicians find in the mouths of these patients?
What about brushing to reduce gum disease? For this application, is electric brushing or manual brushing more helpful? (same sequence of questions as above)
I’m sure each of us can add several related questions to this list pretty easily.
(Disclosure: We are not dentists. We are self-educated, have come to be recognized as experts in this field and simply share what has helped us along our path to greater oral health over the past 18 years.)
With all this on the table, let’s jump into what we consider being the primary question around this electric vs. manual question…
How you brush is more important than what you brush with.
How much conscious attention are you applying when brushing? In other words, while what you brush your teeth with is an important question, we consider how you brush a focus which will reap more benefit for you when looking to navigate to greater oral health than choosing this brush over that one.
We feel that the amount of awareness/attention that each of us pays while brushing is a much more important factor than whether we’re using a manual brush, electric brush, brushing stick (miswak), or whatever tool one chooses to use to navigate their path to greater oral health. After all, any tool we use in the mouth can help or harm given whether we are consciously applying that tool to help or mindlessly scrubbing away just to ‘get it done’ prior to rushing to get out the door. (Any tool in anyone’s hand is only as useful as the skill one has with that tool combined with the attention one applies while using the tool.)
We feel that our attention is the most precious resource we have. When we choose to give our attention to one task, this is the best way for us to get the most out of that activity we have undertaken. When applying our attention to creating positive change in our oral health, if we understand how each tool can best help us and apply conscious awareness to the task at hand, we can make the most progress to greater oral health by helping reduce plaque accumulation while stimulating gum tissue.
However, if we go about the twice daily habit with the same unconscious, uninvestigated vigor we did as 4-year-olds when we first learned how to brush our teeth, we will end up with reduced enamel on our teeth and receding gums like the rest of our culture. (Brushing the gum tissue unconsciously is a common contributing cause of gum recession.) You can read more about our take on how to brush to reduce gum disease here.
Therefore, the #1 step in this process is to bring more conscious attention to this daily habit. The goal here is to reestablish a habit of being conscious while brushing in place of the old habit of taking a mental vacation while scrubbing away.
Here’s an exercise that anyone who wants to bring more attention to their oral hygiene can do. It’s simple really. Have a date with your mouth! 🙂 What we mean is actually sit down somewhere comfortable and explore cleaning your teeth gently without a timer. After all, whoever said 2 minutes was the golden rule for brushing your teeth anyway?
To get to know your mouth like this, just set aside 5 minutes and gently brush your teeth until you can sweep your tongue over all the surfaces of your teeth and find no plaque. It may take you a few times stopping, feeling around, then going back in to get to that place where you feel zero plaque. Remember, bring conscious awareness to the task. We aren’t scrubbing away to get it done as quickly as we can (as much of the time this brings trouble years later in the form of receding gums). We are taking our time, brushing a little, feeling for more plaque, brushing more where it needs it. If you try this, we suggest you do so with no paste, just a moistened brush to keep ‘the date’ clean.
If you really want to take your oral health to the next level, here is what we consider the first step to dental self-empowerment! Warning! This exercise is not for the faint of heart! 🙂 Click through only if you want massive positive change in your oral health.
So, the next time you are brushing, notice how you are doing it. Are you gently yet thoroughly cleaning your teeth or are you mindlessly scrubbing away? In our next blog post (already written BTW, just want you to contemplate this one first 🙂 ) we will turn our attention to investigating different toothbrushes and their relative strengths and weaknesses to help us navigate the path to greater oral health.
What about you? What do you prefer when it comes to manual or electric toothbrushes and why? What have you found works for you? Please post your comments below so we can all learn from the successes of each other! 🙂
Here’s a link to part 2 of this series “Are electric or manual toothbrushes better for my oral health?”
Keep shining your Light! Show the world your SMILE!