When I think about all the ways we take care of our teeth on a day-to-day basis, the most used product would be the toothbrush. If the goal is to have a bright white smile, it is important to know if our toothbrush can help in that regard. Let’s spend the next few minutes looking at all the toothbrushes on the market that claim to help whiten your teeth.

How Could A Toothbrush Whiten Teeth?

As many of you may have devised already, the only way that a toothbrush can help to whiten your teeth is by being an effective agent for cleaning them. All the whitening toothbrushes claim that they are the most effective at removing plaque, tea, coffee and wine stains.

This really comes down to how well you brush your teeth and which tool you are using to do so. In my experience, an equally excellent teeth cleaning can be accomplished by both manual and electric toothbrushes. It often comes down to which one you enjoy using the most.

It is hard to deny that there is something awesome about a toothbrush that times you, beeps to tell you to move to the next section, has an app associated with it, etc. For that reason, the electric toothbrush market is booming in today’s day and age.

Manual Toothbrushes – Are They All The Same?

Let’s begin with the most basic of toothbrushes – the ones that are powered completely by you!

If you are thorough in your brushing technique, your manual toothbrush will do a great job keeping your teeth free from plaque and tartar. This means brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and accessing all surfaces of all teeth.

Sometimes this is not enough to remove stubborn stain that can build up on teeth. You can use a whitening toothpaste or a whitening toothbrush to help facilitate the removal of these stains.

In all the advertising that I have read, it appears that the toothbrushes labeled as whitening are suggesting they have special bristles in some capacity. There is one by Colgate that has ‘whitening cups’ designed to hold on to your toothpaste longer to help remove stain.

Many other whitening toothbrushes state that their bristles are a different shape or texture to better access and remove stain. These manual brushes are very affordable and may be an easy way to up your whitening game.

Battery-Powered Toothbrushes

I consider these brushes to be somewhere in between the manual and electric toothbrushes. There is a small power component to them but they are lacking in the features of the re-chargeable electric toothbrushes and need to be replaced often.

Battery toothbrushes are often referred to as spin brushes (I think that was a Crest branded thing at one point in time). These toothbrushes simply rotate or spin in some way to aid in teeth cleaning. The idea is that more movement of the bristles over your teeth will be more effective at removing plaque and stain.

Much like the manual toothbrush, the whitening versions of the battery brush are touted as having special bristle function to remove stain better than the non-whitening counterparts.

This may be the brush for you if you want to have a little more fun brushing your teeth but don’t want to commit to the higher price of an electric toothbrush. I always say that if it is more fun to brush, you may be inclined to do it more often!

Electric Toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes are the creme-de-la-creme of the toothbrush world. As I stated before, they don’t necessarily do a better job than their manual counterparts, but they sure make brushing easier and more fun.

The features of electric toothbrushes that I find make the most difference for my patients are the timers and modes.


The ideal amount of time you should spend brushing your teeth is 2 minutes twice a day (double that if you are in braces). Almost all the electric toothbrush offerings have a built-in timer to keep track of this for you. When studies are done on how long people brush without a timer (when told to brush for 2 minutes), they usually only brush for about 30 seconds.

Clearly our natural sense of time is not a good guideline for how long to brush. Sonicare and Oral-B toothbrushes will beep and vibrate at you every 30 seconds for 2 minutes to let you know when to switch to a new area of your mouth. This helps tremendously in making sure that all surfaces are cleaned equally well.

I like to mentally divide my mouth into 4 areas:

  • Outside of upper teeth
  • Inside of upper teeth
  • Outside of lower teeth
  • Inside of lower teeth

Every time the brush beeps, I move on to the next section and then at the end of that 2 minutes I do a quick brush over the biting surfaces of my teeth. The biting surfaces of your teeth are cleaned quite naturally by your saliva so they do not require as much attention as the other surfaces.


Toothbrushes that offer different modes do so to allow for multiple uses or types of users. A gentle mode, for example may vibrate at a different speed or frequency for someone with sensitive teeth.

Whitening mode is often included in these brushes to give you more time to be thorough. This mode often adds 30 seconds on to the brush timer so that you can spend some extra time on those front teeth to make sure all plaque and stain is removed.

Should I Buy A Whitening Toothbrush?

If your goal is to have the whitest teeth possible, I think it is a worthwhile investment. It isn’t even a big investment if you stick with manual or battery-operated brushes.

Remember that for a toothbrush to be effective over time, you need to replace the brush head (or entire brush if the head is not replaceable) every 3-6 months. This timing depends on how aggressively you brush (please be gentle to your teeth) and how often you brush.

An electric toothbrush may cost more upfront but if it improves your brushing frequency or enjoyment, it is a great long-term investment. These brushes last for years (I have had my current sonicare for 4 years) and replacement brush heads are easy to find.

I hope that the above information was useful. Please comment below if you have a favorite whitening toothbrush.

Good luck on your whitening journey!!

Dr. Jen

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