Using an electric toothbrush could help prevent tooth loss, according to a new study.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the 11-year observational study investigated the association between electric toothbrushing and periodontitis, caries and number of teeth present. The study included 2,819 adults from the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) who were examined in 2002 to 2006 and were followed-up after six and 11 years. At baseline, 18% used an electric toothbrush, rising to 37% at the 11-year follow-up.

‘Electric toothbrushes have become increasingly popular among all age groups in Germany but few studies have tested their long-term effectiveness,’ said study author Dr Vinay Pitchika.

‘Our study shows that electric toothbrushes are most beneficial in maintaining good oral health and are linked with slower progression of periodontal disease.’

Overall, electric toothbrush users experienced 20% less tooth loss during follow-up than manual toothbrush users. This translated to an average of 0.4 more teeth retained (out of 28 teeth). The benefits were slightly greater in regular (at least twice a day) electric (versus manual) toothbrush users.

When participants were divided into groups according to the severity of periodontitis, the association between electric toothbrushing and tooth retention was significant only in those with no/mild periodontitis.

The study also found that electric toothbrushing was linked with fewer pockets and better attachment of teeth to the gums and bone. This was shown by 22% and 21% lower progression of probing depth and clinical attachment loss (see figure), respectively, compared to manual toothbrush users.

When divided into groups according to the severity of periodontitis, significant associations with probing depth were observed in people with no/mild and moderate periodontitis, while the link with clinical attachment loss was found only in those with moderate periodontitis.

There was no association between electric toothbrush usage and dental caries.