Updated on March 19, 2024
8 min read

How to Use an Electric Toothbrush

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Tooth brushing is a crucial part of maintaining good oral health and hygiene. An electric brush can be more effective than a manual toothbrush, but only if you use the proper technique.

product shot of black electric toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes use oscillating rotations or vibrations to remove food particles from your teeth and help prevent tooth decay. The brush head may either move back and forth or spin in a circle.

This article explains how to use an electric toothbrush with the correct techniques for thorough brushing and proper cleaning of the brush head. It also reviews the pros and cons of using electric toothbrushes and what to look for when purchasing one.

Note that this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about the best tooth-brushing technique for your needs.

How to Use an Electric Toothbrush

Here’s how to properly brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush:

Step 1: Make Sure the Toothbrush Is Charged

Unlike a manual brush, you have to charge an electric toothbrush prior to use. Rechargeable electric toothbrushes plug into a wall outlet. Others are battery-operated.

Many electric brushes have a charge indicator light, so you can see how much power is left. If your brush runs out of power, you can continue to use it manually. It’s a good idea to keep a manual toothbrush or extra batteries around just in case.

If you have a rechargeable toothbrush, store it away from the sink so it won’t fall in. There’s risk of an electric shock if the plugged-in charging unit falls into the water.

Step 2: Prepare the Toothbrush

Apply a pea-sized dab of toothpaste to the brush head and run the bristles under water. A fluoride toothpaste can help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities.

Step 3: Brush the Outside Surfaces of Your Teeth

Start with the outer surfaces of your teeth. Move the brush head slowly over each tooth surface. 

A round brush head should brush about one tooth at a time. Spend a few seconds on each tooth before moving to the next. 

Use gentle pressure. Applying too much pressure can wear down your tooth enamel. Many electric toothbrushes have pressure sensors to let you know if you’re pressing too hard.

Step 4: Brush the Inside and Chewing Surfaces of Your Teeth

Repeat step 3, brushing the inside surfaces of your teeth. Then, move on to the chewing surfaces and behind your back teeth.

If your toothbrush has a 2-minute timer with 30-second intervals, divide your mouth equally into four quadrants. Brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of each quadrant before moving on to the next.

Step 5: Brush Your Gum Line, Tongue, and Mouth

Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gum line and gently run it over your gums. This is essential for proper gum care, which will help you avoid periodontal disease.

Then, pass the brush head over your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Move back to front to keep your breath fresh by removing debris and odor-causing bacteria.

Other Oral Health Tips to Keep in Mind

Here are additional tips to keep your teeth clean and reduce tartar buildup:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice daily — brush once in the morning and once in the evening. If you brush after breakfast, wait at least 30 minutes after eating to protect your enamel.
  • Floss daily — floss between your teeth, either before or after brushing. Hold string floss in a C-shape and rub along your gum line and tooth surface for a few seconds. 
  • Use mouthwash — thoroughly rinse your mouth after brushing for optimal oral hygiene and fresh breath.
  • Visit your dentist regularly — visit for dental exams and teeth cleanings with a professional hygienist.

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How to Clean and Maintain Brush Heads

Most electric toothbrushes have replaceable brush heads. Use a brush head with soft bristles to reduce wear on tooth enamel.

Over time, normal wear will damage the bristles on the brush head and make them less effective. Clean your brush heads and replace them regularly (about every 3 months). 

Here are tips on how to maintain your brush heads:

Clean Brush Head Properly

Rinse the brush head under water and allow it to air dry after each time you brush your teeth. Make sure the bristles are dry before storing the brush head in a travel case or cover. Wipe the toothbrush handle and charging base with a damp cloth.

Replace the Brush Heads as Needed

Many brush heads have a blue indicator strip that fades with use to monitor brush head replacement. When the colored strip fades halfway, or when the bristles fray, you’ll know it’s time to replace the brush head.

Avoid Brush Head Breakage

Ensure the brush head fits the type of base you have. A broken brush head can cause small parts to fall in your mouth, which may cause choking.

How to Choose the Best Electric Toothbrush

There are different types of electric toothbrushes, and the best type for you is a matter of personal preference. We also recommend talking to your dentist or other dental professional for advice on choosing a toothbrush.

woman brushing teeth with electric toothbrush

Key factors to consider include:

  • Power mode — decide if you prefer a power plug or battery-operated brush.
  • Brush head shape — oscillating toothbrushes have round heads that spin, and sonic toothbrushes look like regular brush heads that vibrate.
  • American Dental Association (ADA) acceptance — look for a toothbrush with an ADA Seal of Acceptance. This means the ADA endorses its effectiveness.

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Where to Buy an Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes are available in most pharmacies. You can also shop for electric toothbrushes online, including through third-party platforms like Amazon.

Oral-B is a leading oral care brand that sells a range of toothbrushes, including electric ones. Oral-B electric toothbrushes are designed for different needs, from whitening to sensitivity. The best-sellers range from about $30 to $150.

Oral-B also sells replacement heads for your electric toothbrush so you don’t have to replace the entire brush every few months. They come in packs of two to six electric toothbrush heads ranging from $37 to $60. 

Generic heads for electric toothbrushes are also available for about $0.70 each

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes 

Both electric and manual toothbrushes are effective. However, using an electric toothbrush is different from using a manual toothbrush. 

There are many advantages of electric toothbrushes that may make them better than manual toothbrushes for some people:

  • Built-in timer — an electric toothbrush has a built-in timer, making you more likely to spend the recommended 2 minutes brushing your teeth.
  • Less waste — electric toothbrushes can help reduce waste since they typically last longer than manual toothbrushes. Only the brush head needs to be replaced. 
  • Pressure sensor — this helps ensure you don’t wear down your tooth enamel by applying too much pressure.
  • Different brushing modes — some electric brushes have various modes, including gentler brushing for sensitive teeth.
  • Ease of use — people with limited mobility may find it easier to use an electric toothbrush that requires less manual dexterity.

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Benefits of Using an Electric Toothbrush 

There are many benefits of using an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes tend to reduce plaque and gingivitis more than manual ones.

One study found that plaque is reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent after 3 months of using an electric toothbrush.4  

What are the Disadvantages?

As long as you’re using an electric toothbrush properly, there aren’t many downsides. The biggest disadvantage is that electric toothbrushes are typically more expensive than manual brushes. 

The price of an electric toothbrush can range from $15 to $250. In comparison, you can buy a manual toothbrush (or a pack) for just a few dollars.

Another possible downside is that you may not have easy access to an outlet where you brush your teeth. 

If you travel often, you may need an outlet adapter for your electric brush, which will take up more space in your luggage.

Common Questions about Electric Toothbrushes

Do you need to brush back and forth with an electric toothbrush?

Unlike a manual toothbrush, there’s no need to scrub your teeth back and forth with an electric one. The oscillating or vibrating brush head will do this for you.

Do you push hard with an electric toothbrush?

No, you shouldn’t press down hard on your teeth. Apply gentle pressure. If your brush has a pressure sensor, it’ll let you know if you’re pushing too hard.

How long should you brush your teeth with an Oral-B electric toothbrush?

Brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice daily. Most electric brushes have a 2-minute timer to ensure you brush for the recommended time.


As long as you use the proper technique, electric toothbrushes are an easy and effective way to practice good oral hygiene.

Always clean and maintain the brush heads properly. Additionally, make sure to floss daily and see your dentist for routine exams and cleanings. 

Clarify any questions you have about properly using an electric or manual toothbrush with your dentist or dental hygienist.

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Last updated on March 19, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 19, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Electric Toothbrushes.” Oral-B. 
  2. Hovliaras, et al. “Dental Hygienists’ Evaluation of the Usability Research Study of the Colgate Proclinical A1500 Electric Toothbrush.” The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 2015.
  3. Heintze, et al. “Effectiveness of Three Different Types of Electric Toothbrushes Compared with a Manual Technique in Orthodontic Patients.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, 1996.
  4. Yaacob, et al. “Powered/Electric Toothbrushes Compared to Manual Toothbrushes for Maintaining Oral Health.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2014.
  5. Toothbrushes.” American Dental Association, 2022.
  6. Wiegand, et al. “Brushing Force of Manual and Sonic Toothbrushes Affects Dental Hard Tissue Abrasion.” Clinical Oral Investigations, 2012.
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