The electric toothbrush


Modern man is no longer conceivable today without electronics and without electrics. So research and technology gave him an instrument that offers electrical assistance even when brushing his teeth. It is the electric toothbrush. This device was first developed in Switzerland in 1920 and has been continuously improved since then.

Different models of electric toothbrushes

The electric toothbrush, like the conventional toothbrush, consists of a handle, the brush head and the bristles. The drive is contained in the handle and the brush head can be exchanged as an attachment brush. The power for the drive used to be drawn directly from the socket. Because of the danger, this form of power supply is no longer used today. They switched to battery operation and then to drive using a rechargeable battery. This has the advantage that when the brush is being charged, there is always enough power available.

There are various bristle configurations and different types of movement for the brush heads. The bristles are arranged either as a flat-ground bristle field or as a circle. With the movements you have the choice between the normal "Floats"and those that also perform a horizontal movement. The circularly arranged bristles naturally have circular or back and forth as well as back and forth movements. It is difficult to say which of these different electric toothbrushes remove plaque / plaque best. All the variations the configuration of the bristles and the movements remove plaque when properly guided.

The sonic toothbrushes or, which have been available for several years, represent a further development of the electric toothbrush Sonic brushes They work with ultrasound and are characterized by significantly faster vibrations. Since their structure is more complicated, they are much more expensive to buy than conventional brushes. The noise development is also stronger and can therefore have a disturbing effect. In advertising, a better cleaning effect is emphasized compared to conventional electric toothbrushes.

Ultrasonic toothbrush

One speaks of ultrasound from 1,600,000 vibrations. In contrast to sonic toothbrushes, which have around 30,000 vibrations, ultrasonic toothbrushes are silent. You only feel the movement. An ultrasonic toothbrush removes more dirt than a pure sonic toothbrush due to the higher number of vibrations. The question is whether the 30,000 vibrations of the sonic toothbrush are not enough to clean the teeth. An ultrasonic toothbrush is recommended for patients who are predisposed to have a lot of dental plaque or are even prone to gingivitis.

With healthy oral hygiene, a sonic toothbrush is enough to clean your mouth every day. The disadvantage of the ultrasonic toothbrush is that it can permanently destroy the gums if it is not used correctly.
However, if you follow the cleaning instructions exactly and do not press the ultrasonic vibrations onto the gums, the ultrasonic toothbrush will even clean the gums more gently. The price of an ultrasonic toothbrush is very high compared to a sonic or simple electric toothbrush. You have to weigh up for yourself whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Find out more about: Ultrasonic toothbrush

Electric toothbrush for the interdental space

Oral irrigators or electric Interspace toothbrushes are especially suitable for interdental spaces. In the brush head of electric toothbrushes there are usually longer, thicker rubber bristles that should get between the teeth when rotating. But they only clean up to the contact point of both teeth. The oral irrigators or interdental brushes are placed directly between the teeth so that they remove any food residues. The effectiveness of interdental showers has not been clearly established.

The bacteria in the contact point between the teeth can usually only be reached by flossing. These cannot be removed by the bristles or the water jet of the special interdental brushes. So if you want to be on the safe side, you can only clean by hand with dental floss or interdental brushes to effectively clean the interdental spaces.

The question arises as to whether an electric interstitial brush is necessary. If only one attachment is required for the electric toothbrush, the costs are kept low. Devices that specifically only clean the space in between are usually relatively expensive.
However, if you are not able to reach the gaps by hand because you may be lacking the skill, the Interspace devices can be useful for hygiene.

Electric toothbrush for children

Electric toothbrushes do not generally provide better mouth cleaning than a manual toothbrush. If you master the brushing technique well, you can brush your teeth well with your hand. If the brushing technique is not carried out correctly or the ability to coordinate is lacking, an electric toothbrush is recommended. This reaches places that may be forgotten when cleaning by hand.

Most devices have a rotating brush head. This is perfect for the cleaning technique for children. A circular movement is recommended up to a young age. In addition, the brush heads of the children's electric toothbrush are small in order to reach the last tooth even if the mouth cannot be opened wide.

The electric toothbrushes also contain other functions that make it easier to brush your teeth thoroughly. It is particularly important for children that they keep the cleaning time of 2-3 minutes. Most electric toothbrushes therefore come with a timer. Others allow the pressure and speed to be varied through different levels in order to brush the anterior teeth more gently than is necessary on the molars.

To increase the children's motivation to brush their teeth independently, the brushes are equipped with music or colorful stickers.An electric toothbrush is only recommended if you can brush independently.

Children who are not yet in school should try brushing with a manual toothbrush to learn the technique and parents should brush again. If cleanliness or consistency proves difficult, electric toothbrushes should be tried. However, it is important that you still move the brush around your teeth and not just hold the toothbrush in your mouth. Because the children often think that it is enough to hold the electric toothbrush to the tooth.

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Electric toothbrush with oral irrigator

The devices, which are a toothbrush and oral irrigator in one, are very practical. But it is rare that the irrigator is directly integrated in the toothbrush. Rather, it is a separate device that is included in the package. It is important that an oral irrigator does not replace brushing your teeth. Mechanical cleaning is essential to remove dirt and plaque. Rather, the oral irrigator is a supplement to the dental floss to clean the interdental spaces. In the case of very strong tooth-to-tooth contact, an oral irrigator is counterproductive. In contrast to dental floss, the irrigator cannot clean the contact point.

When buying an oral irrigator, one should note that the water pressure of the jet can be individually adjusted. If you have sensitive gums, the application could otherwise be painful. In addition, the water tank must be large enough to hold about 30 seconds to clean all interdental spaces with one tank of tank. Good products that meet these requirements are, for example, Panasonic EW1211, Oral-B Professional Care OxyJet or Sonicare Air Floss from Philips. These offers are also of good quality and guarantee to last a long time.

What are the advantages of the electric toothbrush?

  • An electric toothbrush facilitates dental care, accelerates and cleans particularly effectively and thus serves dental diseases such as tooth decay and periodontitis.
  • It makes brushing your teeth more pleasant, especially for those interested in technology.
  • It is an incentive for children to brush their teeth. In the unit of time, about 3 times more cleaning movements are performed than with a manual toothbrush. Thanks to its small brush head, it meets dental requirements. However, as with the manual toothbrush, the user must guide the brush along the rows of teeth in his mouth.
  • The electric toothbrush is a useful aid for users who are restricted in their movements.

Disadvantages of the electric toothbrush

First of all, the electric toothbrush is more expensive to buy. As with the normal toothbrush, the brush heads must be changed every 6 - 8 weeks. So there is no saving effect here. Due to the electric drive, it is not possible to kink the handle, which makes cleaning the inner surfaces of the teeth somewhat more difficult.

Does a pressure sensor / pressure control make sense?

Some electric toothbrushes will glow red or even beep if the brush head is pressed too hard against the tooth or gums. The stop signal is particularly useful for inexperienced users or for beginners such as children. Patients with receding gums also benefit from a pressure sensor.

A toothbrush that moves with 30,000 vibrations, such as a sonic toothbrush, can cause a lot of damage if the pressure is too high. For one thing, the enamel gets scrubbed too much, which can cause it to wear out. On the other hand, the gums can be traumatized or go back over time.

Toothbrushes with a sensor are often more expensive than without, although the brushing technique is the same. You should always try to touch your teeth with as little pressure as possible. Over time you develop a feeling of how hard you can hold the toothbrush to the tooth.

Can an electric toothbrush recede gums?

In simple terms, improper use of an electric toothbrush can also cause the gums to recede; However, the same also applies to the manual toothbrush. The danger, of course, is if you press the brush too hard on the gums and this exerts its movements on the gums.

With the wrong brushing technique or a fixed toothbrush, this is also possible over time with a manual toothbrush. It is therefore important that you do not press too hard and that you still move from the gum to the tooth.
For patients who have difficulty cleaning their gums properly, an electric brush is recommended because it is more likely to prevent gum inflammation. In the long run, the gums are spared. Because receding gums often come from gum inflammation and are favored by incorrect cleaning techniques.

Does the electric toothbrush remove tartar too?

Tartar is dental plaque that has solidified due to components of the saliva because the plaque has not been removed for a long time. In contrast to the soft and wipeable plaque deposits, tartar is very hard and sticks firmly to the tooth surface and cannot be easily removed.

Once the plaque has been transformed into tartar, it can only be removed mechanically with sharp instruments. This is not possible by brushing your teeth or by using any special toothpaste. The only way to remove tartar is to have a professional teeth cleaning at the dentist, who uses equipment that can remove the tartar from the tooth without damaging the enamel or gums.

Tartar cannot be removed directly, but the formation of plaque and tartar can be influenced. Often times the teeth are cleaned more thoroughly by electric toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes. Some areas are better reached, which slows down the development of tartar.

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How do you properly clean an electric toothbrush?

The problem with the brush heads for the electrical devices is that they are changed too rarely. Because you have to use less pressure and movement, the bristles are hardly deformed. So you don't see how much the brush has already been used. Actually, the attachments should be changed about every 2 months, as they are contaminated by bacteria.

It is important to clean the brush heads thoroughly with plenty of water after each use. The toothbrush itself should be cleaned with a damp cloth, otherwise the electronics could be damaged.

From methods such as Boiling the brush or soaking it in citric acid is not recommended. The brush and hard plastic can withstand the heat and acid, but not all bacteria are killed. Many bacteria are already destroyed at 60 degrees or by the acid, but the more dangerous or stronger bacteria develop a resistance and can still survive.

It's the same with mouthwashes. Overnight you can put the toothbrush in the same liquid that you use as a mouthwash. This may reduce the number of germs. It is of course worth trying to reduce the number of germs by using the methods described above and cleaning the toothbrush particularly thoroughly.

It is therefore crucial to replace the bust heads at regular intervals.

Can I take an electric toothbrush in hand luggage when flying?

All electric toothbrushes are allowed on the aircraft. The electronics are not considered dangerous and can therefore be carried in hand luggage. Oral irrigators or toothbrushes that have an integrated oral irrigator are also allowed.

In the case of oral irrigators that have a capacity of more than 100 ml, you should find out more in advance. It is best to empty the liquid beforehand, so that you do not carry any liquid with you and you do not come into the situation during the check that you may have to give off the irrigator. Electric toothbrushes with an integrated oral irrigator have a capacity of less than 100 ml. These can easily be checked.

How the electric toothbrush works: sonic vs rotating

The main difference between simple electric toothbrushes and sonic toothbrushes is that electric toothbrushes usually move in a rotating manner. The sonic and ultrasonic toothbrushes emit vibrations. In the case of ultrasound, the vibration frequency is around 1,600,000, so high that you can't even hear the toothbrush.

The electric toothbrush cleans mechanically by brushing away the dirt through movement. Sonic and ultrasonic toothbrushes set the liquid in the mouth in motion. The movement loosens food residues and even soft plaque from the tooth and washes away.
The ultrasonic toothbrush reaches places that cannot be cleaned with a mechanical brush. It is not possible to brush your teeth without touching them. The vibrations have to be transmitted to the liquid in the toothpaste. Since the vibrations spread in all directions, it is not necessary that the brush heads are equipped with longer bristles to get into the spaces between the teeth. An ultrasonic toothbrush cleans crown and bridge restorations that are difficult to reach with bristles. Most ultrasonic toothbrushes can be set to different levels of intensity, which emit different vibrations. If the gums are sensitive, the number of vibrations can be reduced so as not to irritate the tissue too much.


The electric toothbrush is a good alternative to the manual toothbrush. It automatically makes significantly more brushing movements per unit of time and thus reduces the time it takes to brush your teeth. It is mostly powered by a rechargeable battery. A large number of different electric toothbrushes are available on the market with regard to the cleaning movements and the arrangement of the bristle field. In children, it accommodates their play instinct.

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A selection of the previously published topics in dentistry can be found under Dentistry A-Z.