From a safety standpoint, with proper instruction and supervision, electric toothbrushes are safe for children 3 years old and older. Children younger than 3 should use manual toothbrushes.
As to whether your kids “should” use an electric toothbrush or not, here’s a rule of thumb: if it helps your kid develop and maintain consistent brushing habits, it’s a good idea.
To refine that statement a little more, we’ll take a look at some relevant data points:
- Electric toothbrushes can make the brushing process more fun for kids, i.e., provide motivation for them and their brushing habits. Many electric toothbrush manufacturers offer children’s models, featuring child-sized brushing heads and fun-colored, character-themed handles. In addition to that, if you have an electric toothbrush, it’s only natural for your kids to want to be like you, and they might be more motivated to brush if they have a brush like yours.
- Studies indicate that electric brushes consistently remove more plaque from teeth than manual brushes do, but the most important factor in maintaining healthy teeth is still brushing twice a day for 2 minutes. In other words, the frequency and quality of the brushing matters more than the type of brush. Some electric toothbrushes for kids have 2-minute timers built into them. That feature can help your kids know how long they need to brush.
- Electric toothbrushes can sometimes be a little scary to kids with sensory issues because of the noise and vibrations. Some kids, however, love the sensations, and kids with limited mobility can really benefit from an electric toothbrush. The takeaway here is to be in tune with your child’s needs and reactions to the toothbrush. If an electric brush feels intimidating to them, then it’s not going to help them build good habits in the long run.
For best results, as you consider what toothbrush to buy for your kids, we recommend involving them in the process in an age-appropriate way. What kind of toothbrush do they want? What colors or characters? Do they want an electric brush like mom’s or dad’s or another one like their old brush? As long as it’s a soft-bristled, kid-sized head, you can let them be part of the toothbrush decision and keep them on the road to developing life-long healthy teeth habits.