Moderate quality evidence finds statistical benefit in oral health for powered over manual toothbrushes

Evid Based Dent. 2014 Sep;15(3):77-8. doi: 10.1038/sj.ebd.6401041.


Data sources: The Cochrane Oral Health Group's Trials Register, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Medline, Embase, CINAHL, National Institutes of Health Trials Register and the WHO Clinical Trials Registry Platform for ongoing trials. Reference lists of identified articles were also scanned for relevant papers. Identified manufacturers were contacted for additional information.

Study selection: Only randomised controlled trials comparing manual and powered toothbrushes were considered. Crossover trials were eligible for inclusion if the wash-out period length was more than two weeks.

Data extraction and synthesis: Study assessment and data extraction were carried out independently by at least two reviewers. The primary outcome measures were quantified levels of plaque or gingivitis. Risk of bias assessment was undertaken. Standard Cochrane methodological approaches were taken. Random-effects models were used provided there were four or more studies included in the meta-analysis, otherwise fixed-effect models were used. Data were classed as short term (one to three months) and long term (greater than three months).

Results: Fifty-six trials were included with 51 (4624 patients) providing data for meta-analysis. The majority (46) were at unclear risk of bias, five at high risk of bias and five at low risk. There was moderate quality evidence that powered toothbrushes provide a statistically significant benefit compared with manual toothbrushes with regard to the reduction of plaque in both the short and long-term. This corresponds to an 11% reduction in plaque for the Quigley Hein index (Turesky) in the short term and a 21% reduction in the long term. There was a high degree of heterogeneity that was not explained by the different powered toothbrush type subgroups.There was also moderate quality evidence that powered toothbrushes again provide a statistically significant reduction in gingivitis when compared with manual toothbrushes both in the short and long term. This corresponds to a 6% and 11% reduction in gingivitis for the Löe and Silness indices respectively. Again there was a high degree of heterogeneity that was not explained by the different powered toothbrush type subgroups. The greatest body of evidence was for rotation oscillation brushes which demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in plaque and gingivitis at both time points.

Conclusions: Powered toothbrushes reduce plaque and gingivitis more than manual toothbrushing in the short and long term. The clinical importance of these findings remains unclear. Observation of methodological guidelines and greater standardisation of design would benefit both future trials and meta-analyses. Cost, reliability and side effects were inconsistently reported. Any reported side effects were localised and only temporary.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • Dental Devices, Home Care / adverse effects*
  • Dental Devices, Home Care / economics*
  • Dental Plaque / prevention & control*
  • Gingivitis / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation*