If your dental checkups are less than stellar and your teeth seem to accumulate plaque too quickly, it might be a good idea to switch to a sonic toothbrush. While many dentists will emphasize frequent brushing and flossing, it really does matter which kind of brush you use. A lot of dentists will recommend sonic toothbrushes to their clients, claiming that they’re much better than a standard toothbrush. Certainly all the advertising would have you think this is true, and if that doesn’t convince you, maybe the price will (between $80 and $150). But are these electronic toothbrushes really better?
A sonic toothbrush uses technology to clean and eliminate tartar from your teeth, thereby reducing the incidence of plaque. Because it is powered by electricity, its bristles rotate at a very high speed to clean the mouth and gums effectively. The most popular type of sonic toothbrush is a Phillips Sonicare toothbrush, which is available at retailers nationwide.
What are the benefits of a sonic toothbrush?
The most important benefit of a sonic toothbrush is its cleaning capability. Unlike a manual toothbrush, the bristles on the head of a sonic toothbrush rotate independently. This results in a much more powerful cleaning tool that is closer to the kind that dentists and hygienists use during a teeth-cleaning. In addition to cleaner and whiter teeth, users of a sonic toothbrush can expect to have healthier gums and a reduction in gingivitis. When used properly it is more effective with removing food particles from in between teeth. It is also known to reduce bacteria levels in the mouth more effectively which gives the user fresher breath.
A sonic toothbrush comes with brush replacement heads to replace worn out brushes, as well as a UV cleaner unit that sanitizes the brush by keeping a UV light on the brush. It also comes with a travel case and travel charger for people on the go.
Three different kinds of toothbrushes
The three types of toothbrushes available today are the standard “non-powered” toothbrush, electric toothbrushes and high-powered electric models (also known as sonic toothbrushes). Here are the basic differences:
Standard "non-powered" toothbrushes - Traditional and somewhat boring nowadays, these ordinary toothbrushes are powered by your hand and wrist and come in many shapes and sizes. The effect of using the brush is to scrape away plaque and other particles. These brushes can be quite effective at cleaning the surface of the teeth, and new bristle designs are making them better at getting "in between" teeth. But in the end, they can only clean what the bristles actually touch.
Electric Toothbrushes - First introduced about 60 years ago, these toothbrushes move the brush head faster and more vigorously than you can do on your own, somewhere around 2,500 to 7,000 strokes per minute. This eliminates the user having to move the head in a "brushing" motion, and instead just move the vibrating brush head along the teeth. Many dental professionals look at these toothbrushes as "gimmicky," mainly because they only clean what they touch. Thus, the only advantage is not moving your hand in a "brushing" motion, which doesn’t do much for your teeth.
Sonic Toothbrushes - These are like electric toothbrushes on steroids, or at least that’s how they are described by many users. On average, sonic toothbrushes vibrate at 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute. They are believed to give your teeth a more thorough cleaning because they clean areas where the bristles don't touch. But is that really true? And if it is, does that make it better than a standard toothbrush? This is a matter of opinion, so the answer is it depends. The success of any new regimen depends on how stringent you are with all of your oral hygiene practices, such as how long and how often you brush, whether you floss, and your regular eating habits.
Sonic toothbrushes are eco-friendly
A sonic toothbrush is completely rechargeable and it doesn't run on an alkaline battery. In fact, the batteries can withstand up to 50 uses before having to be recharged. Also, sonic toothbrushes use a minimal amount of water because they hold toothpaste until it is completely dissolved and saturated into the teeth.
Are there drawbacks to a sonic toothbrush?
For some people, the vibrating bristles of a sonic toothbrush might take some getting used to, particularly for those with sensitive teeth and gums. The sensation of these vibrations varies from person to person, with some saying it feels like a slight tickle or tingle. On rare occasions, people may develop headaches after using a sonic brush. Another downfall is the price of a unit, which is usually $100 or more.
How to use a sonic toothbrush effectively
In order to get the most benefit from a sonic toothbrush, follow these simple steps:
- After putting toothpaste on the brush head, place it inside of your mouth and then press the start button. Placing it in your mouth first will avoid splattering and keep your lips relaxed around the unit.
- Note: first-time users should see if the unit has an "Easy Start" function as allows for a gradual adjustment until tooth sensitivity dissipates.
- Allow the vibrating motion of the brush to dislodge dental plaque by holding the brush head about 1/16 of an inch above teeth. This will cause tiny bubbles to form and the fluid dynamics will reduce the amount of plaque on the teeth.
Here is where users of sonic toothbrushes notice the most difference. Unlike traditional brushes, a sonic toothbrush can be hovered – on stationary hold - above areas of substantial stain, crooked teeth, or other problem areas such as puffy gums. Using this approach for a minimum of five seconds will reduce the amount of plaque by 95 percent.
Toothbrush technology is the first thing to consider, and it’s safe to say the basic design of a manual toothbrush hasn’t changed much over the years. Sure, the shapes may have changed a bit, as well as the bristle length, but there isn’t much to improve upon otherwise.
While this article takes a skeptic’s point of view, it is safe to say that a sonic toothbrush will indeed clean areas that cannot be reached by a conventional toothbrush. The extreme vibration creates enough energy and motion to move water, saliva and toothpaste into areas between the teeth and below the gum line which might not have been otherwise reached. Essentially, these areas are given more attention than they would otherwise get with a standard or electric toothbrush, making them superior to these brushes in general. Plus, studies have shown people will brush their teeth longer when using a sonic toothbrush and many say their teeth “feel” better when they use it. So let’s score some points for sonic toothbrushes!
If you still have questions about proper brushing and flossing techniques, ask your Colorado Springs dental office for tips and advice.