Electric Brush versus Manual Brushes

Kids Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes: The Ultimate Guide

There are many great rivalries. Coke vs. Pepsi. Marvel vs. DC. McDonald’s vs. Burger King. But perhaps there is no greater rivalry than Electric vs. Manual Toothbrushes. Now, I know what you’re thinking, what’s so great about a toothbrush? But consider this: your child’s toothbrush is the unsung hero of the dental world. Yes, your child’s toothbrush fights against plaque and decay-causing bacteria daily to protect your child’s teeth from decay. A good toothbrush ensures your child will not only keep that adorable smile you love, but will also save them from ever experiencing the pain that is dental decay.

Nowadays, deciding what toothbrush to use can be quite the challenge. Many stores have an entire aisle devoted to dental care needs, and a large majority of this aisle is stocked with an assortment of just about any size, color, and style of toothbrush you can imagine. While standing in the dental care aisle trying to determine what type of toothbrush to get your child, you may be wondering if buying an electric toothbrush is worth the money or if a much more affordable manual toothbrush will suffice. At Battery Park Pediatrics, Dr. Roxanna Khajavi and Dr. Ryan Trulby want the best for your children. That’s why our pediatric dentists have compiled this ultimate guide to children’s toothbrushes.

What type of toothbrush is the best?

boy holding a manual toothbrush in his right hand and an electric toothbrush in his left hand

Before we get too far into the logistics of toothbrushes, it is important to note that both manual and electric toothbrushes have been found by the American Dental Association to be effective means of keeping your child’s teeth clean. The majority of brushing benefits actually stem from the technique your child uses rather than the toothbrush itself. However, electric toothbrushes have been noted to make the brushing technique easier for children in some cases. To determine which toothbrush is best for your child, you will want to consider a few factors:


  • Does your child use good brushing technique?
  • Does your child brush their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day?
  • Are they engaged while brushing their teeth?
  • Do they have any orthodontic appliances?
  • Have Dr. Khajavi or Dr. Trulby mentioned the presence of excess plaque during your child’s dental appointment?

If your child is using the ADA brushing technique, brushes their teeth for two minutes twice a day, and is engaged while brushing, then they should be fine using a manual toothbrush. However, if your child is missing spots on their teeth causing plaque to accumulate, does not brush long enough, is uninterested in brushing, or has orthodontic appliances, an electric toothbrush may be a better option. If you have specific questions about what kind of toothbrush to use for your child, schedule a consultation with one of pediatric dentists at Battery Park Pediatrics to determine which type of toothbrush will work best for their individual dental needs.

In addition to the proper technique, it is also important for any of your child’s dental products, toothbrushes or otherwise, to have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. ADA Seal of Acceptance: The American Dental Association has established a series of requirements based on safety, efficiency, and scientific evidence for any dental product with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. 

Contender #1: The Tried and Trusted Manual Toothbrush

yellow manual toothbrush on an isolated white background

Manual toothbrushes have been around since the Middle Ages, although they have evolved tremendously over the years. During the Middle Ages, Europeans used wooden twigs with sweet scents to brush their teeth. Eventually this evolved into a bone with hog bristles. Today, the modern manual toothbrush uses plastic handles with nylon bristles. There are many variations of manual toothbrushes including straight, angled, or curved handles, as well as handles that are gripped or ribbed for a better grip.

Manual Toothbrush Pros:

  • Manual toothbrushes are readily available and don’t require a charge to function
  • Manual toothbrushes are more affordable and generally only cost between $1-$3
  • Different sizes and styles of heads

Manual Toothbrush Cons:

  • Some children brush too hard with a manual toothbrush
  • Some children do not brush for the required amount of time without a built-in timer

The Top 2019 Manual Toothbrushes for Children:

Totz® Toothbrush by RADIUS

Totz® Toothbrush is designed with your child’s mouth in mind. Totz® uses 4,500 soft bristles composed of a vegetable material and a small, oval brush head to allow your toddler to brush their teeth gently and effectively. The handle is also easy for them, or you, to grip and comes in a variety of bright colors with sparkles. Totz® is also BPA, latex, and phthalate free. Totz® toothbrushes are sold in a three pack. As your child continues to grow, they can grow into the Totz Plus™, Kidz®, and The Original®.

“Ever since I got these my son has become far more interested in brushing his teeth! He loves that it is smaller for his little hands and it’s well designed to reach all those baby teeth. This is perfect for helping me get my child interested in oral hygiene early so it’s not such a battle every day to get his teeth brushed anymore”(Victoria W.)

young female toddler with brown curly hair brushing her teeth next to a sink

Dr. Fresh Kids’ Extra Soft Toothbrushes

Dr. Fresh Kids’ Extra Soft Toothbrushes combine extra soft, angled bristles with a small brush head to help your child reach all the surfaces of their teeth. In addition, their handles have a rubber grip with a rubber stand to prop the toothbrush up when it’s placed on the counter top. Dr. Fresh Kids’ Extra Soft Toothbrushes are available in a five pack that uses bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.

“These are my favorite toothbrushes for my toddler! First of all, great price! They are a good quality–I say that because my son isn’t able to pull that many bristles out with his teeth! He chews on the bristles when he brushes and these hold up well. Finally, we have had problems with him chewing rubber off the handles of other brushes, which he has choked on. These have no rubber he can get off!”(Lauren K.)

Dr. Brown’s Infant-to-Toddler Toothbrush

Dr. Brown’s Infant-to-Toddler toothbrush uses a flexible body with a tiny head and super-soft bristles for transitioning between infant and toddler teeth. It is shaped like an elephant and has a broader handle to encourage toddlers to begin to brush their own teeth. The elephant ears also double as a stand to prop up the brush when placed on a countertop. Dr. Brown’s Infant-to-Toddler toothbrush also comes with Dr. Brown’s Natural Baby Toothpaste, which is fluoride-free and is available in pear or apple flavor.

“Great first toothbrush! Dental hygienist here! I did my research and bought about 10 different toothbrushes for my newly toothed infant. I found this one to be my favorite for the shape, size, and softness of the bristles. The design with the “handles” is  great to get my little guy interested and involved in his home care routine. I also LOVE that it stands on its own. The toothpaste was useless IMO [in my opinion]–personal preference was to start with a fluoridated toothpaste based off of ADA recommendations. It was worth it for the package just to try the brush, however” (Allison S.)

How to brush your teeth infographic showing brushing technique and toothbrush information

Nimbus NIMBY® Children’s Toothbrush

The Nimbus NIMBY® toothbrush is unique for their two-level Microfine bristles composed of short support bristles and long tapered bristles. These two-level Microfine bristles coupled with their smaller head makes the NIMBY® ideal for comfortable, effective brushing. NIMBY® toothbrushes come in a four pack with a variety of bright, solid colors. As your child continues to grow, they can eventually use the compact and regular sized Nimbus toothbrushes.

“I am a Dental Hygienist and have been buying the Nimbus toothbrush for myself and my kids for years. It was recommended to me by the Periodontist I worked for to preserve gum tissue…especially if you have recession, acid erosion issues, or gum tissue inflammation/bleeding. I have my kids use them to prevent any issues from occurring and it’s been very helpful with cleaning around braces as well. This toothbrush won’t allow you to brush too hard, the bristle tips are tapered in such a way that really gets things clean, and it really helps you to become a more conscious brusher. I have been recommending these to my patients for years and anyone that uses them, raves about them! Highly recommend!” (Jennifer L.)

abcOralCare Shaha 5 Toothbrushes

abcOralCare Shaha 5 toothbrushes use ultra fine, tapered bristles to remove plaque from the periodontal pockets by fitting between the teeth and gum. abcOralCare Shaha 5 toothbrush bristles are 0.01-0.03mm, while traditional toothbrush bristles average 0.2mm. The ultra fine bristles allow for a deeper clean while still maintaining brushing comfort. abcOralCare also offers bigger toothbrushes (abc8W & abc8B) as your child grows.

“These brushes are so much more attractive than character toothbrushes. They last the whole three months until they need to be replaced and still look good as new! The bristles are very long-lasting yet very soft and gentle for my three and five year old”(Amy H.)

Contender #2: The New and Improved Electric Toothbrush

The next heir in toothbrush history is the electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes continue to build upon modern dental hygiene practices by offering a toothbrush that can average 6,000-30,000 strokes per minute. However, while electric toothbrushes can offer a number of dental care benefits, all electric toothbrushes are not the same. With such a wide variety of electric toothbrushes available, you will want to consider what the best electric toothbrush is for your child’s individual dental needs.

Electric Toothbrush Pros:

  • Vibrations and rotations help to remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes
  • May be easier for children to use because the vibrations or rotations do most of the work
  • Some have their own timer to help your child brush for the right amount of time
  • Especially helpful for children with orthodontic appliances, such as braces
  • Some children prefer electric toothbrushes and are more engaged when brushing

Electric Toothbrush Cons:

  • More expensive than manual toothbrushes and range from $15-$250.
  • More expensive maintenance–cost of replacement heads range from $10-$45
  • Replacement heads can be difficult to find and may only be available online
  • Brushing with an improper technique may cause more harm than good
  • Not all children like the vibrations

The Top 2019 Electric Toothbrushes for Children

Philips Sonicare for Kids Electric Toothbrush

The Philips Sonicare for Kids Electric Toothbrush comes with built-in Bluetooth® technology that allows it to work in coordination with a coaching app on your phone. The app is both instructional, fun, and allows your child to earn rewards for brushing well. It also allows you to monitor their progress and assign rewards for your child. In addition, Philips Sonicare for Kids toothbrush also reaches between teeth and has a timer to regulate proper brushing.

“Let’s be real, brushing your kids teeth is not the funnest thing, and mine usually whine a lot. But, it has to get done. Once we bought these, they actually run to the bathroom to brush, even the 4 year old! The love these brushes! Each child decorated their own, and the timer helps them focus on one area for the right amount of time. We just went to dentist last week, and all 4 received another cavity-free checkup. The hygienist said their teeth looked really clean and happy. I hope I don’t have to buy another toothbrush for a long time, but if I do, it will be one of these!” (Nancy Z.)

closeup of an electric toothbrush head

Oral-B Pro Health Kids Electric Rechargeable Power Toothbrush (Frozen)

The Oral-B Pro Health Kids Electric Rechargeable Power toothbrush features a small, circular  Sensitive Clean toothbrush head that surrounds each individual tooth for a deep cleaning. It also has a waterproof handle decorated from the movieFrozen. It can also be purchased with aFrozen-themed timer app to keep your kids brushing for the right amount of time.

” Previous to buying this toothbrush, we had been buying the battery-operated disposable kid’s toothbrushes, but was getting tired of replacing them every 6 weeks. I was looking for an electric toothbrush for kids that had a fully rotating & spinning head (360­°), as most only have a side-to-side, sweeping-type action, which does NOT do a good job cleaning teeth along the gum line. This toothbrush does a fabulous job, and has a small enough head for little mouths, as the replacement heads can easily last 8-10 weeks and are fairly cheap. My son LOVES this toothbrush, as do I, because I know his teeth are getting clean!! Would definitely recommend!!” (Teresa B.)

Colgate® Kids Powered Toothbrush

Colgate® Kids Powered toothbrush comes dressed in a variety of your child’s favorite characters. It features a small, oscillating toothbrush head with extra soft bristles to gently clean your child’s teeth while protecting their gums. It’s slim handle can lay flat to apply toothpaste and is easy for your child to hold. It is battery-operated and has easy on/off buttons for your child to operate on their own.

“…Onto the toothbrushes 5-star qualities! The designs on the toothbrush–contrary to being two different designs, are very cute and have held up really well even with daily use. They have an on-off switch on the front of the toothbrush that is easy to push and use. The toothbrush has a great vibrating motor, that really ensures the kids are getting their teeth sparkling white and clean”(Dawn G.)

infographic with toothbrush and dental facts

Brush-Baby BabySonic Toothbrush

The Brush-Baby BabySonic toothbrush is an ideal electric toothbrush for young kids (ages 0-3). It has an overall small shape, which is perfect for tiny mouths and tiny hands. It also has soft bristles and gentle vibrations to gently clean the teeth without damaging the enamel or gums. In addition, it features a two minute light timer and timed pulses every 30 seconds to remind children to move the brush to a new part of their mouth.

“I love this toothbrush and so does my 2-year old daughter. The LEDlight is awesome, allows me to see inside her mouth while I’m brushing her teeth. We “take turns,” she goes first and then I get my turn. It has a nice gentle vibration, much softer than an adult toothbrush. I definitely think I’m getting her teeth cleaner than with a traditional brush, also she’s more willing to let me do it! Great all around.”(Richelle S.)

Brusheez Children’s Electric Toothbrushes

Brusheez Children’s Electric toothbrushes feature an animal-themed oral care set to encourage even the most resistant of brushers. Part of this kit is the electric toothbrush and another part is the 2 minute sand timer used to keep them brushing long enough. The kit also comes with a rinsing cup, replacement brush head, and weekly brushing charts. The toothbrush itself is powered by 2 AA batteries.

“Snappy was one of my three year old son’s Christmas presents, and he has been a huge hit in our house. This was my son’s first electronic toothbrush, and I was afraid the noise might scare him, but that has not been the case at all. He absolutely adores him. My son calls him a ‘dinosaur’ and gets so excited when he takes the cap off and puts it back on. He always yells “now he’s a dinosaur,” and “now he’s a toothbrush.” It’s super cute. He always flips the sand timer himself, and the on and off buttons are easily pushed by him also. I feel great knowing that his teeth are getting cleaner than they did with his old manual brush. And the entire set is just super adorable. He also loves the rinse cup, and can’t wait to use the spare “purple brush”. My son’s bedtime routine always starts with brushing his teeth, and Snappy had made our bedtime routine much quicker and less drawn out since my son is always so excited to run and get Snappy” (Amanda C.)

If you are still unsure what type of toothbrush is best for your child’s individual dental needs,schedule a consultation with one of our top pediatric dentists at Battery Park Pediatrics. Dr. Roxanna Khajavi and Dr. Ryan Trulby are proud to provide a wide range of pediatric dental care services to the communities of Brookfield Place, TriBeCa, Lower Manhattan, and Wall Street.