Here at Children’s Dental Center, one of the questions we hear from parents most often is, “what type of toothbrush is best for my child?” Similarly, parents want to know whether high-tech electric toothbrushes are more effective at cleaning children’s teeth than a manual toothbrush may be. The powered rotation and stroke action has led many to believe that electric toothbrushes are superior to regular brushes, and their use has skyrocketed in response. While both of these methods can be part of a successful dental hygiene routine, we’re here to help you understand more about each so that you can make the best decision for your child’s smile!

Manual vs. electric toothbrush

First things first: manual toothbrushes are just about as effective as their electric counterparts. Their soft bristles help clean teeth surfaces, and they’re able remove plaque and even food deposits thoroughly. Crisscrossed bristles, rounded tips, ergonomically designed handles, angled brush heads, gum stimulators, and tongue cleaning pads are just a few of the advanced features incorporated into modern toothbrushes to make them more efficient for both children and adults. Some children may even prefer to use manual toothbrushes because they don’t like the vibration or the powered motion of electric brushes. 

That said, electric toothbrushes may actually have a slight edge over manual versions. One study by the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics found that an electric brush could remove a greater amount of plaque than a manual one, thanks to the rotating and oscillating action. Many kids also find electric toothbrushes a lot of fun, which can make them more enthusiastic about brushing their teeth, and anything that encourages children to brush gets a thumbs up from us! Let’s take a look at what other advantages an electrictric toothbrush can have for your child’s smile.

The advantages of an electric toothbrush

Multiple studies have shown that electric toothbrushes can be more effective than manual brushes at removing plaque. Some of the best models have even indicated an ability to remove up to 2x more total plaque, which is pretty impressive! There are several factors that give these brushes their slight advantage over regular brushes, including:

Deep cleaning

Electric toothbrushes are designed to drive fluids in between the teeth, so they can get down deep and clean more efficiently. Most models also produce hundreds or even thousands of movements per minute, something your kids can’t replicate with a manual toothbrush no matter how convinced they are that they have superpowers!

Custom cleaning modes

Many electric toothbrush models possess cleaning modes that have been customized with a specific purpose in mind, such as strengthening sensitive teeth, whitening discolored teeth, stain removal, and much more. While these may not generally affect young children, they can be issues for older kids and teens.

Easy to use

As an adult, cleaning our teeth properly may seem like second nature, but you’d be surprised how many people get it wrong, especially kids. Whether it’s rushing through brushing, neglecting flossing completely, or simply not understanding how to brush and floss properly, we’ve seen a number of patients over the years who just don’t do a good job of getting their gums and teeth clean. Cavities and gum damage can often be avoided by doing nothing more than cleaning your mouth thoroughly and regularly, and electric toothbrushes can help facilitate this by removing the risk of “user error.” They do so by including features like timers, sensors, and multiple modes that take most of the guesswork out of brushing

electric and manual toothbrushes isolat

Electric toothbrush features 

Electric toothbrushes come with multiple modes, and are also available in several different styles and with many different features as well. These can include:

Battery-powered options

The most basic electric brushes run on a simple AA or AAA battery. While they are similar to manual toothbrushes, they do have a head that spins or pulsates the bristles to add a little extra oomph to your child’s brushing. Battery-powered toothbrushes tend to be the least expensive electric option, and can be very convenient. Do keep a close eye on the batteries, though, and replace them as soon as they run out. If you leave old batteries in, they can leak acid and ruin the brush itself. 

Rechargeable toothbrushes

These brushes can be recharged using a base that plugs into a wall outlet, so there are no batteries to replace. These electric options often offer higher-tech features like timers, pressure sensors, and replacement reminders. They may also include a variety of brushing options, such as oscillation or vibration.


It’s hard enough to get your kid in the bathroom to brush their teeth, let alone do it for the recommended two minute minimum! One of the most common problems we see in our patients is not brushing long enough, and timers can really help your child if they have trouble keeping their dental hygiene routine on track.

Multiple brush heads

With this feature, you can switch detachable brush heads when the bristles wear out but keep the electric base intact. While some bases will only fit one type of brush head, others are compatible with many different types. 

Multiple brush settings

Some electric brushes offer multiple settings for a more thorough cleaning experience. These settings may include:

  • rotary, where the head rotates in only one direction
  • counter-rotational, where the head rotates in various directions
  • rotating-oscillating, which allows different lengths of bristles to rotate in opposite directions
  • oscillating-pulsating, which adds a pulsating motion to the oscillatory motion

Toothbrush with toothpaste

We can help your child brush their way to a beautiful smile!

Whether you settle on a manual or electric toothbrush for your child, we recommend you stick with one that has a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. Dental products marked with the ADA seal have been studied thoroughly and tested for safety and effectiveness. They’re also guaranteed to perform as promised, so you can trust them!

If you’d like to try incorporating an electric toothbrush into your child’s dental hygiene routine, but aren’t sure where to start, our team would be happy to recommend one for you based on your child’s smile. Our doctors and staff are always here to discuss any questions or concerns you have, and we’re dedicated to giving you and your family the best dental experience possible when you visit our Germantown, Midtown, or Arlington offices.