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Do Electric Toothbrushes Damage Teeth?

DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is the oral care specialist and dental consultant to the Brilliant and Baby Buddy oral care lines through Compac Industries. See terms below

Each electric toothbrush should include specific instructions created by the manufacturer. These instructions need to be followed for optimum results and safety. Not only can an electric toothbrush damage teeth if used incorrectly, so can a manual toothbrush, for that matter. Just like so many other areas in life, “operator error” accounts for a lot of mishaps, misfortunes, and negative side effects.

Electric toothbrush technology is an advancement in oral care that has elevated the effects of regular toothbrushing “exponentially” when used correctly. So in hindsight, the short answer is “ No”, electric toothbrushes don’t damage the teeth directly, but the more important explanation is “Yes”, they CAN damage the teeth, indirectly, when used incorrectly.

Electric toothbrushes can clean the teeth and gums in 2 ways.

Contact cleaning:

  • The mechanical force of the bristles being moved back and forth on a tooth’s surface. This is the most effective way of cleaning teeth

Non-Contact Cleaning:

  • The creation of ​“fluid dynamics”happens when an electric toothbrush motor produces higher frequency brush strokes and vibrations that emanate from the bristles. This action agitates the fluid surrounding the teeth and creates fluid dynamics that help to disrupt and destroy plaque and bacteria beyond where the bristles touch.



Types of Electric Toothbrushes

Rotating-Oscillating Electric toothbrushes-

  • Have small circular brush heads that rotate rapidly back and forth, like a windshield wiper to remove plaque. This brush type should only be used on one tooth at a time. You should not use long sweeping motions with this brush, as it renders it ineffective and can damage gum tissues when used incorrectly.

Sonic Electric toothbrushes-

  • Have rectangular brush heads and use vibration technology to loosen plaque and bacteria from the teeth and gums.
  • Come in a variety of frequencies. The frequency strength determines the brushing method and the “brush strokes per minute”.

Types of frequencies available

A high frequency sonic toothbrush

  • 30k-45k range, should be used by guiding it over the teeth. It’s so powerful that you don’t need to apply pressure or move the brush back and forth to remove plaque, it literally does the work for you. Greater caution is needed with these brushes, as they are easier to misuse and can cause tissue trauma or enamel wear.

A low frequency sonic toothbrush

  • Battery powered units, ranging from 10k- 20k range. While they are much less powerful, they still provide sonic vibrations, and are more tolerable, especially for sensitive mouthed individuals. Easier to use and adapt to.
  • These units require the regular brushing patterns most people are used to performing, brushing back and forth or in small circles. These are great introductory electric toothbrushes for kids because they create less tickle.



Change the brush head every 3 months for any model toothbrush

It’s easier to use an electric toothbrush head past its expiration time, for one reason – because they are more expensive to replace. You still want to change the head, at least every 3 months, and sooner if the bristles are worn. However if you are wearing your bristles down before a 3 month mark, you need to consider that you may be brushing too hard! 

Using too much pressure or none at all

Some people are just heavy-handed brushers. They do a great job scrubbing away the plaque on their teeth, along with scrubbing away their tooth enamel and gum tissue. This is extremely amplified if also using a powered electric toothbrush.

On the flip side is “not using any pressure”, and this really comes into play mostly for kids who get the brush in their mouth but end up doing very little “brushing” with it. This is why parent supervision is so important. The best tools are utterly useless if they are used incorrectly.

Too much pressure…

  • Damages teeth, brushing away tooth enamel and gum tissue.
  • Higher frequency electric toothbrushes only need to be gently driven around the teeth with little to no pressure applied. The frequency is so high and powerful, the brush literally does all the work for you.
  • Using excessive or inappropriately placed pressure with these types of models can rapidly recess gums and tooth enamel, leading to irreversible damage.

Not enough pressure…

  • Leaves behind plaque, bacteria, and food that will build up and weaken the tooth’s enamel causing cavities and gum disease .
  • Just because a toothbrush says it has a sonic motor, does not mean it is powerful or high frequency. Most battery powered units are low frequency and require regular pressure and more “driving” of the bristles around each tooth to effectively remove plaque and bacteria.
  • Battery powered units are great starters for kids. Introducing them to the vibrations and tickle of these units, prepares them for more powerful electric toothbrush units as they get older. 



Battery Powered Electric toothbrush for kids

Brilliant has the best electric toothbrush for kids to start out their electric toothbrushing experience. Designed with a gentle sonic motor that produces smooth sonic waves that reach more places than brushing alone. Characters like The Duck, Penguin, and Dinosaur Include:

  • A small comfort grip base, which makes holding the brush easy for toothbrush training.
  • Built in LED light makes brushing interactive and educational
  • 3 minute timer that auto shuts off when complete.




If you are unsure about what type of electric toothbrush you should be using, please consult with your dental professional first. Don’t ask your friend who works at a dental office but has never seen your teeth outside of your pretty smile. Get the professional advice from the person who knows your mouth, teeth, gums and history.

If you already struggle with gum recession, abfractions, or enamel wear, an electric toothbrush may not be the best fit for you and only someone who is actively caring for your oral health professionally can help guide you through that decision.

If you do feel confident in choosing an electric model to use, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions for brushing. Utilize all the bells and whistles that come with your unit, like pressure sensors, timers, app trackers, auto refill programs, and be sure to change the brush head every 3 months.



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This article is intended to provide an understanding of and knowledge about “oral health topics” as expressed through the perspective and experience of the author. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or counsel, including the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, an oral condition, illness or treatment of any listed or non listed situation above. By using this site, you signify your assent to our ​Terms and Conditions​. If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions, do not use this site.

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