Electric toothbrushes help prevent tooth loss, according to researchers at the University of Greifswald in Germany.
“Electric toothbrushes have become increasingly popular among all age groups in Germany, but few studies have tested their long-term effectiveness,” said author Vinay Pitchika, BDS, MSc, PhD. “Our study shows that electric toothbrushes are most beneficial in maintaining good oral health and are linked with slower progression of periodontal disease.”
The 11-year observational study investigated the association between electric toothbrushing and periodontitis, caries, and number of teeth present. It included 2,819 adults from the Study of Health in Pomerania examined between 2002 and 2006 with follow-up after six and 11 years. At baseline, 18% used an electric toothbrush, rising to 37% at the 11-year follow-up.
Electric toothbrush users experienced 20% less tooth loss during follow-up than manual toothbrush users, with an average of 0.4 more teeth retained out of 28 teeth. Those who brushed with an electric toothbrush twice at least twice a day saw slightly greater benefits than those who used a manual toothbrush at least twice a day.
When the participants were divided into groups according to the severity of their periodontitis, the association between electric toothbrushing and tooth retention was significant only in those with no or mild periodontitis and not in those with moderate or severe periodontitis.
Furthermore, the study linked electric toothbrushing with fewer pockets and better attachment of teeth to the gums and bone, as shown by 22% and 21% lower progression of probing depth and clinical attachment loss, respectively, than manual toothbrush users.
The study also found significant associations with probing depth in people with no or mild to moderate periodontitis, while the link with clinical attachment loss was found only in those with moderate periodontitis. There was no relationship between electric toothbrushing and the two measurements in those with severe periodontitis.
“People who already have relatively good oral health and minimal periodontal breakdown appear to profit the most from electric toothbrushing. Electric toothbrushes were much more effective as a preventive tool rather than when periodontitis had already progressed. People with severe periodontitis need periodontal treatment,” said Pitchika.
The researchers also noted that people with good oral health tend to be younger, while those with periodontitis are usually older.
“Previous studies have shown that electric toothbrushes seem to be better for plaque control in older people who have reduced fine motor skills,” said Pitchika.
No association was found between electric toothbrush usage and dental caries.
“Compared to the type of toothbrush, we presume that fluoride has a major role to play in preventing caries or reducing progression of caries,” said Pitchika.
The study, “Long-Term Impact of Powered Toothbrush on Oral Health: 11-Year Cohort Study,” was published by the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.