If the increased amount of space taken up on store shelves is any indication, the electric toothbrushes are growing in popularity. Some of them are kid friendly. The toothbrush handle may take on the shape of a racing car or a mermaid or a cell phone, and its color may resemble army camouflage.
Many patients are now asking their dentists about these mechanical tools so much that the American Dental Association (ADA) has issued several news releases on the matter.
The organization says manual toothbrushes can be just as effective as powered ones. The key to preventing tooth decay lies in the way a toothbrush is used, electric or otherwise.
There was a time when toothbrushes were considered luxury items. According to the ADA, wealthy Europeans in the Middle Ages used twigs made of sweet-smelling wood to clean their teeth. Then, in 1498, the emperor of China developed a device with hog bristles placed in a bone handle. This type of toothbrush became so popular that in Europe even the common folk used it. The price of hog bristles was so steep, however, that a whole family would share the same toothbrush to cut costs.
Today, the cost of a powered toothbrush can be more than triple that of a manual one. Modern society’s obsession with cleanliness, however, has generally made it unacceptable to share toothbrushes.
At 6,000 to 30,000 strokes per minute, the mechanical brushes appear to provide more power per dollar compared to manual ones. It certainly takes less time to do a thorough job with the electrified version. Some people don’t like the power stroke action, however.
Toothbrushes, whether manual or electric, are considered by the United States government to be medical devices. They fall within the Food and Drug Administration’s class I category, meaning that they are generally considered to pose little harm and are subject to the least regulatory control.
Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry are in the process of studying the responses of parents, children, and dental professionals to high-tech brushes. Toothbrush maker Braun Oral-B has already come out with a report of its own on the effectiveness of the mechanical devices. In one study, more than 16,000 patients were asked by their dentists or hygienists to use a Braun Oral-B powered toothbrush.
When asked to monitor their patients’ progress, the dental professionals said that the powered brush had a positive effect on the oral health of more than 80 percent of the patients. Most participants reportedly said their oral health was better after using the device.
Dental health experts agree that regular tooth brushing (no matter how high tech or low tech the gadget) and flossing can help prevent tooth decay. As a general rule, children up to age seven have adult supervision while brushing. This is to make sure kids completely clean all surfaces of their teeth, even hard to reach places where plaque often accumulates, such as the back molars or the lower bottom teeth next to the tongue.
The ADA has more suggestions for parents to help their kids develop good dental habits:
- Take your child to see the dentist regularly. Schedule a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday.
- Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.
- Start brushing the child’s teeth with water as soon as the first tooth appears. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste can be used after age 2, when the child can spit it out.
- Watch how your child eats. It’s better to eat regular meals and fewer sugary snacks.
- Make certain your child gets the right amount of fluoride needed for decay-resistant teeth. Ask your dentist how this can be done.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealant, a thin protective barrier that shields the chewing surface of back teeth from tooth decay.
Whichever toothbrush you decide to use, don’t get carried away with brushing. Excessive brushing with either a manual or electric brush has its risks. Too much pressure and too frequent brushing can abrade enamel, or the root if the gum has receded. Abrasion can cause teeth to become hypersensitive to hot and/or cold. If you have questions about what brush is best for you, contact Reddick Orthodontics today!