Bacteria in our mouths create a 'biofilm' around our teeth. The build up of this biofilm occurs in hours, and this is called plaque. The bacteria in plaque erode our teeth (dental decay) which causes holes in our teeth (dental caries). They also cause gum disease (gingivitis), which you may notice as occasional bleeding when you brush. Bleeding can be caused by excessive hard brushing, which is why smart brushes have flashing lights to tell you when you are brushing too hard.
Aside from giving us socially unacceptable bad breath, dental caries and gingivitis are the cause of teeth being sensitive to hot and cold. This is because base/root of our teeth, where the dental nerve is, becomes more exposed. In the long term, both dental and gum disease will lead to loss of teeth.
Brushing aims to clean off the plaque, along with the nasty bacteria that damage our teeth and gums.
Do dentists recommend electric toothbrushes?
In short, yes, because electric toothbrushes have been shown to reduce plaque more effectively than manual brushing.
However dentists emphasize that regular brushing twice each day with a correct technique is more important than the toothbrush type. Both manual or electric toothbrushes are good for removing plaque when used properly. An electric toothbrush is not essential for good dental hygiene, but it does improve it.
You should brush for at least two minutes twice per day. The timers on electric toothbrushes are helpful as they encourage users to brush for longer.
You may think you know how to brush your teeth properly, but check again. We've posted a video from Electric Dentist here as an instruction on how to brush your teeth. It starts with German subtitles, but the narration is in English.
Do dentists recommend electric toothbrushes for children?
Yes. Not least because electric toothbrushes can be easier to use. Children's teeth gain all the same benefits as adult teeth from using an electric toothbrush: Less plaque, less tooth decay and less gum disease. Also less visits to the dentist to repair and fill holes!
However, again it needs to be stressed: Children mostly learn tooth-brushing habits and technique from parents and you must ensure they start taking care of their teeth at a young age, as the habits will stay with them for a lifetime.
Is there scientific evidence that an electric toothbrush keeps teeth more healthy?
In short, yes. If you want to delve in to the research, read on...
This Cochrane review in 2014 looked at 51 trials involving over 4000 people and concluded that electric toothbrushes reduce more plaque and prevent more gum disease that manual toothbrushes.
In 2019 this study was published which followed nearly 3000 people for 11 years. Those that used electric toothbrushes (or Powered Toothbrushes as the research community refer to them) had less dental caries and less gum disease. More importantly after 11 years they had retained 20% more of their teeth. Keeping 20% more of your teeth for each decade of your life is a significant improvement!
As an aside we can infer that people who use manual toothbrushes will also have more bad breath, but we have to admit the dental scientists don't seem to have studied that. Presumably there isn't a consistent scale to measure the badness of breath. But I digress.
The take-away point from these studies is that people who use electric toothbrushes keep more of their teeth in the long term.