Electric Toothbrushes for Children?

Our dentist recommended an electric toothbrush for our kids. Do you think this would be better than a manual toothbrush?

Question:

Electric toothbrushes appear to be more effective in removing plaque. They may also increase motivation to brush. Because children are generally brief and erratic toothbrushers, the appeal of a gadget such as an electric toothbrush may increase their interest in maintaining oral health.

Many studies have compared adult use of electric versus manual toothbrushes; however, very few similar studies have been done with children. Grossman et al., (1997) showed that an electric toothbrush removes plaque more effectively in children older than seven. I suspect that younger children will have difficulty handling and manipulating an electric toothbrush.

An earlier study compared the use of manual and electric toothbrushes in two groups of children. One group included children ages 7 to 9-years-old and the other group included children ages 10 to 12-years-old. In both groups, more plaque was removed with the electric brush. In children under four, there was not much difference in plaque removal.

In the study completed by Grossman et al., (1997), manual toothbrushes were compared to an electric toothbrush manufactured specifically for children, namely the Braun Oral-B Plaque Remover for Kids. This study involved children ages 8 to 12-years-old. The children were carefully instructed in the use of both toothbrushes and then randomly assigned to use either manual brushes or the Braun Oral-B electric brush. Examiners found significantly greater plaque removal from both primary and permanent teeth in children who used the electric toothbrush.

Plaque removal is necessary to prevent cavities and to control gum disease. About 85 percent of children will have at least one cavity by the age of 17 and almost 100 percent will have gingivitis by puberty. When using a manual toothbrush, it has been shown that children under five-years-old may only reach 25 percent of tooth surfaces.

Difficulty with proper oral hygiene is due to poor manual dexterity and lack of motivation. Using an electric toothbrush may help overcome these problems.

Reference:

Grossman et al., "A comparison of the efficacy and safety of an electric and a manual children's toothbrush" Journal of the American Dental Association (1997) 128:469-474.

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