More Strokes, Less Effort? How Speed Matters

How you go about improving your oral hygiene is entirely up to you, but if you truly want to improve the health of your teeth and gums there is no doubt that an electric toothbrush is the best option. As human beings we all have difficulty admitting that a machine might do something better than us and that’s understandable. The truth is that our rapid adaptation of technology over the past couple of centuries has improved our lives immeasurably; this increase in technology has even affected the way we brush our teeth.

Electric toothbrushes simply do a better job of brushing our teeth than we can do with our own manual strength and a traditional toothbrush. It doesn’t matter whether you use an oscillating rotating toothbrush, a sonic toothbrush, or a more traditional rotating electric toothbrush – they all provide benefits that traditional brushing methods can’t match. They make our lives easier and provide us with a much greater level of oral hygiene. This has a lot to do with the brush replacing our scrubbing motion and the speed at which the brushes operate.

Manual VS Electric Power

First let’s look at how fast a human being can brush their teeth with a traditional toothbrush, and their own arm’s strength creating the brushing motion. We do a decent job of brushing our teeth manually and if you do use a manual toothbrush and brush for the required two minutes you can achieve a pretty decent level of oral hygiene. In general, most people average about 300 to 400 brushstrokes per minute with the traditional manual brushing method – that’s not bad.

In fact, if you’re looking at it by itself, 300 to 400 brushstrokes per minute sounds pretty impressive. When I first read the stat I was surprised the human hand can move that fast, but studies have shown that this is true. As impressive as that may sound though, it pales in comparison to what you can achieve with an electric power toothbrush.

An oscillating-rotating toothbrush with the round brush head that most of us may be familiar with can brush our teeth at a much more rapid rate than we can achieve with a traditional toothbrush. How fast? Well, each brush is different of course, but on average you’re looking at somewhere between 7000 and 8000 brushstrokes per minute – now that’s fast! What does this mean for your oral hygiene? It’s quite a difference actually – this type of electric toothbrush can remove as much as 100% more plaque than your traditional manual brushing methods. That’s an impressive statistic and a great reason to switch to an electric toothbrush.

Sonic technology is something entirely different. As you may already know, these types of brushes operate using a vibration-type of technology. The brush head does not move at all – it simply vibrates. What’s impressive though is how often the brush heads vibrate. On average, you can expect a sonic brush head to vibrate anywhere between 31,000 and 40,000 strokes per minute. That’s a mind-boggling number and it leads to a much cleaner mouth.

When Is Enough Enough?

It’s hard to find a dental study that won’t suggest that brushing with an electric toothbrush is better for your oral hygiene then brushing with a manual toothbrush, but the question still remains as to what’s better – an oscillating electric toothbrush with its 8000 brushstrokes per minute, or a sonic toothbrush with its 40,000 brushstrokes per minute?

In this case, speed does matter – up to a point. There are some dentists who will tell you that it doesn’t matter whether you use a traditional toothbrush or any one of the electric toothbrushes we’ve discussed here, but these folks are in the minority. Most dentists agree that you should definitely go the electric toothbrush route, but they don’t agree on any significant differences between an oscillating-rotating toothbrush and a sonic toothbrush.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but when you really think about this, it does make a fair bit of sense. There is only so much plaque you can remove from your teeth, and at some point extra brushstrokes aren’t really adding any added benefit. It seems most studies suggest that the level of plaque removal that you achieve with the 8000 brushstrokes that most oscillating-rotating toothbrushes are capable of is enough to achieve the maximum level of plaque removal. That means the 30,000 to 40,000 strokes achieved with a sonic toothbrush aren’t really giving you a higher level of clean.

Electric Is Better

There’s one thing to take away from all this – it’s more important to brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes than it is to worry too much about which type of brush you use. Yes, an electric toothbrush can remove more plaque, all things being equal, than a traditional toothbrush. However, once you get to a certain level there’s no added benefit in choosing a brush that can achieve a higher number of brush strokes per minute. At that point it simply becomes a matter of which brush you’re more comfortable with. You may decide you prefer a sonic toothbrush because of how it feels for your mouth, but you shouldn’t base that decision on the fact that it performs up to 40,000 brushstrokes per minute.

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