Which is Best – Manual or Electric Toothbrush For Children ?
There are a world of choices out there when choosing toothbrushes, manual or Electric Toothbrush, small head vs big head, and are soft toothbrush bristles better than hard ones to name but a few. In this post I am just going to focus on the manual or electric toothbrush question.
Manual vs Electric Toothbrush
First lets be clear that there are no 100% absolute answers, as it really to the greatest extent depend on your child’s preferences and age.
For babies and toddlers my view is that you should stick to manual brushes and really only think about transitioning to an electric tooth brush as you approach the time for your child to fly solo with their brushing. The main reason is, with very young children they tend to wriggle and move around a lot more. Whether a manual or electric toothbrush is in your hand it is yet another variable that you will be trying to control. Also with some electric toothbrushes the oscillating parts can rub or hurt small mouths if you inadvertently press too hard. We all want to take the greatest care when we are brushing our kids teeth but, on occasions it may feel like you are wrestling an octopus just trying to get your little darlings to sit still let alone clean their teeth!
As a dentist and with a wife who is a hygienist we have access to a whole range of manual and electric toothbrushes. As our kids grew we tried most of them and found that in the younger years the kids did not like the sensation of some of the electric brushes ( particularly the ones that work sonically) so we were happy to stay with manual brushing.
We were both keen too that our kids developed the necessary manual dexterity to brush their teeth with a regular manual toothbrush. For this reason, we brushed for them 100% of the time until they were 4-5 years of age and then encouraged them to get involved. That said we still went after them and completed their brushing until they were around 8 yeas of age before we allowed them free reign to brush themselves. For my thoughts around the topic of what age it is safe to let children brush their own teeth are in another post on this blog.
As they got older and more co-operative the electric brushes came into their own. The built in timer helped the kids to learn with us how long it should take to brush each section of the mouth. And if I am honest were simply less effort on our part to achieve a great result.
Studies suggest that you can achieve the same level of cleanliness with a manual tooth brush as you can with an electric one. Professionally though both I and our hygiene team are both pretty convinced that patients with electric toothbrush achieve better results than patients using a manual brush alone.
So in summary my advice is
- Start with a manual brush and help your child get used to the process of having their teeth cleaned twice daily
- Work with them to develop their own skills with a manual brush so that they understand how to reach EVERY part of their mouth
- FInally transition to an electric toothbrush ( if you wish ) when your child is old enough
- Be sure to monitor the results and don’t abandon your child to brush their own teeth too soon