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This is somewhat related to Do modern toothbrush features remove more plaque than regular toothbrushes? except that I'm concerned about modern electric tooth brushes.

Advertising from a known firm states that "removes 100% more plaque than standard ones" ... forgive the misleading "100% more" ... don't know what can really mean ... the question simply is "do electric tooth brushes" some how are more efficient then manual brushing?

BTW my childrens dentist warn me against giving them electric tooth brushes.

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Systematic reviews

Perhaps the most comprehensive evidence on this question is the Cochrane systematic review (Robinson et al. 2005). The results are summarized by (Forrest and Miller 2004) as:

Searches identified 354 trials, of which 29 met inclusion criteria. These trials involved 2.547 participants who provided data for meta-analysis. Results indicated that for both plaque and gingivitis, all types of power toothbrushes worked as well as manual toothbrushes, however only the rotating oscillating toothbrush consistently provided a statistically significant though modest benefit over manual toothbrushes in reducing plaque (7%) and gingivitis (17%). None of the battery powered toothbrush studies met the inclusion criteria.

A later review comparing different types of powered brushes by (Deacon et al. 2010) concluded:

This review included data from 17 trials with 1369 participants. Brushes with a rotation oscillation action reduced plaque and gingivitis more than those with a side to side action in the short term. However, the difference was small and its clinical importance unclear. Due to the low numbers of trials using other types of powered brushes, no other definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding the superiority of one type of powered toothbrush over another.

Note: Cochrane systematic reviews are better evidence than simple meta-analyses. They follow a strict protocol that required pre-establishing and registering eligibility criteria, outcomes, interventions, and objectives.

References

Deacon, Scott A., Anne‐Marie Glenny, Chris Deery, Peter G. Robinson, Mike Heanue, A. Damien Walmsley, and William C. Shaw. "Different powered toothbrushes for plaque control and gingival health." Cochrane Database Syst Rev 18 (2010).

Forrest, J. L., and S. A. Miller. "Manual versus powered toothbrushes: a summary of the Cochrane Oral Health Group's Systematic Review. Part II." Journal of dental hygiene: JDH/American Dental Hygienists' Association 78, no. 2 (2004): 349.

Robinson, P. G., S. A. Deacon, C. Deery, M. Heanue, A. D. Walmsley, H. V. Worthington, A. M. Glenny, and W. C. Shaw. "Manual versus powered toothbrushing for oral health." Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2 (2005).

  • Do you have evidence that Cocharane systematic reviews are better evidence than simple meta-analyses? They are 'simple' meta analyses. A well defined method does not make them better evidence. The fact that they are the standard for synthesis of medical trials is noteworthy, but is not in and of itself a proof. – Abe Jan 11 '14 at 7:50
  • @Abe does it make any difference to the answer to the question? – Sklivvz Jan 11 '14 at 10:21
  • @Abe Systematic reviews are different than meta-analyses. You can do a meta-analysis on a cherry-picked set of studies. Not all systematic reviews even do a meta-analysis. Sometimes the studies meeting the inclusion criteria or the measures being reported don't allow for such an analysis. If you want to learn more about why systematic reviews (especially those following the Cochrane protocol) are better than non-systematic reviews, you can read more here. – user5582 Jan 11 '14 at 20:24
  • @Abe Quoting from that link: "systematic reviews are claimed to be the best source of evidence", "we observed far superior reporting standards of Cochrane reviews compared to non-Cochrane therapeutic one", "Many non-Cochrane reviews did not report key aspects of SR methodology, thus impairing confidence in their results and conclusions.". – user5582 Jan 11 '14 at 20:28
  • @Abe A well-defined, and pre-declared method does make better evidence, because you can be more sure that the researchers were not exploiting researcher degrees of freedom. – user5582 Jan 11 '14 at 20:35

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