Price not being a factor, dentists agree: Electric toothbrushes are better at removing tartar and plaque than regular toothbrushes. But with some electric toothbrushes pushing a $200 price tag—not to mention the cost of replacement heads—price is a major factor for most of us. So let’s start with the best, cheapest alternative to going electric.
Instead of recommending one particular brand of manual toothbrush, here’s a list of brush characteristics you should look for if you decide to go non-electric.
How long can it go?
If a tooth gets brushed but there’s no bristle to brush it, does it get clean? Of course not. For any type of toothbrush, you want long-lasting, durable bristles long enough to reach in between teeth. Avoid brittle bristles that break and short bristles that can’t get in between your teeth. In other words, soft or medium-soft bristles, rather than hard bristles, are the way to go.
Nylon bristles are very common on toothbrushes, but look for ones with polyester bristles. Polyester bristles are less porous than nylon, minimizing bacterial growth and therefor lasting longer.
More harm than good.
Another reason dentists want you to brush with softer bristles is because when you brush too hard, hard bristles can wear away at enamel. It’s the one instance where brushing one’s teeth actually does more harm than good.
Get a grip.
Your tendency to brush more thoroughly increases with your brush’s ergonomics. Several brands of brushes now on the market have handles that provide a better grip and more support to your fingers and thumb. Instead of only looking at the price tag, get a handle on the handle too.
The reason why electric toothbrushes do a better job cleaning teeth is … human error. The physics of bristles on teeth is really the same for both tools. But, we humans have a tendency to stop brushing after a minute or so. Some electric toothbrushes get around this glitch by having a setting that keeps the brush working for two minutes of cleaning. A few models—the really expensive ones—even have alarms that remind you to move to a different quadrant of your mouth.
If you decide to electrify your dental care, you don’t have to do it by pulling the plug on your pocketbook. Spending $100 to $200 on a toothbrush, no matter how durable or effective, is a high price to pay for clean teeth. But spending $50 or less could be quite centsible. That’s because electric toothbrushes can outlast their manual counterparts, not by weeks but by months and years. There are of course replacement parts that will be needed over that time, like new heads and new batteries, but over time a reasonably priced electric brush “pays for itself.”
Ways to conserve
Replacements matter. Regardless of the electric toothbrush you use, there are ways to keep the costs under control. For example, when you purchase your electric, take a second to look for the toothbrush head replacement packages. How much do they cost?
Keep it clean. One way to get the longest life out of your electric toothbrush is to keep the heads clean. Sometimes, as with any brush, the heads can get moldy. After all, moisture and bugs get along great together. So, consider doing more than rinsing the brush. Soak it at least once a week in a solution of mouthwash and water. Avoid extremes like placing it in the dishwasher. The heat and the soap are not the best combination for keeping the bristles strong.
Don’t forget to floss. Whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, make sure you are flossing regularly. Don’t assume the more thorough cleaning you may be getting from an electric brush is a substitute for floss. It’s not. And, if you worry that your affordable manual brush is making your at-home dental care less than optimal, you can certainly make up a lot of ground with regular flossing.