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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 6:16 EDT

A Clean Sweep for Electric Toothbrushes

April 22, 2005

Circular-motion models beat manual brushing, studies show

HealthDay News — The circling motion unique to certain power toothbrushes is better at sweeping away dental plaque than the traditional ‘up-and-down’ technique used with manual brushes.

That’s according to a new review of 42 different studies, involving more than 3,800 participants, that found circle-motion electric toothbrushes outperformed simpler, hand-manipulated models.

The review’s British authors found that over one to three months, powered toothbrushes with circular heads that rotate in alternating directions reduced plaque 11 percent better than manual toothbrushes and reduced signs of gum inflammation (gingivitis) 6 percent better than manual toothbrushes.

After more than three months of use, the powered toothbrushes reduced gingivitis 17 percent better than manual toothbrushes. The researchers found no evidence that powered toothbrushes of any kind caused more gum damage than manual toothbrushes.

They stressed that even though the powered toothbrushes provided better results, the benefits of regular brushing “occur whether the brush is manual or powered, and the results of this review do not indicate that tooth brushing is only worthwhile with a powered toothbrush.”

“We did not want to say that electric brushes are necessary, just that they can help. It is possible to clean one’s teeth perfectly well without an electric brush,” review co-author Peter Robinson of Sheffield University said in a prepared statement.

Ionic brushes — which makers say reverse the polarity of teeth, improving cleaning — and powered toothbrushes that do not use a circular, alternating motion, were no better at removing plaque and gingivitis than manual toothbrushes, the review concluded.

The review was published in the April issue of the journal The Cochrane Library.

More information

Sheffield University

The American Dental Association has more about cleaning your teeth and gums.