Electric toothbrushes have a proven long-term effect
PD Dr. Kristina Bertl, PhD MSc MBA
The effectiveness of electric toothbrushes is undisputed, and their safety when used correctly has also been proved over a period of at least 3 years (see also: ‘Can brushing your teeth be harmful...?’). This fact was also recently stressed in the new guidelines of the German Society for Periodontology (DG Paro; see also: ‘Mechanical biofilm management at home for the prevention and treatment of gingivitis’). And the last systematic Cochrane Review systematischen Cochrane Reviews (Yaacob et al. 2014) also concluded that electric toothbrushes reduce plaque and gingivitis by a statistically significantly greater amount than manual toothbrushes do. However, the following question remains: does this statistically significant benefit really lead to a better periodontal status and less tooth loss in the long term?
Long-term studies on this topic are hard to conduct, and previous results only related to periods of 3 years or less. But now a German research group has succeeded in collecting and evaluating the required data over a longer period of time – 11 years! (Pitchika et al. 2019). This study aimed to assess the long-term effect of electric toothbrushes on periodontal status (average pocket probing depth and average loss of attachment), caries status and tooth loss in almost 3000 adult study participants. Based on the data collected, it was proven for the first time that using an electric toothbrush over a period of > 10 years leads to statistically significantly lower progression of pocket probing depth and loss of attachment, which in turn leads to statistically significantly less tooth loss!
Taking into account important potential influencing factors such as smoking, sex, education etc., the rate of tooth loss among participants who had used an electric toothbrush was approximately 20% lower than that among patients who had used a manual toothbrush. Viewed across the population as a whole, this means that the participants who regularly used an electric toothbrush lost half a tooth less on average. At first glance this might not seem like much – after all, what is half a tooth? However, these figures always constitute an average, and by taking into account numerous relevant factors, the study showed that the mere act of using an electric toothbrush instead of a manual one leads to less tooth loss!
- Pitchika V, Pink C, Völzke H, Welk A, Kocher T, Holtfreter B. Long-term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health: 11-year cohort study. J Clin Periodontol. 2019;46:713–722. https://doi.org/10.1111/ jcpe.13126. Yaacob M, Worthington HV, Deacon SA, Deery C, Walmsley AD, Robinson PG, Glenny AM. Powered versus manual toothbrushing for oral health. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jun 17;(6):CD002281. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002281.pub3.