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How to Use an Electric Toothbrush

AnnaMarie Houlis
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
6 Sources Cited

How to Use an Electric Toothbrush: Step-By-Step

Toothbrushes clean your teeth and maintain proper oral hygiene. However, using an electric toothbrush is a bit different from using a regular toothbrush.2

An electric toothbrush can be better than a standard toothbrush, but only if you use it correctly

An electric toothbrush uses oscillating and vibrating rotation to help remove plaque and food particles from your teeth. The bristles may either move back and forth or oscillate in a rotation.

Unlike a manual brush, you have to charge an electric toothbrush to keep it alive. Most electric toothbrushes plug into a typical wall outlet. Others are battery-operated.

Using an electric toothbrush is simple. Here’s how to use an electric toothbrush properly:

  1. Switch on the toothbrush. Make sure it has batteries or is charged. 
  2. Apply a pea-sized dab of ADA approved fluoridated toothpaste to the bristles.
  3. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle with gentle pressure on your tooth surfaces.
  4. Brush for at least two minutes. Brush every tooth for three to five seconds each. 
  5. Brush from one side to the other in the back and front and on the chewing surfaces of both your upper and lower teeth.5
  6. After you get the front and back teeth on the top and bottom, make sure to brush your tongue to remove bacteria. 
  7. Clean your electric-powered toothbrush and put it back on the charger. Store it in an upright position to dry.5

Using this brushing technique helps keep your teeth clean. It removes plaque and tartar buildup from the inner and outer surfaces of your teeth.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with the correct technique, once in the morning and once in the evening.5 

You should also be sure to floss between your teeth. It’s generally better to floss before brushing your teeth. Floss between each tooth in a C-shape along your gum line for a few seconds.

Use mouthwash to rinse your mouth after brushing for optimal oral hygiene.

Make sure to replace your toothbrush every few months, just like you would a manual toothbrush. All kinds of toothbrushes should be replaced after three to four months of use.

With some brands, you can replace just the electric toothbrush head. This way, you don’t need to get a new toothbrush every time.

Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes 

Both electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes are considered effective

However, there are many pros to electric toothbrushes that may make them better than regular toothbrushes for some people:

  • An electric toothbrush has a built-in timer, so you may be more likely to brush your teeth for the recommended two minutes.5
  • Electric toothbrushes can help reduce waste since they typically last longer than manual toothbrushes. 
  • People who use electric toothbrushes tend to be more focused on brushing their teeth than those who use standard toothbrushes. This can improve the overall experience.
  • People who use electric toothbrushes tend to apply better pressure than those who brush too hard with regular toothbrushes.6

People with limited dexterity may also prefer an electric toothbrush that requires less manual work.3 

This includes people with the following health issues:

  • Arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Age-related disabilities
  • Arm, wrist, hand or finger injuries that prevent too much motion

Likewise, people with orthodontic appliances like braces may have an easier time brushing with an electric toothbrush. 

Benefits of Using an Electric Toothbrush 

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

Plaque is reduced by 21 percent and gingivitis by 11 percent after three months of using an electric toothbrush.4  

What are the Disadvantages?

There aren’t many downsides to using an electric toothbrush properly. The biggest con is that it’s more expensive than a traditional toothbrush. 

They can range in price from about $15 to about $250. In comparison, you can buy a manual toothbrush (or a pack) for just a few dollars.

Also, you may not have easy access to an outlet near the sink where you brush your teeth. 

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

How to Choose the Best Electric Toothbrush

There are different types of electric toothbrushes. It’s up to you to decide which kind is right for you. 

Look out for several key factors:

  • Decide if you prefer a plug-in or battery-operated electric toothbrush.
  • Oscillating toothbrushes tend to work better than electric toothbrushes that simply vibrate. 
  • Look for an electric toothbrush with an ADA Seal of Acceptance.5 This means the American Dental Association endorses its effectiveness.

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

Oral-B, for example, sells a range of electric toothbrushes.1

Oral-B award-winning toothbrushes are designed for different needs, from whitening to sensitivity. The best-sellers range from about $30 to $150.

This brand 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 $.70 each

Last updated on December 17, 2021
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 17, 2021
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
  2. FS;, Hovliaras C;Gatzemeyer J;Jimenez E;Panagakos. “Dental Hygienists' Evaluation of the Usability Research Study of the Colgate Proclinical A1500 Electric Toothbrush.” The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  3. J;, Heintze SD;Jost-Brinkmann PG;Loundos. “Effectiveness of Three Different Types of Electric Toothbrushes Compared with a Manual Technique in Orthodontic Patients.” American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics : Official Publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, Its Constituent Societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Powered/Electric Toothbrushes Compared to Manual Toothbrushes for Maintaining Oral Health, Cochrane.
  5. Toothbrushes.” American Dental Association.
  6. Wiegand, Annette, et al. “Brushing Force of Manual and Sonic Toothbrushes Affects Dental Hard Tissue Abrasion - Clinical Oral Investigations.” SpringerLink, Springer-Verlag, 13 July 2012.
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