Don’t Buzz: How Not to Be Afraid of Electric Toothbrushes

By | October 12, 2021

THE FIRST ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH appeared more than sixty years ago, and opinions are still controversial: some say that it cleans better than a manual toothbrush, while others say that it is dangerous for tooth enamel. Dentists’ recommendations often differ too. We figure out how electric toothbrushes differ from manual ones, what they are and how you can actually damage the enamel.

How the effectiveness of toothbrushes is determined

Although personal care products are not drugs, their effectiveness and safety is also being studied in clinical trials that can be found in the public domain. To understand whether brushes are really effective, they look at two things: how they remove plaque and whether they improve gum health. In laboratories, everything is more serious: brushes and pastes are applied to enamel samples, in order to then examine them under a microscope and determine the abrasiveness index. Anything that scored more than a hundred can damage the surface of the teeth. Such experiments are carried out, for example, when designing bristles from a new material or choosing how exactly they will be rounded and polished. Separately, you need to look at the abrasiveness of the toothpaste, because the effect of the brush itself on the enamel primarily depends on how hard you press.

What is the Difference Between Hand and Electric Brushes

The main conclusion drawn over and over from clinical trials is that electric toothbrushes are more effective in removing plaque, the main cause of tooth decay and periodontitis, and in reducing the appearance of gingivitis (i.e., inflammation and bleeding of the gums). This does not mean that manual teeth cannot be brushed with high quality, but electric ones simplify the process and help form a healthy habit. For example, most of them have a built-in timer that will turn off vibration or give an alarm after two minutes; many brushes tell you once every half a minute that it’s time to move on to the next area. The idea is to take thirty seconds to clean the inner and outer surfaces of the teeth .

Electric brushes are of two types, or rather, two generations. In mechanical, the head rotates or moves from side to side and the teeth are cleaned by the action of the bristles; by and large, this is just a mechanized version of the manual. It is quite another matter – vibrating brushes, or sound brushes (they are often called ultrasonic, although this is not entirely correct). They vibrate at a very high frequency that cannot be reproduced manually (more than 30 thousand vibrations per minute); this creates a stream of water and paste that cleans the teeth and the spaces between them. The effect of this brushing is similar to that of the professional Airflow polish, which makes teeth incredibly smooth. There are also truly ultrasonic brushes that generate millions of vibrations per minute, but they are not very popular and are sold most often in dental clinics.

How to choose the right one?

When choosing an electric toothbrush, pay attention to the manufacturer’s level. Not every company can afford to conduct full-fledged clinical trials; those who do this usually post links or descriptions directly on their sites. Of course, brushes of cool brands are more expensive, but we are talking about health, on which it is better not to save money. It is worth reading independent reviews, including on special sites, in the press, or customer reviews in online stores. The names or descriptions of sonic or vibrating brushes usually contain the word “sonic” (and “ultrasonic” in the description of ultrasonic).

Otherwise, follow your own taste and lifestyle. A brush with a glass charger is not suitable for those who do not have an outlet near the sink. If you often travel or go on business trips, then choose the options with the maximum battery capacity (some brushes can be charged once every six months). Pay attention to the availability of replaceable heads; it can be a problem if you buy a rare ultrasonic brush from a clinic that turns out to be the only supplier. The presence of several attachments allows you to use two (or the whole family), you just need to make sure that they are easily distinguished, for example, in color.

Are sensitive teeth or whitening modes needed ?

Marketing tricks have not been canceled, and to increase sales, the makers of brushes can claim, for example, their “unique” ability to whiten teeth. Such promises can and should be viewed with skepticism; A good electric brush can give a smooth and shiny effect, as after professional cleaning, but it will definitely not cope with whitening. Whitening removes pigment particles from the enamel, not from its surface, and without chemicals based on hydrogen peroxide, this is impossible. Interestingly, whitening pastes containing enzymes (for example, papaya derivative papain) can actually visually lighten teeth by dissolving stained plaque; but they also cannot cope with the pigmentation of the tooth tissues themselves.

Sensitive teeth mode is usually less intense vibration; however, given that the brush touches should be as light as possible, this “trick” can be considered a marketing ploy. On the other hand, a gentle setting can come in handy if you are currently treating your teeth or if you have temporary fillings or crowns in your mouth. If a tooth was recently extracted or an operation was performed, it will be more convenient to use a hand brush for several days so as not to injure the wound. Otherwise, just choose the mode in which you are most comfortable. For permanent fillings, crowns, veneers or braces, toothbrush vibration is not a problem.

Is it true that electric brushes damage enamel?

Probably, it is this fear that frightens off the majority. The answer is simple: the enamel can be damaged if you use any brush incorrectly. A correct brushing technique implies a very light touch of the bristles to the surface and the correct direction of movement. If, when cleaning with a hand brush, you need to make sweeping vertical movements in the direction from the gum to the edge of the tooth, then the vibrating electric one just needs to be brought to the surface, without pressing tightly, and let the vibrations of water and air work.

The correct brushing technique will preserve the teeth and mucous membranes. Although there are many publications on the web with scary titles like “Electric brushes will ruin your teeth”, their point is that problems arise when the brushes are used incorrectly. Erosion of enamel and exposure of roots occurs if a person has brushed his teeth electric for several years in the same way as manually, that is, pressing the bristles and making intense movements. But if everything is done correctly, then the enamel will not suffer – after all, it is the hardest tissue in the human body.

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