Power Toothbrushes and Plaque
Brushing your teeth for at least two minutes using moderate pressure with a powered toothbrush effectively reduces plaque buildup on teeth, according to a study in Journal of Clinical Periodontology (2003;30:409–13). The reduction in plaque was observed on outer tooth surfaces, as well as between teeth.
Plaque is the whitish-yellow substance that coats the surfaces of teeth and is the primary cause of tooth decay. It is composed of different sugars that accumulate on the teeth, often following meals. Bacteria bind to plaque and begin to cause erosion in the hard, outer tooth surface (the enamel), leading to cavities. Certain foods, especially those containing sucrose, enhance this process. Regular brushing is the single most important factor in preventing cavities. This is the first study to examine different times and amounts of pressure with a powered toothbrush to determine which combination is most effective in eliminating plaque.
In the study, 12 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years used a specially modified power toothbrush (Sensiflex 2000) for four different time periods (30, 60, 120, and 180 seconds) and with four different rates of force (75, 150, 225, and 300 grams of pressure), for a total of 16 different combinations. The amount of plaque (plaque index) was measured before and after each of the 16 tests. Participants used no other oral hygiene measures for at least 24 hours prior to their brushing. No serious adverse effects occurred with the power toothbrush, although some participants developed small ulcers in their mouth that resolved within one week with no complications.
The reduction in plaque varied significantly with different brushing times and degrees of force. For each time period, the amount of plaque generally decreased by increasing the force of brushing. For example, using a force of 300 grams for 30 seconds reduced plaque more than a force of 150 grams for 30 seconds, even though the time of brushing was the same. Brushing for two minutes, using a moderate amount of pressure (150 grams) appeared to be the optimal method, as it was highly effective at removing plaque and was unlikely to cause damage to the gums. Brushing for longer than two minutes and using more than 150 grams of pressure did not reduce plaque significantly, compared with the other times and amounts of pressure.
The findings of this study are similar to those found in other studies. Dentists generally agree that powered toothbrushes are more effective at reducing plaque than are manual toothbrushes. Using the two-minutes guideline for the whole mouth, 30 seconds of brushing in each quadrant of the mouth would be necessary to achieve the desired results. For more information consult your dentist or dental hygienist.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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