Use an Electric Toothbrush Properly

Written by Heather Siler

Purchasing a power (electric) toothbrush which is approved by the American Dental Association is a smart investment in your oral health. While power brushes are more effective at cleaning than manual brushes, there is a bit of a learning curve associated with using them correctly.

First of all, there are two main types of power brushes. This blog is referring to rechargeable brushes costing around $40-150 and not the inexpensive disposable spin brushes which are not rechargeable. Both types of rechargeable brushes work in the same way in that the motion of the brush head itself does the work. All you have to do is properly guide the brush.

The two main styles of electric toothbrushes are rotation-oscillation and side-to-side sonic. While both are equally effective, the type of brush you choose is personal preference. It’s wise to visit a store with models on display so that you can see and touch the brush and experience the movement of the brush head. Furthermore, many dental practices have display models you can try in your mouth with a disposable brush head. Read and follow the instructions outlined in the manual, but following is how to use a power brush properly:

  1. Select the appropriate brush head for your needs- the oscillating type brushes typically have specialized brush heads which target your specific needs. Some examples are heads for orthodontics (braces), sensitive teeth, in-between the teeth, and other various heads with extra features. The sonic brush type has one type of brush head which is shaped like a traditional brush. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not offering different head types. Mostly, it’s personal preference.
  2. Wet the brush head to soften the bristles
  3. Apply an ADA approved toothpaste. Choose the paste recommended by your dental professional.
  4. Insert the brush into your mouth and turn it on. Don’t turn it on before you place it in your mouth or you may end up with a mess.
  5. Develop your brushing pattern- you can use any routine in which you feel comfortable to ensure that you don’t miss any areas. Some people prefer to begin on the lower right outside, guide to the lower left outside, then lower left inside to lower right inside. After finishing the outside and inside of the teeth, progress to the chewing surface right to left. Others like to divide their mouth into four quadrants and make the same pattern, outside, inside, chewing surface. You will hold the brush handle horizontally for the back teeth and vertically for the front teeth. Most quality brushes have a timer which may beep or vibrate after each 30-second interval, and you should spend at least 30 seconds on each quadrant. Most models also have a safety mechanism (the brush handle will beep or vibrate, or the brush head will stall) which won’t allow you to apply too much pressure.
  6. Wherever you choose to begin, place the brush head at a 45-degree angle to your gumline keeping the bristles in contact with the tooth surface and gumline. The most difficult part of transitioning from a manual brush to electric is breaking the habit of the traditional way of moving the brush. Remember, the power brush is going to do the work for you, so your only job is to guide it by using a sweeping motion from tooth to tooth without applying too much When you reach the front teeth, position the brush vertically and gently guide the bristles one tooth at a time. On the biting surfaces of the front and back teeth, use a gentle back and forth motion.
  7. The last part of the mouth to clean is the tongue and palate (roof of the mouth). Hold the brush parallel to the floor and use a gentle back to front motion.

After you’ve finished brushing thoroughly, rinse the brush head with warm water to remove any toothpaste being careful not to get any water near the charging receptacle. Store your brush in the casing provided by the manufacturer to help maintain the integrity of the head. Always inspect the brush head before usage making sure it doesn’t have any extreme fraying, loose bristles, or jagged edges. You should replace the brush head after three months of use or after an illness. The transition from a manual to power brush is easy once you get accustomed to the movement of the head and regular usage will make your dental visits much more pleasant.