I thought about making this page for ages, and finally have! My very own wiki page about electronic toothbrushes. Why? Well I admit it seems strange, but ever since I started I've fallen in love with electric toothbrushes and recommended them to various friends. I don't think about it so much nowadays - it has just become the new normal, but I really am getting a better clean than before and on this page I want to explain why!
In particular I want to focus on a few things you might not otherwise hear including: (a) how incredibly weird it feels the first time and (b) how the brushes biggest benefit is the actually the two minute timer.
Types of Electric Toothbrushes - What to Get
There are two types of electric toothbrushes:
- Rotation-oscillation - the ones with the little round heads that spin and you move from tooth to tooth.
- Ultrasonic / vibrating - the head looks like a normal brush (slightly smaller perhaps), but vibrates left/right at high frequency, and you brush like you would a normal toothbrush.
It's the ultrasonic kind I recommend - in brushing you put in about the same amount of work, but it stimulates your gums better. Sonicare (by Phillips) is what my dentists recommend to me, and if you go to the Sonicare website you'll see a big range of them from over $200 for the most powerful to $30 USD for one that uses AA batteries. The high end isn't much better than the medium, but you don't want the cheapest so aim just over $100 for a pretty powerful one and make sure it has a recharge station! The brush I bought was a "Phillips Sonicare HealthyWhite Platinum", but what I actually did was I bought a pack of two sonicare brushes with 4 heads from Cosco for $120 ([see here), which was great because I gave one to a friend and thus it cost each of us only $60. Cosco also has cheap replacement heads with 6 for ~$40, but I don't think it does that anymore so you might need to try amazon or ebay. A head *should* be replaced every ~2-3 months so six heads should last well over a year, and when you think about it decent normal toothbrushes are often $10 a pop in the supermarkets, so it may work out cheaper.
Why Make the Change
I actually believe the biggest advantage of an electronic toothbrush is that most of them (including all the sonicare ones) use a two minute timer. Have you ever actually timed yourself when you brush? Two minutes actually feels like a really long time standing in front a mirror. Even when I thought I was having a long brush, I've probably never brushed beyond 30 seconds with a normal brush in life! With an electronic toothbrush, once you push that start button you feel very much compelled to wait it out and so each time and everytime you will brush for a full 2 minutes, and the ones with 30 second time beeps even make sure you do each quadrant equally (think: inside top, outside top, inside bottom, outside bottom). As it turns out brushing duration is actually more important than anything else, so this alone make it worth it. I got my brush two years ago and have no cavities since.... although don't forget that flossing is needed to prevent those cavities between teeth!
The next advantage is gum stimulation. The vibration can leave to healthier gums, especially if you brush vigorously. Don't think that just because it is "ultrasonic" and vibrates pretty intensely (you'll see how intensely in the next section) means you can be half arse - you still need to brush vigorously to keep your teeth and gums up to scratch.
The Two Big Disclaimers On Electronic Toothbrushes!
The big thing you should be warned about with ultrasonic brushes.... if you've never used one before it will totally freak you out the first time you put it in your mouth! Were talking something with >20,000 hertz (oscillations per second) for ultrasonic and to feel this on your teeth the first time will make you cringe - so much so you'll probably almost certainly pull it away! Now if that brush cost you only $5 you'd probably throw it away and say "hell no!", but since it cost much more you'll work through that pain, and quickly discover that the second time is easier. After about 3-5 brushes you'll get used to the vibrations. After a year now I don't really ever notice. What you will notice is that when you suddenly have to switch to a normal brush (say on vacation) you'll feel like your teeth aren't getting half as clean.
Funny story: an ex-girlfriend of mine literally cried when I dared her to use my toothbrush. In retrospect I wish I'd bought her one on her birthday, but actually her teeth, unlike mine, were perfect, so she didn't really need it. :) If you have a close friend with an electronic toothbrush you could ask them to try it first, but don't underestimate the effect of the "I spent lots of money on this, so I will get use to it" effect.
Generally speaking your teeth tend to feel more clean afterwards if you use an electronic toothbrush compared to a regular brush! Now as a scientists I'm compelled to admit that this isn't necessarily as true as you think - studies haven't proven either type of electronic toothbrush has a big advantage over normal brushing if used for the same duration... but as I explained before, if the electronic toothbrush makes you brush longer, then it really is doing a much better job than the ordinary brush!
I put these disclaimers in for completeness, but I hope they don't discourage you. The combination of the timer and the fact that it is stimulating your teeth and gums with vibration means you too might become as crazy about electronic toothbrushes as me.
Electronic toothbrushes have changed my life. Okay, so maybe that's an overstatement. It won't change your whole life, but if you give it a chance it will certainly change your dental life. I really wish I'd discovered Sonicare earlier in life - I'm pretty sure I'd have a lot less fillings and fewer dental visits.
Let me know if you take the plunge! Regards, ... Andrew.
- Wikipedia - Electric Toothbrush
- Phillips Sonicare brushes - I've pushed sonicare pretty hard here, but I do generally trust in my dentists who told me they are the best.