By: Jean Johnson for Dental1
According to a three-month British study that included 3,800 participants, all electric toothbrushes are not the same. It’s the ones with the rotating heads that go in alternate directions that really do the job, concludes Peter Robinson, Ph.D. of Sheffield University in Sheffield, England.
|Steps for a Clean Mouth|
1. Floss: Use floss to remove particles between upper and lower teeth
2. Rinse: After flossing, rinse with water
3.Brush: Use fluoride toothpaste and brush teeth in a circular motion applying pressure but not too vigorously
4. Rinse: After brushing, rinse with water
5. Brush: Using a little more toothpaste, brush your tongue
6. Rinse: After brushing your tongue, rinse with water or mouthwash for a clean, fresh mouth
That said, Robinson and his colleagues caution against grabbing the keys and heading out to the nearest store to buy one of the gadgets. “We did not want to say that electric brushes are necessary, just that they can help. It is possible to clean one’s teeth perfectly well without an electric brush,” said Robinson.
Nonetheless, after three months, the rotating brushes did show 11 percent reductions in plaque and a 6 percent decrease in signs of gum inflammation. Further, those that continued using powered brushes with rotating heads beyond the three-month window showed reductions in gingivitis by a dramatic 17 percent.
Almost a quarter of all Americans are using electric toothbrushes these days. At least that’s what the Chicago Dental Society says some estimates are concluding. It’s a figure industry marketers expect to double.
“We think more and more people will prefer an electric toothbrush, but we don’t see a time when manual toothbrushes will be a thing of the past,” said marketing manager for Bausch & Lomb, Kathy Hettrich. “It is logical to assume that electronic toothbrushes could eventually take over half of the market because they are superior plaque removing devices.”
Bob Lewis of Eugene, Oregon doesn’t follow market trends, but he has been using a Sonicare toothbrush for nine years. “I grew up in a family that didn’t focus on oral care very well. Also I was terrified of dentists, and my parents didn’t force the issue. Between that and a sweet tooth, by the time I was in my twenties, I was losing teeth. My thirties brought more problems – and many crowns and bridges,” said Lewis. “Finally in my forties, a dentist suggested a Sonicare, so I went for it, and I love it. One thing that helps is it has a two minute timer so you know when you really have met your time quota.”
Indeed, time is a critical factor in brushing no matter what type of device a person decides to employ. The Wisconsin Dental Association isn’t shy about telling people to but on the brakes when they’re brushing. “No matter how you brush, with an electronic or manual toothbrush,” says WDA literature, “always spend at least two minutes.”
The WDA adds that probably the four most respected brands of electric toothbrushes are the Sonicare, Rota-Dent, Interplak, and the Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover. Indeed, R.L. Boyd, D.D.S., M.Ed. authored an article in a 1997 special issue of the Journal of Clinical Dentistry in which he concluded that these four brands have adequate laboratory and clinical data to allow for evaluation.
The Robinson study, however, did not support the idea that all electric toothbrushes are equal. Carefully noting that the study was limited in terms of duration per its 1 to 3 month windows, Robinson spelled out the team’s conclusions. Benefits were only seen with alternate rotating head brushes. Powered brushes that did not use a circular, alternating motion were found to be no better than manual brushes in reducing plaque and preventing inflammation of the gums.
How clean do teeth have to be, though? According to Robinson, there is some uncertainty here. “We can be reasonably sure that plaque causes periodontitis, and even that more plaque causes more periodontitis,” Robinson said. “But we cannot be sure by how much we need to reduce plaque in order to have a long term effect on periodontitis.”
Robinson also noted that while good oral health has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, longer studies are needed to test the relationship between using rotating powered brushes and cardiac health.
In the meantime, people like Bob Lewis say they aren’t going to give up their Sonicare brushes right away. “The brush and charger cost me around $100 the last time I bought a new one. And my replacement heads run around $25 to $30 for two heads that last six months each,” said Lewis. “So, I’m not going to rush right out and make any changes at this point.”
Lewis raised his right hand and let his face grow deadpan. “I do promise not to cheat my time any more. I will brush the entire two minutes until the beeper goes off – even if I have to entertain myself by standing out on the deck. I’ll do it twice a day minimum, too, for sure. That plus my flossing at 8 to 10 swipes per surface,” he said, allowing a slight smile to break to up a sigh. “I promise. I might not like it, but I promise to take of my teeth. This was a good wake-up call.”