Background: Oscillating-rotating power toothbrushes have been proven clinically efficacious. To our knowledge, a comprehensive review of all clinical and laboratory investigations solely comparing the safety of these toothbrushes to the standard of care (i.e., manual toothbrushes) has not been published. The aim of this systematic review is to examine the literature concerning the relative soft and/or hard tissue safety outcomes with the use of oscillating-rotating toothbrushes compared to manual toothbrushes.
Methods: With the use of electronic databases of the National Library of Medicine (PubMed-MEDLINE), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Cochrane-CENTRAL), and the Excerpta Medical Database (EMBASE), a search of in vivo and in vitro trials through May 2010 was conducted to identify appropriate studies that evaluated the effects of an oscillating-rotating power toothbrush compared to a manual toothbrush with respect to soft and/or hard tissue safety. Eligible trials incorporated a safety evaluation as a primary or secondary outcome parameter (i.e., gingival recession, observed/reported adverse events, and hard tissue effects) or used a surrogate parameter (i.e., stained gingival abrasion and brushing force) to assess safety. Data extraction for the primary- and surrogate-measure safety studies, which included mean values and SDs when available, and a meta-analysis of the gingival recession data were performed.
Results: Independent screening of the titles and abstracts of 697 PubMed-MEDLINE, 436 Cochrane-CENTRAL, and 664 EMBASE papers resulted in 35 publications that met the eligibility criteria. The mean change in gingival recession was not significantly different among toothbrush groups in the two selected trials with safety as a primary outcome (weighted mean difference: 0.03). A meta-analysis of the five trials that evaluated safety with a surrogate parameter was not possible; however, there were no significant between-group differences at the study end in any trial. A descriptive analysis of the 24 selected studies assessing safety as a secondary outcome revealed few brushing-related adverse events. The heterogeneity in objectives and methodology of the four in vitro trials that met the eligibility criteria precluded generalization of the results.
Conclusion: A large body of published research in the preceding 2 decades has consistently shown oscillating-rotating toothbrushes to be safe compared to manual toothbrushes, demonstrating that these power toothbrushes do not pose a clinically relevant concern to hard or soft tissues.