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Bad oral health increases your all-mortality risk
As a recent convert to using an electric toothbrush full-time, I was surprised to read recently in the New York Times, in bold, that "You don't need an electric toothbrush" in their article "What Dentists Wish You Knew".
I'm a recent convert to using an electric toothbrush full-time. I've flirted with them in the past but found them more inconvenient than using a simple everyday manual brush.
As a convert, I wished I had been using one for the last 20 years, as I now see more debris being loosened, and my gums feel much better. My experience with an electric toothbrush over the last 6 months made me wonder why the NYT would advocate against powered toothbrushes when it could have been neutral, and perhaps even in favour.
I wanted to know what independent research has concluded about the benefits or otherwise of electric toothbrushing and dental hygiene.
Here's what I found.
Strong evidence supports the use of powered toothbrushes for better oral health, i.e., slowing the progression of periodontal diseases such as gingivitis.
Better oral health delays progressive diseases of aging. In fact, older adults with tooth loss have a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, with increasing risk with each missing tooth, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. Source: nia.nih.gov
TL;DR Comparing electric and manual toothbrushes in 6 points
1. An independent systematic review and network meta-analysis of 28 publications and 56 relevant comparisons concluded that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes for plaque removal after a single-brushing action.
2. Electric toothbrushes have been shown to improve overall dental health and reduce gingivitis compared to using a manual brush.
3. The oscillating-rotating type is the most effective. This is due to their ability to produce more cleaning action per minute, which helps to remove plaque and bacteria more effectively than manual brushing.
4. Therefore, independent evidence suggests that electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque, reducing gingivitis, and improving overall dental health than manual toothbrushes.
5. Studies show that people with poor oral health are at higher risk for developing dementia, other cognitive diseases, eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren's syndrome). Therefore, you could conclude that using an electric toothbrush will help you live longer.
6. Although electric toothbrushes are more expensive than manual toothbrushes, the potential benefits of improved dental health and reduced gingivitis make them a worthwhile investment.
In conclusion, independent evidence supports using electric toothbrushes for better dental health than manual ones. And better dental health supports better overall health.
Research finds plaque and gingivitis improved by using an electric toothbrush
A systematic review and network meta-analysis of clinical trials found that powered toothbrushes provided a statistically significant benefit in plaque removal after a single-brushing action, compared to manual toothbrushes. The change in plaque score data showed a significant improvement by using a powered toothbrush over a manual toothbrush. The highest benefit came from the oscillating-rotating powered toothbrush. This finding supports the recommendation to use a powered toothbrush for daily plaque removal for better dental health.
However, plaque is only one measure of dental hygiene, so what about gingivitis?
A Cochrane review (the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews) found that powered toothbrushes provide a statistically significant benefit in the reduction of plaque and gingivitis when compared to manual toothbrushes both in the short and long term. Specifically, the review found an 11% reduction in plaque and a 6-11% reduction in gingivitis. The greatest evidence was for rotation oscillation brushes, demonstrating a statistically significant reduction in plaque and gingivitis. Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Several clinical studies have found that electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis than manual ones. For example, a randomised, double-blind clinical trial comparing the efficacy of powered and manual toothbrushes showed that the subject group using the powered toothbrush significantly reduced their gingival, plaque, and oral hygiene risk index throughout the trial.
These results typically show a statistically significant difference when comparing an oscillating-rotating electric toothbrush and a manual toothbrush, with the former having a higher "mean post-brushing score". The brushing score measures the total amount of plaque removed from the teeth after a certain amount of time - the higher, the better.
The studies also report changes in plaque score data, showing significant benefits of an electric toothbrush over a manual one. (Plaque score data is used to measure brushing effectiveness but does not consider the time it takes to complete the brushing.)
In summary, strong evidence suggests that powered toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes for plaque removal, reduced gingivitis, and better overall dental health.
About different electric toothbrushes and which to select for better dental health
This guide is to help you understand if electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes for plaque removal, reduced gingivitis, and overall dental health.
Firstly, it is important to understand that electric toothbrushes can be divided into two main categories: oscillating-rotating (OR) and high-frequency sonic (HFS).
Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes with oscillating-rotating technology have a more pronounced effect on plaque removal after a single-brushing action compared to manual toothbrushes. This is because OR technology is more effective in dislodging plaque and debris from the surface of teeth.
In addition, electric toothbrushes with high-frequency sonic technology also have an advantage over manual toothbrushes. However, the difference in effect is very small.
Overall, it is generally accepted that electric toothbrushes are more effective than manual toothbrushes in reducing plaque and gingivitis and hence help deliver better oral health.
To get the most out of your powered toothbrush, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer and replace the brush head regularly. Brushing your teeth twice daily for two minutes, using gentle circular strokes, is also essential.
An electric toothbrush is a simple way to maintain good oral hygiene and help maintain better health
I feel the difference when using my electric toothbrush. I only accidentally bought it as it was on a clearance shelf at my local supermarket. But now, I would not go back to manual brushing.
The research supports my gut feeling that the electric toothbrush is doing a better job for my teeth and my overall dental hygiene. If I were the editor of the NYT's article, I would have produced a more motivating headline encouraging the use of electric toothbrushes rather than downplaying it.
An electric toothbrush is a simple way to maintain good oral hygiene and to boost your longevity.
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