Electric Vs. Manual: Are Electric Toothbrushes Better?

The concept of the toothbrush has been around for thousands of years. Before the modern invention that we use today, it started as chew sticks, twigs, bird feathers, bones and porcupine quills, etc. Eventually in the 600's to 900's this ancient form of oral care evolved into a boar hair bristle toothbrush and was found in China.

Only in the 1900's was it that the toothbrush made of animal materials became replaced by the synthetic fibers that we still use today such as nylon. Soon after, in 1956, the first electric toothbrush was introduced. 'The Broxodent' was invented in Switzerland by Dr. Philippe Woog.

Since then, both manual and electric toothbrushes continue to evolve and both remain on the market as effective teeth-cleaning devices. Which toothbrush is better for you will come down to personal preferences and to help you decide we have an informative article about the differences in each. Read on to find out more about the electric vs manual toothbrush debate.

What is the Difference Between a Manual and Electric Toothbrush?

The main difference between a manual and electric toothbrush is the manual toothbrush uses human power to clean the teeth and the electric toothbrush uses electric power. Both are used for the same oral care purpose but in different ways. The entire manual toothbrush is disposable while the electric toothbrush has replaceable heads that need to be disposed.



  • Most manual toothbrushes are cheap.
  • Depending on what kind of manual toothbrush you purchase, it can end up having a smaller footprint. For example, a bamboo toothbrush is much more environmentally friendly than a plastic device. See some toothbrush comparisons here.
  • No need to charge a manual toothbrush.


  • Because it is manually powered, it requires a little more work by the user.
  • More difficult to time how long to clean for.



  • Fast and effective plaque removal tool.
  • Has a built-in timer.
  • Great for patients with dexterity issues such as those with arthritis.
  • More fun for kids, so it may be easier to get them to comply with brushing their teeth.


  • Electric toothbrushes cost more upfront and still need replacement heads.
  • The electricity/battery power is an added cost and necessary requirement for the toothbrush to work.

The Specifics

Replacement Times:

It is recommended to replace a manual toothbrush every 3 to 4 months or if the bristles become frayed before then as this can reduce cleaning effectiveness.

An electric toothbrush head is recommended to be replaced every 4 to 6 months by most manufacturers.​

So as you can see the recommended replacement times only slightly vary. This may not be significant enough to say that the replacement cost is cheaper for one or the other.

Power Source:

A manual toothbrush is powered by a very reliable cost effective source, you! An electric toothbrush is either electric or battery operated. A manual toothbrush is the most convenient for travel for this reason.


  • According to an article in the Seattle Times, the average retail price of a manual toothbrush is between $0.99 and $4.49.
  • A battery operated toothbrush is not much more at $5.00 to $25.00. (Costhelper.com) Keep in mind that the batteries will be a recurrent purchase.
  • Rechargeable power toothbrushes can get very expensive for the consumer. You are looking at paying anywhere from $20.00 to $200.00.

The Evidence

Both manual and electric toothbrushes have proven to be safe, effective oral care devices. Many studies completed looking at the efficacy of manual vs. electric in terms of plaque removal and gingival health do not show significant differences in one over the other.

However, according to WebMD there is a notable study that has proven the specific oscillating electric toothbrush (one that moves in one direction, then the other) to be 11% more effective than manual toothbrushes for plaque removal and 6% more effective at reducing gingivitis.


Despite the fact that the oscillating electric toothbrush has been proven to be slightly more effective in the areas of plaque removal and reduction of gingivitis, both tools are effective in those areas as well as in preventing gum disease and tooth decay in combination with flossing. The results of these studies are not particularly significant and more research needs to be carried out.

To answer the question of an electric toothbrush vs manual toothbrush.... Both of these devices are effective tools and I think it is more important to pay attention to your personal technique and making sure you get in a full two minutes of brushing action for a complete clean, because it really comes down to personal preference. It would be wise to try both and see what you like better!






Aurora is the lead editor here at pearlywhytes.com. She is one of those people who actually likes going to the dentist. She loves to write about anything health related, but oral health is her most passionate topic. Her free time is spent partaking in family activities and experimenting in the kitchen.

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