The efficacy of manual toothbrushes following a brushing exercise: a systematic review

Int J Dent Hyg. 2012 Aug;10(3):187-97. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-5037.2012.00557.x. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


Aim: To determine the efficacy of manual tooth brushing with respect to toothbrush design and brushing duration.

Material and methods: The PubMed-MEDLINE and Cochrane CENTRAL were searched through October 2010 to identify appropriate studies. The outcome measurement was dental plaque removal following subject brushing.

Results: The search yielded 2119 titles and abstracts. Ultimately, 59 papers with 212 brushing exercises as separate legs of the experiments and meeting the eligibility criteria were selected. Overall, a brushing exercise provides a 42% (21) plaque score reduction (95% CI: 41.23; 42.03). Of the brushing studies providing data as assessed according to the Quigley and Hein plaque index, the weighted mean reduction from baseline in plaque scores was 30% (95% CI: 26.79; 33.21). A weighted mean plaque score reduction of 53% (95% CI: 49.51; 56.49) was observed in the experiments using the Navy plaque index. Subanalysis between the different bristle tuft configurations illustrated variation in plaque removal ability (24-61%). The angled bristle design numerically showed the highest mean plaque reduction with either index. A subanalysis of brushing duration revealed after 1 min, a mean reduction of 27% and after 2 min, 41%.

Conclusion: The efficacy in plaque removal following a brushing exercise is a reduction from baseline plaque scores of 42% on average, with a variation of 30-53% dependent on the plaque index used. The available evidence indicates that bristle tuft arrangement (flat trim, multilevel, angled) and brushing duration are factors that contribute to the variation in observed efficacy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Dental Devices, Home Care*
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control*
  • Dental Plaque Index
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene / education
  • Oral Hygiene / instrumentation*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation*
  • Toothbrushing / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome