Is a Manual or Electric Toothbrush Better?

Young female patient at Summit Family and Cosmetic Dentistry chooses between an electric toothbrush and a manual toothbrush.

Are you in the market for a new toothbrush? If so, you might feel a tad lost as you shuffle through the multitude of toothbrushes in your local grocery store.

Perhaps, you’ve used a manual toothbrush for years, and an electric toothbrush is starting to look convenient. Whatever you use now and whatever you have your eye on, we’re here to make your new toothbrush decision easy.

Let’s go over the differences between a manual toothbrush and an electric toothbrush so that you can make your choice before you brave the busy aisles in your nearest retailer (and get back to your house in time for your much-anticipated family movie night).

Is an electric toothbrush better than a manual toothbrush?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), it is best to brush your pearly whites morning and night with a soft-bristled toothbrush. You should consider switching out your toothbrush every quarter or before that if the bristles get worn down.


Both electric and manual toothbrushes clean the surface of the teeth, reduce plaque, and fight back against bacteria when paired with a good toothpaste and mouthwash. However, choosing between an electric toothbrush vs. a manual toothbrush is largely personal.

Here are some things to consider:

Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes assume a vibrating, side-to-side, or circular motion to eliminate plaque from your teeth and gums. This type of toothbrush is ideal for children who are still adapting to using a toothbrush and don’t quite have the motion down yet.

It’s also helpful for anyone with braces, as it does all the cleaning for you with the right movement, getting around the braces with ease. Just remember that if you do choose an electric toothbrush, you’ll want to avoid the brushing motion, as it can prevent even the best electric toothbrushes from working as intended and wear down the bristles faster.


  • Convenient for Those With Dexterity Issues: If you’re trying to help a grandparent or little one pick out a toothbrush, and they don’t have great hand control, an electric toothbrush is a great choice. It operates itself, and all the user has to do is hold the toothbrush in the mouth and against the teeth. The toothbrush itself makes the full brushing motion.
  • Thorough Cleaning: While it’s easy to get side-tracked while brushing your teeth with a manual toothbrush, an electric toothbrush makes things easy by providing deep cleaning of your teeth in a variety of brushing motions to fight back against plaque, gingivitis, and other dental health concerns.


  • Higher Cost: While manual and electric toothbrushes both work to keep the teeth as clean as can be, electric toothbrushes tend to cost more. However, if the convenience factor is more important to you than the cost, you may find electric toothbrushes are worth the price tag.
  • Fragile: Electric toothbrushes operate on a battery. That means they can stop working if they’re not charged or if they get water inside the battery compartment (most electric toothbrushes are at least water-resistant). This can leave you without a toothbrush, even if you’re in a pinch and need something to clean your teeth now before heading into work for the day.

Manual Toothbrush

The goal with a manual toothbrush is the same as an electric toothbrush: to eliminate plaque and gingivitis by brushing your teeth regularly. Soft-bristled toothbrushes are the current recommendation, as they provide a great cleaning without being as harsh on your teeth and gums. Multi-level or angled bristles have also been shown to be effective in the fight against plaque.

Anyone can use a manual toothbrush, including infants. The key is to use the right amount of toothpaste for your age group, select a soft brush type, and commit to brushing all your teeth twice each day for two minutes.


  • Affordable: You can get a manual toothbrush at any store for anywhere from $1 to $3 on average. This type of toothbrush is easily accessible, helping you to keep up with good dental care habits. The affordability also makes it not too difficult to replace, which is convenient once you’ve used the toothbrush for three or four months and need a new one.
  • Easy to Pack: Unlike an electric toothbrush, which can take up quite a bit of room in your travel bag and bathroom cabinet, a manual toothbrush is a space-saver that’s easy to grab and go. If you travel a lot or have several kids and need a little extra space in your bathroom for all the hair ties and bath toys, a manual toothbrush is a fantastic option.


  • More Effort: Electric toothbrushes do the job for you, but manual toothbrushes require some elbow grease. You’ll have to make sure you’re brushing your teeth the right way and for the right amount of time, as you won’t have timers or anything else to guide you (though you could set one on your smartphone).
  • Can Be Too Abrasive: It’s all too easy to be too rough on your teeth with a manual toothbrush. Too much pressure can hurt your gums and even contribute to receding gum lines in some cases, which is why you should always pay close attention and not rush through when you’re brushing your teeth (especially with a manual toothbrush).

Our Recommendation

Both manual toothbrushes and electric toothbrushes are good for your teeth. The important thing is using them the right way. We recommend a soft-bristled, manual toothbrush if you’re looking for affordability and an electric toothbrush if you value a good deep-cleaning without as much work on your part.

Remember that it’s important to stick to ADA-approved brands for proven safety and effectiveness. The ADA has approved the following electric toothbrushes: Goby Electric Toothbrush, Oral-B iO Series, quip Electric Toothbrush, Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean (4100, 4700), and more.

Some ADA-approved manual toothbrushes include the Colgate Classic (Pokey) Toothbrush, the Curvex Toothbrush, the CVS Health Children’s Stripe Manual Toothbrush, and the Improve Toothbrush.

​​Whichever toothbrush you select, be sure to find a good toothpaste to match. Those are the basic building blocks to a clean, healthy mouth.

Have more questions about finding the right toothbrush? Summit Family and Cosmetic Dentistry are ready to assist with all your dental care questions and needs. Contact our friendly, knowledgeable dental team today to schedule an appointment.