Manual v. electric toothbrush. Which is the best toothbrush to use during during orthodontic treatment?

Patients often ask me Which is the best manual or electric toothbrush to use during orthodontic treatment?

I can relate to this question completely.

Whenever I walk down the toothbrush aisle of any supermarket today, I can see why people find it confusing. There is such a wide variety of manual and electric toothbrushes to choose from, not to mention the specialty shops selling their large selection of premium electric toothbrushes.

So how do you know which toothbrush is best, particularly when you’re having orthodontic treatment? Not only are you getting accustomed to your braces or appliance, there’s the added pressure of keeping teeth clean to help avoid decay and infection.

Do you stick with a manual toothbrush? It worked for our parents and grandparents, so it can work for us too, right? Or do you take it up a notch or two and go electric?

Let’s sort out this pressing question for you – and get you on the road to straight, beautiful, and healthy smile.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose a manual or electric toothbrush. The key is to clean!

Regardless of whether you choose an electric or manual toothbrush, the key is to maintain a regular oral hygiene regime during your orthodontic treatment. And that means brushing twice daily with a manual or electric toothbrush.

Don’t be under any illusions that orthodontic treatment is a substitute for regular visits to your dentist for a professional clean every six months. In fact, the two go hand in hand.

The good news is, as your teeth straighten, and once braces or appliances are removed, your teeth will become easier to clean. It much easier for a manual or electric toothbrush to get around the tooth surfaces when they are aligned well. Food particles are easier to dislodge and clean away because they don’t get stuck between or around teeth. Flossing is easier too because the contact points on teeth are easier to move around. If anything, greater care is needed during orthodontic treatment. Using either a a manual or electric toothbrush will ensure your straight teeth are beautiful and clean when the last day of treatment arrives.

Choose a small, soft electric or manual toothbrush

I recommend patients brush with a small, soft toothbrush head, irrespective of whether they’re using a manual or electric toothbrush. Hard toothbrush bristles can be abrasive to teeth and gums. With orthodontic appliances and braces sometimes leaving teeth and gums a little sore, softer toothbrush bristles will help you manage at these times.

Toothbrush packaging clearly indicates if bristles are soft, medium or hard, so be sure to check the details before you place the toothbrush in your shopping basket.

My big tip here? Whether you have a manual or electric toothbrush, select small toothbrush heads with soft bristles and rounded ends. Your teeth and gums will thank  you!

In the right hands, it doesn’t matter if you have a manual or electric toothbrush

While there are certain advantages to both manual and electric toothbrushes, in the right hands, they work equally well. There’s one important caveat to this statement: it’s important the person holding the toothbrush has the right brushing technique.

The best place to learn that technique is from your dentist, hygienist or orthodontist. When our patients commence their orthodontic treatment, we take time to explain and show them how to brush their teeth right. This is vitally important because orthodontic treatment may extend for six months, a year, or even two years or longer. Letting your oral hygiene slip during this period can mean you have straight teeth, but they’re suffering from decay when the braces come off.

If you don’t trust yourself with an old school manual toothbrush, consider investing in an electric toothbrush, specifically one with a small, round head, soft bristles, and an oscillating action. Be sure to take time to speak with your dentist, orthodontist or hygienist. They will help you master the correct brushing technique to support your best oral health during orthodontic treatment so when you reach the end of it, you have the beautiful, confident smile you’ve worked so hard for.

Dr Sarah Dan is an orthodontist and advocate for early orthodontic assessment. She is also the author of So Smile, the only guide about orthodontic treatment you’ll ever need. Her approach to kids orthodontic treatment focuses on improving outcomes for children and parents who are considering orthodontic treatment costs. Through her experience as a clinician and parent, and having adult orthodontic treatment herself, Sarah truly understands orthodontics from the patient’s perspective. She ‘gets’ it and has developed her unique 5-Step Process to help patients navigate the treatment journey to a confident, beautiful smile at any age and stage of life.