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Electric Toothbrush vs. Manual Toothbrush: Which Is Better?

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.

So which is better, an electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush? I wish I had a dollar for every time I have been asked that question. It’s a popular question! So here’s the answer… they’re both better… it just depends on who you are and what oral care needs you have.

Electric Toothbrushes

What is an electric toothbrush?

An electric toothbrush is one that is powered by a rechargeable base unit that needs a power outlet source. Battery powered toothbrushes are often called electric toothbrushes, however, they are not very powerful and add just enough vibration to add a little extra cleaning action. Chargeable electric toothbrushes are far superior to battery powered toothbrushes when it comes to power, but they also cost a lot more too.

These 2 types of toothbrushes range greatly from very gentle battery-powered units that provide just a little bit more momentum than what you can do on your own with a manual toothbrush, to more powerful units that have brush stroke frequencies in the 30,000 to 50,000 “brush strokes per minute” range! That’s a pretty big difference and each type on the spectrum can be used by different types of people for different reasons.


Battery powered brushes for kids and adults– Very low vibrations and power

Rechargeable electric brushes– Higher vibrations 20,000-50,000 brush strokes per minute

  • Oscillating/Pulsating/Rotary motion electric brushes
  • Sonic motor electric toothbrushes
  • Supersonic motor electric brushes
  • Complete Rotating electric brushes
  • Quad pacing electric brush

I bet you had no idea there were so many choices for electric toothbrushes! So now that you know all the choices you have, we can review some of the pros and cons of electric toothbrushes.


  • More brush strokes per minute
  • Removes more plaque when used correctly
  • Includes timers, LED lights, and sensors. All the bells and whistles!
  • Programs that auto ship refill parts
  • Wider-based handles for those with grip or dexterity issues
  • Keeps people engaged and accountable
  • Downloadable apps track habits and routines


  • Easier to use incorrectly
  • Not as travel friendly
  • Requires equipment, charging stations and cords
  • More expensive to purchase and to replace refill brush heads
  • Takes getting used to and not everyone likes the way they feel
  • Can cause a sensory response in sensitive individuals
  • Takes up more counterspace

I think for the most part, electric toothbrushes are amazing and almost everyone should use one at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, there is not a baby electric toothbrush, and I would not recommend using one on a baby either. If they are younger than 3 years old, they are too young for an electric toothbrush.

Manual toothbrush

What is a manual toothbrush?

A manual toothbrush is a hand held unit. It’s the one that everyone has been exposed to in their life, in some way, shape or form. In fact, some of the first manual toothbrushes were made from animal hair for the bristles and bone or bamboo as the handle. There were also designs made using twigs and sticks with frayed ends. It’s quite fascinating actually to see some of the early oral care artifacts that have been discovered in excavation.

I’m sure glad we’ve advanced in our design capability, but I appreciate the inventiveness of earlier civilizations and the discernment they practiced in realizing the benefits of finding something effective to remove the junk off their teeth with. Manual toothbrushes are the best “first toothbrushing tool” for everyone.

Sizes and Shapes

Manual toothbrushes come in different shapes and sizes, and are readily available at stores and even gas stations. I always have an extra manual toothbrush in a closed and ventilated case that I carry with me in my purse, just in case, because I’m just extra like that!

It travels easy, is small and takes up little space, I can get a new one pretty easily, and if I use it correctly, it does a great job of removing plaque and bacteria from my teeth.



When it comes to the different types of manual toothbrushes, the main differences are going to be seen in the designation for the end user. Most manual toothbrushes will display an age range for kids, for example…

“Designed for children ages 2 to 4 years”.


For adults however, age is not a distinguishing factor for the brush but bristle fineness is. You will find adult brushes scattered throughout the toothbrush aisle with labels such as soft, sensitive, extra soft, and medium and hopefully very few hard bristled toothbrushes. There will be distinctions in the types of handles available and a multiple array of colors, even brushes that are fully recyclable and made from bamboo and eco-friendly materials. So what are some of the pros and cons of manual toothbrushes?


  • Easy to find
  • Easy to use
  • Lots of options
  • Relatively affordable
  • Easy to travel with
  • Easy to control


  • Not environmentally friendly when they aren’t recycled or reused
  • Only perform as well as the person using it
  • Easier to scrub too hard with

Did you know that you can recycle your old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss holders and packaging, anything, really you can recycle almost everything and you should! Most local recycling facilities won’t accept these items from your recycle bin pick up but you can recycle them on your own by using services like the one available through Teracycle in partnership with Colgate.

Final Thoughts

If I had to choose a type of toothbrush to use for the rest of my life, it would be an electric (rechargeable) sonic motored toothbrush for at home use and I would travel with a manual toothbrush, so I would use both!

Right now my manual brush of choice is the Brilliant soft toothbrush. It’s soft, the bristles polish my teeth and it is the “BEST” tongue cleaning toothbrush I have ever used!

My choice for my kids is the best battery powered electric toothbrush, in my opinion, the Brilliant Kids Character sonic toothbrush. Not only is the toothbrush fun because of the characters, which gets my young kids excited about brushing in the first place, but it’s also engaging and educational. The LED mouth light is by far their favorite part. Not only can they see inside their mouth, but so can I, and that makes our brushing efforts more successful. As a mother and dental professional I also appreciate the built in two minute timer, so we stay accountable to brushing long enough and the quad pacer that pulses to train my little ones to brush each section of their mouth equally. The sonic motor is the cherry on top! It’s a gentle vibration, since it’s only battery powered, so it doesn’t tickle at all. It is just right in my opinion, we control the brushing and the pressure without the brush being too overbearing or powerful for them to use. It is an excellent choice for a first sonic toothbrush.

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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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