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The History and Use of the Electric Toothbrush

The goals of keeping patients teeth clean, eliminating plaque and reducing the possibility of tooth decay and gingivitis are the primary focus of dentists. All of their skill and efforts fall short when their patients fail to do a good job of daily dental hygiene. Proper tooth brushing technique is critical to good dental health.

We do have another tool on our side to help patients more effectively take care of their teeth – the electric toothbrush. While a manual toothbrush will do a good job of cleaning teeth, electric toothbrushes clean even more effectively, but with less effort.


Since the first conception of the toothbrush, designed originally for people suffering from poor motor skills, or those with braces, there have been many technological advances that have helped to improve an originally clunky and sometimes problematic device into a bathroom essential.

The development of the electric toothbrush dates back to 1954 when Dr. Phillipe-Guy Woog created the first brush in Switzerland. The main problem with the original design was its reliance on using an electrical outlet to provide the power. Broxo S.A. in America later introduced the device to America.

General Electric designed the first portable electric toothbrush using Ni CAD batteries during the 1960s.  However, the brush was difficult to use due to its bulky size and the short battery life. Even more problematic was the short life span of the batteries. They were not replaceable, and so when the batteries died for good, the brush had to be replaced.

Modern Electric Toothbrushes

Today’s electric toothbrushes have come a long way. While some brushes on the market that plug into wall outlets, most electric toothbrushes use batteries that are long lasting and rechargeable, and a good amount of these are rechargeable with an easy-to-use dock.

There are two different approaches to toothbrush technology in modern use; Electric and sonic. Sonic toothbrushes rely on vibration to clean teeth at a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 strokes per minute.

Electric brushes employ one of two designs. Some manufacturers, notably Oral-B, employ a oscillating-rotating brush movement. Other manufacturers makes brushes that move side-to-side and are shaped more like a traditional toothbrush. Both brushes perform well. Compared to the sonic brush, these two types move at 3,000 to 7,500 rotations per minute, duplicating the motion of the hand when brushing teeth. A regular toothbrush typically measure 300 strokes per minute, or 600 strokes for a two minute brushing. They are highly effective at cleaning while, at the same time, reducing abrasion and staining to the teeth.

Other developments in technology help us to judge the length of time we brush for, when we should replace the head of our brush, and more.

Using an Electric Toothbrush

While it may sound simplistic, it is important to learn how to brush your teeth with an electric toothbrush because there are some differences in technique. For starters, these brushes are designed to do most of the work for you. The basic idea is to guide the brush along the teeth and gums — let the brushing action do the cleaning.

The key to properly using an electric brush is to plan on brushing for two minutes. Put another way, allow 30 seconds for each quarter section of your mouth — lower left and right, and upper left and right. Most brushes have a built in timer that will alert you every 30 seconds. Some even stop after two minutes.

While brushing, it is not necessary to apply a lot of pressure. These cleaning tools to a great job with very little pressure. In fact, some brushes have a built in pressure sensor that alerts the brusher when too much pressure is being applied.

There is a brushing procedure that, when followed, does an orderly, logical and complete job of cleaning your teeth. This process involves a bit of a learning curve because using an electric toothbrush feels different for a manual brush.

Some professionals advise beginning users to start brushing without toothpaste so that they can get used to the feel of the brush and learn to use it properly and develop technique. The brush does the cleaning job and the use of a mouthwash afterward takes care of freshening the breath.

The steps involved in using an electric toothbrush are similar to those used with a manual brush — with exceptions:

The need to gently guide the brush rather than manually move it back and forth cannot be overemphasized.

Brush one quarter section of the mouth, starting with the outside sections of the teeth first. Guide the brush gently around the surface of each tooth, following the shape of the tooth and the gum line. Allow 30 seconds for each section and 5 to 10 seconds for each tooth. Tilt the brush at a 45 degree angle to brush the gums and gum line.

Follow the same process with the inside quarters. In both areas, be sure to brush thoroughly between teeth.

The next step is to brush the often overlooked biting surfaces of teeth in back, on each side of the mouth.

It is also important to brush the tongue and roof of the mouth, using forward strokes, to help freshen breath.

Much of the learning curve and technique involved in getting used to an electric toothbrush is a matter of  developing a sense of where the bristles are in your mouth and figuring out where each tooth is while brushing. The same approach applies to the gums and gum line. It is a new way of brushing teeth and it takes time to adjust.

Cost is definitely a consideration in deciding whether to purchase an electric toothbrush. There are several good brushes available in different price ranges that vary, depending on quality, attachments and whether the batteries are rechargeable or not. Electric toothbrushes can cost as little as £10 or as high as £200 and over. The buying decision depends on what you want in the way of an electric toothbrush and how much you are willing to spend.

Electric toothbrushes are recommended by more and more dentists in coventry because of the superior job of cleaning they do. Users find that their visits to the dentist involve less scrapping of plaque and fewer cavities. Those two bits of good news are reason enough to use an electric toothbrush.

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