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If you brush your teeth regularly and properly you could live longer. That’s no exaggeration. The research is overwhelming: our oral hygiene has the ability to affect our general health, and having the best electric toothbrush is crucial.
Four years ago, for example, scientists discovered that brushing your teeth regularly could slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The research found that gum disease can speed up mental decline six times.
How do you go about upping your oral hygiene game (short of becoming best friends with a dentist)? Many would recommend an electric toothbrush and, over the past fifty years or so, they have become staples in bathrooms all over the world, to the point where yesterday they were added to the ONS inflation basket, a telltale sign of their growing popularity.
But is an electric model really what’s best for you? To answer that question, we spoke with dentists and tested a range of models, from cheap, basic electric toothbrushes to high-tech smart ones. Here’s what we learned, starting with our favourites.
(Please note: Many electric toothbrushes are sold with two-pronged power plugs. With shaving sockets something of an ancient relic in the UK, it’s worth checking if you need an adapter before buying.)
1. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Deep Clean
Why we like it: an all-rounder with a smart look
There’s a lot to like about this toothbrush, starting with the promise on the box: “Removes up to 10 X more plaque” (I assume the “up to” means my brushing technique is still important). It’s about as stylish as an electric toothbrush can be, and it comes with a travel USB charging case that looks more like a Bluetooth speaker.
Then there are the variety of settings: Gum Health, which adds an extra minute for low-powered gum brushing; Deep Clean, a three-minute power wash; and White, which supposedly works harder to remove those coffee and tea stains you’re likely to get in the morning.
My setting of choice is Sensitive, which goes easy on the precious gums. Even so, it’s far more potent than what I’m used to (a manual brush). During my first use, the toothpaste slides off the vibrating bristles. When I reload, and successfully get it to my mouth, I quickly learn the golden rule: don’t open your mouth while brushing, or it will splatter everywhere.
The brushing itself is good, and I like the extra features – if not the undersized accompanying cup. Essentially, it’s a very good electric toothbrush, charges quickly, and stays powerful for a long time. But a glance at the price will show that those features do come at a premium.
When we asked dentist Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn what the best electric toothbrush was, his answer was unequivocal: the Oral-B Pro 2000 is “reasonably priced” at £30, he said, and it performs brilliantly for that money. Without costing an arm and a leg (or a tooth), its round heads provide an excellent clean.
All the usual features are there – the two-minute timer for example – and it tells you when you brush too hard, which is handy.
Why’s the Oral-B Pro 2000 so much cheaper than the Philips Sonicare? Well, with the Sonicare you get a bunch of extra features: the various brush settings; the glass holder; the funky travel case. While we liked these additions, if you’re not looking to spend too much, the Oral-B is a good option, and there’s very little in it in terms of actual brushing.
3. Colgate Pro Clinical 250+
Why we like it: cheap, simple, effective
This toothbrush has a really simple design and minimal features. It promises 5 X more plaque removal (compared to Philips’ 10) – and very little faff.
The Colgate Pro Clinical 250+ essentially doubles down on the essentials: soft bristles, a handy travel case, and the all-important timer. If toothbrushes were massages, this Colgate would be calming aromatherapy rather than a back-cracking session. The soft bristles would be ideal for those with sensitive gums. It’s also one of the quickest to fully charge, at just 10 hours.
And, most importantly, it can be yours for under £20.
The does-what-it-says-on-the-tin option.
4. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Black HX9924/14
Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Black HX9924/14 was tested by Olivia Walmsley. This is her verdict.
I’d previously used an Oral-B Pro 2000, and had been fairly satisfied. I was curious about the Phillips model, mainly because of the enormous price difference. The matte black toothbrush, with its fancy glass holder-come-charger certainly looked smart. The action of the brush took a little getting used to – it seemed to vibrate a lot faster (31000 pulsations per minute, according to the leaflet) than the Oral-B, and as a result did have a tendency to splatter toothpaste around the bathroom. On the plus side, my teeth did feel squeaky clean after brushing.
I experimented with various modes (there are five: clean, for everyday cleaning; white, to remove surface stains; deep clean and gum health) and the three speeds, before settling on a medium speed, gum health setting. The brush was able to remove stubborn strips of plaque along the gum line on my back molars that I’d struggled to tackle with the Oral-B.
I downloaded the app, which tracks where you’ve brushed, highlights where you haven’t and alerts you if you’re pressing too hard – useful if you have problem gums like me (early stages of gum disease according to my dentist), as too much pressure can be more harmful than too little. I have to admit that I gave up using it pretty quickly though. There’s only so much time I can devote to my teeth, much to my dentist’s dismay.
The glass holder got jettisoned quite quickly too, as the brush often fell over in it, and stopped charging. But the sleek travel case with built-in charger is a particularly useful addition, as was the special tongue cleaning brush head. All in all, this is an impressive toothbrush but it should be, at this price.
5. Sonic Chic Urban travel toothbrush
These are very chic – more like lipsticks than toothbrushes. “They look like jazzed-up e-cigarettes” says a colleague.
The Sonic comes in several designs, with names like “Tribal Quest”, “Proud Peacock” and the somewhat startling “Loud Leopard”. Or just plain old black.
With soft bristles it doesn’t attack the teeth, but I had a couple of issues with this electric toothbrush. Firstly, most options have grooves on the back of the head to aid gum cleaning; the Sonic Chic Urban didn’t.
It also comes with a regular, non-rechargeable battery. This makes sense for a travel toothbrush as you don’t want to be charging on the go. But it also makes it harder to tell if the power is still at its peak, which the experts say is crucial for an effective brush.
It was just too dainty and petite for my hands, making it slightly uncomfortable to hold. Nevertheless, it’s probably good as a second option, for travelling light but keeping your teeth extra clean, and at under £20 you don’t have to break the bank to get one.
And the best for kids: Brush Baby KidzSonic 6+
According to the experts, children should use electric toothbrushes too. OK, I’m two decades older than the target audience, but for what it’s worth, I loved this brush.
It’s battery powered, which is always easier, though you have to ensure the brushing is still effective. The bristles are incredibly soft, so they won’t scratch children’s teeth or damage their gums.
But the best feature, undoubtedly, is the flashing disco lights, which makes brushing fun (for this twentysomething at least).
Frequently asked questions about electric toothbrushes
Do I need an electric toothbrush?
The evidence, and the expert advice, says yes. The Telegraph caught up with dentist Dr Toby Edwards-Lunn, who helped pen a detailed guide on how best to brush teeth, and he was unequivocal on the benefits of going electric.
“This day and age the technology is so good, you don’t need to put any elbow grease into it. The brush does it for us”, said Dr Edwards-Lunn. “From the age of six to 96, all my patients are aided by using an electric toothbrush.”
Simply switching to an electric toothbrush cannot guarantee healthy teeth. A good toothpaste, brushing technique, brushing at the right time and flossing are all crucial too. But an electric toothbrush is certainly a good start.
Will electric toothbrushes help with gum disease?
“Patients who use electric toothbrushes are a lot less likely to suffer from gum disease”, says Dr Edwards-Lunn, co-founder of Dr Heff’s Remarkable Mints, a sugar-free mint that helps protect teeth from tooth decay and acid attacks throughout the day. “Unfortunately, gum disease is a multifactoral disease. Just having an electric toothbrush doesn’t mean you won’t get it. But it will mean the risk is much reduced. The most important thing is removing the plaque.”
And with more than half of patients the dentist sees having a high plaque score – even those who brush twice a day – moving to an electric option will certainly help.
Will electric toothbrushes help with receding gums?
“Gums recede for lots of reasons. Patients can be susceptible to it, or they can sometimes brush too hard. They can have past problems with gum disease, which could have caused it. And they can have a thin biotype of gum, where it’s a genetic thing.
“Because an electric toothbrush does the work for you, and will hopefully tell you when you’re pushing too hard, it can help protect against further recession.”
Will electric toothbrushes whiten my teeth?
“There’s a common misconception with whitening teeth. All the on-shelf products won’t whiten your teeth, they will reduce the amount of stain on your teeth. You’ve got extrinsic stains, which are on the outside of the teeth, from food, drinks and cigarettes.
“Intrinsic stains are down to age or genetics. Tooth whitening in the dental surgery affects intrinsic stains. By using an electric toothbrush you are going to reduce the likelihood of putting on extrinsic stains, but will not remove the stain once they’re already in.”
Can electric toothbrushes damage my teeth?
“Yes. If you’re pushing too hard, or you are timing your brush incorrectly. For instance, on a night out you probably will be putting acidic and sweet things around your teeth. You’ll probably damage your teeth by brushing them. After something sweet or acidic leave it for about 45 minutes.”
The same goes for breakfast, where acidic things like fruit can soften the outer surface, and immediate brushing would be harmful.
As for scratching the teeth, as long as you don’t push too hard, you should be all right.
With Dr Edwards-Lunn’s advice in mind, The Telegraph tested a variety of toothbrushes on the market, from high-tech smart toothbrushes to cheaper options. While some have three-figure prices, the good news is spending around £30 – sometimes less – will stand you in good stead. Unless mentioned, the products tested all had the magic two-minute timer – so no more excuses.
Electric toothbrush: pros and cons
Easy to use: Just place it in your mouth and let the toothbrush do all the work.
Timers: Many come with built-in timers that stop once you’ve hit the coveted two-minute mark or beep to tell you you’re getting close.
Great results: Carefully calibrated to give you the best results with minimal work, electric toothbrushes have been proven to remove plaque quicker than manual ones.
Fun for kids: Getting small children to be enthusiastic about brushing can be difficult. But using an electric toothbrush brings some fun into the mix.
Cost: For a quality, durable option you’ll have to spend more than on a normal toothbrush. You’ll also have to replace heads every now and then.
Charging: To use your toothbrush you’ll have to charge it regularly or remember to replace its batteries.
Harsh: If you suffer from sensitive gums, an electric toothbrush might be a little too harsh. The good news is you can find toothbrushes with different vibration settings, but it might take a little trial and error for you to find one you like.
This is the most comprehensive guide to electric toothbrushes you will find on the internet today. It supplements the suggestions and abbreviated buyer’s guide in our best electric toothbrush post.
The following article gives thorough, yet concise explanations of all the features and functions available on electric toothbrushes today.
Once you have read this guide, you will better understand all of the options you have available, and will be able to make a more informed purchasing decision.
Should you have any questions, contact us or leave a comment below and we will gladly answer them for you.
What’s in this post?
Why should you listen to us?
Electric Teeth is an independent organization with a mission to simplify dental health.
Our team is a mixture of consumers and dental professionals.
We strive to create honest, informative content, telling you the facts, good or bad.
We are not sponsored by big brands or healthcare companies. Our site is funded by affiliate revenue and ads, but we only recommend products that we have tested and truly believe to be worth your money.
Why not watch this short video to find out all about us?
Do I need an electric toothbrush?
No, you do not need an electric toothbrush.
Used correctly, a manual toothbrush is perfectly adequate.
They can clean well and you will get a thumbs up from the dentist.
However, many dental professionals agree that an electric toothbrush is worth the investment as they bring a number of benefits.
Benefits of an electric toothbrush
- Consistent power delivery for a dentist like clean
- Can remove up to 100% more plaque than a manual brush
- Reduces tooth decay and improves gum health
- Can help eliminate bad breath
- Timers and pacers to encourage a 2 minute clean
- Various cleaning modes
- Different brush heads — Differing styles to achieve different results
- Fading bristles — Reminding you when to change your brush head
- A relatively low lifetime cost
Negatives of an electric brush
- Initial cost — More expensive than a manual brush
- Short battery life and need to re-charge
- Cost of replacement heads — Equivalent to the cost of a manual brush
- Not travel friendly — Varying support for voltages and protection to handles and heads when travelling
Is an electric toothbrush worth the investment?
Yes, we believe so.
The increased efficiency with which they clean, the convenience they offer and how they encourage us to brush for the right amount of time, can certainly pay off.
Whilst there is an initial purchase price, this is offset over time as you could have fewer or cheaper dental bills, not to mention healthier teeth and gums.
Independent research group Cochrane found that an electric toothbrush can bring benefits over a manual brush after analysing 56 different studies.
Ultimately, what a brush is worth is personal opinion.
We do feel that if you take note of our suggestions, you will consider it to be a worthwhile investment.
Potential exceptions might be if you buy a particularly cheap or expensive toothbrush, whereby they fail to offer the core benefits or deliver more than you need.
What makes a good electric toothbrush?
What makes a good electric toothbrush for one person will be different to another. Desires and personal circumstances all play a part.
Taking into account reader feedback, customer reviews and our own hands-on use, we do believe there are some core (high importance) factors that make a good electric toothbrush.
There are then those that are nice to have, but not essential. And finally, there are those that are least essential but add to the overall experience.
The features we consider essential on any electric toothbrush
- 2 minute timer
These factors are worth considering, but not of critical importance.
- Pressure sensor
- Good battery life
- Travel case
- Additional cleaning modes
- Brushing intensity
- Cost of replacement brush heads
These are the least important features and functions, but, can play an important role in adding to the overall experience and usability of a toothbrush.
- Brush handle shape, size and colour
- Brush head shape and size
- Battery charging/status icon
- Smart features
- Motion tracking
- Smart guides
- UV sanitisers
- Automatic power off
- Charging stands
- Water resistance
- LEDs/cleaning mode display
- Storage compartments
- Dual handles
We are typically looking for the criteria in the ‘high’ and ‘medium’ importance category to be covered, with a number from the ‘low’ importance.
Although there are many great electric brushes, there is no one ‘perfect’ toothbrush.
Ensure you find the best electric toothbrush for you.
In the following sections, we outline the various aspects of an electric toothbrush and comment on how important we regard them as part of the buying decision.
Cleaning technology & brands
The ultimate job of a toothbrush is to effectively clean plaque, bacteria and debris from the teeth and gums.
All leading brands do a good job in achieving this and from our point of view, and clinical studies support this.
Given the equivalent results the different cleaning technologies provide, the way in which they go about it holds a low importance when choosing an electric toothbrush.
You may have a preference for one brand or particular cleaning action, but don’t let it rule the decision making process.
Primarily, the decision is between Sonic and Oscillating-Rotating toothbrushes, but there is a newer, less common type of toothbrush, known as ultrasonic.
This kind of toothbrush uses 2 methods to clean the teeth.
The first is a mechanical side-to-side cleaning motion of the bristles to remove plaque by essentially sweeping and scrubbing the surfaces, like a manual brush (although the motor moves the bristles, not you).
The second is a non-contact approach that uses the sonic technology to disrupt plaque beyond the tips of the bristles.
To achieve this secondary cleaning motion, the brush head must vibrate at a speed that falls within the range of frequencies that humans hear (20-20,000hz). This intense vibration agitates fluids that surround the teeth and can loosen and remove dental plaque in locations that are beyond the physical touch of the toothbrush.
The brush head on a sonic brush is typically a lot like a manual toothbrush in its size and shape.
It was Philips, under the Sonicare brand, that first brought this to market in 1992 and even today remains the leading brand of sonic toothbrush, although others like Colgate & Omron also use such technology.
This kind of toothbrush has a small, round brush head that moves back and forth (side to side movements) in a circular motion to help remove plaque and dental debris.
It is Oral-B who have championed such and developed it to be as popular as it is.
This oscillating-rotating movement is referred to as ‘2D’ cleaning by the brand.
Add in Pulsations (essentially vibrations) and this now becomes ‘3D’ cleaning.
Pulsations offer a more sophisticated motion and gives another dimension to the brushing.
Whereas the 2D cleaning requires the physical movement of the brush head against the teeth, pulsations are essentially a ‘non contact’ form of brushing.
It is a non contact brushing as the high frequency pulsations generated by the brush agitate fluids that surround the teeth and can loosen and remove dental plaque in locations that are beyond the physical touch of the toothbrush.
Pulsations are essentially Oral-B’s description for sonic technology, but they do not refer to it as such, as it was a competitor that brought this approach to market.
The newest approach to teeth cleaning, this technology does not rely on a psychical motion to clean the teeth.
Instead, the vibration of the brush head is so intense that achieves ‘ultrasound’ classification, emitting a wave of 20,000Hz or 2,400,000 movements per minute; considerably more than the very popular sonic technology.
The high frequency, but low in amplitude waves means that the bacterial chains found in the mouth, that make up plaque are broken up by the vibration. This can work as far as 5mm below the gumline. Essentially speaking the brush can clean the teeth simply by resting the brush on it.
Although an ultrasonic brush does not need a traditional brush head, many brushes do also provide additional sonic vibration ranging from 9,000 to 40,000 movements per minute, in order to provide additional sweeping motion which removes food particles and bacterial chain remnants.
An independent study, by the School of Dentistry at the University of Kansas concluded after 30 days of testing, that Ultrasonic brushes do have a marked improvement over a manual brush.
The Megasonex range of brushes are the most notable within this category.
3 types of electric toothbrush technology there may well be, but the reality is that whilst ultrasonic brushes have a place, they have a tough battle to compete against the leading toothbrush brands, notably Philips Sonicare and Braun Oral-B that promote the other cleaning technologies.
Lots of brands exist within the electric toothbrush space, but ultimately there are 2 market leaders, Philips Sonicare and Braun Oral-B.
It, therefore, is almost a choice between brands as it is technology.
Brands like Colgate, Fairywill, Seago, Quip, Uber Sonic and many more exist. The smaller brands tend to adopt the sonic technology (pioneered by Sonicare) rather than the oscillating rotating cleaning action on offer by Oral-B.
Features & functions explained
Having listed what we believe to be most important considerations when choosing an electric toothbrush, the following explanations should give better insight as to why we feel this way and have categorised them to be the high, medium and low.
2 minute timer
How long and how often should you brush your teeth is a common question amongst the public.
You should brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time.
This is the advice of dentists, hygienists, governing and medical bodies.
Whether you are in the UK, France, the USA, Australia or South Africa, the recommendation is pretty consistent.
When brushing your teeth, it is all too easy to get distracted. After all it is not the most exciting task is it.
You can then misjudge the time and think you have been brushing for longer than you really have.
Therefore, a brush with a built-in timer encourages you to brush for the right amount of time. It lets you know when the 2 minutes are up.
A change in the brushing sensation, the sound and vibration in hand is your cue as to when the cleaning mode is complete. Then and only then, should stop brushing.
Almost all electric toothbrushes have this built-in.
A quadpacer can seriously impact how well you clean all the teeth in your mouth.
Imagine breaking your mouth up into 4 sections or quadrants (hence the name).
In section 1 you have your upper right teeth, section 2 your upper left, section 3 your lower right and section 4 your lower left.
You have 4 periods of 30 seconds within the average 2 minute cleaning cycle. The idea is that you spend 30 seconds cleaning each section.
As you reach a 30 second interval, a change in the brushing sensation and sound will be you alert to change the section you are cleaning.
By then end of the 2 minute clean, you should have cleaned all 4 sections and given a pretty even clean to the teeth in your mouth.
2 minutes spent cleaning just your front or back teeth is no good. In order to maintain good oral hygiene you need to clean all the teeth, the pacer helps encourage this.
Most electric toothbrushes will have a pacer built-in, but there are exceptions, particularly in the cheaper models.
More premium models with Bluetooth connectivity and supporting apps will alert you on screen too.
Bristles of the brush need only skim the surface of the teeth and gums.
Scrubbing harder, is not an effective way to remove plaque and debris from the teeth.
You and many others may not have known this, because you have never been told or shown how to brush correctly, few of us have.
A common cause of gum recession is as a result of brushing too hard.
“Too much pressure and too frequent brushing can abrade enamel, or the root if the gum has receded.” This abrasion, he says, can cause teeth to become hypersensitive to hot and/or cold”. — Jay W. Friedman — Consumer Reports
A brush with a pressure sensor built-in can help reduce the chances of you suffering from such.
Subtle changes in brushing sensation, a noticeable change in sound or the illumination of a light are methods used by brush manufacturers to alert you to the fact that you are brushing too hard.
In many instances as the increased pressure is detected by the brush, the motor will slow down, to limit potential damage.
When the sensor is activated, all you need do is relieve the force you are applying and the alerts will stop.
The sensor is a gentle reminder to use a little less force and help you maintain a healthy smile. It is particularly useful for new users to electric toothbrushes.
Pressure sensors are common on the Oral-B range of electric toothbrushes with almost all models benefitting from such.
Sonicare have recently increased the number of models that support this feature to, the ProtectiveClean 4300, 5100 and 6100 being the newest brushes to support such.
Refer to our post ‘Which electric toothbrushes have a pressure sensor’ for more information.
Electric toothbrushes are cordless. They are powered by batteries placed inside the brush handle.
These batteries can be user removable (AA or AAA), or most commonly fixed internally.
The size, shape and capacity of the battery will differ between brands.
Whist each internal battery has what is known as a milliampere (mAh) rating, this is not well documented by manufacturers and most brush batteries are rated by the number of days they will last, be that 5, 7, 14 or 21, etc.
The most common battery life is about 14 days.
Philips Sonicare brushes generally have the longest battery life. They claim at 2-3 weeks (subject to model), but they often last longer. Oral-B does not perform as well here, with their newer brushes lasting about 16 days.
Affecting the battery and its life is the technical makeup of the battery. For many years Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries have been used but now Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) is the more popular choice as it is better for constant charging and longer usage times.
AA or AAA powered toothbrushes exist and these are generally cheaper ranging from £1-£20, compared to the £15-£250 of the built-in options.
Whilst they serve a purpose and can actually last a very long time (months, rather than days), the power delivered to the brush head and the overall performance tends to be weaker. You also get little in the way of warning about the remaining power, unlike those with built-in batteries that usually have an indicator to alert you to low power.
It can be a cheap way to try an electric toothbrush and most certainly is an option if away from power for a long time or you don’t want to carry a charger.
However, long term, they do not offer the best value and may rarely represent what an electric brush can do for you.
Even if you are not a regular traveller, having a case makes it much easier to transport the toothbrush.
Normally of plastic construction, when in the case, the likelihood of damage, particularly to the bristles on the brush head are reduced. There is too less chance of the brush accidently being switched on. Any excess moisture in the heads does to remain in the case and not on anything else that might be in your bag.
Most travel cases are made from fairly thin plastic, but do the job. More premium travel cases are often supplied with the more expensive brushes or are available as an optional accessory.
There are even certain models that allow the brush to be charged whilst inside the case, the best of which charge using a USB cable. Therefore, there is no need to mount on a charging stand, like you might expect. Ideal for regular travellers.
Only ever spend what you are comfortable with.
For some spending £30 will be a lot whilst to others £200 will be cheap.
You do not have to spend a fortune.
The more expensive the brush is, does not mean it is necessarily any better at cleaning your teeth.
For less than £50 you can purchase an excellent electric toothbrush.
More important than what you pay, is the act of regular brushing, with the correct technique for the right amount of time.
Get these things right and even a £3 manual toothbrush will do a good job, but there are of course many more benefits to using an electric toothbrush.
Decide what features you want and need and make an informed purchasing decision.
Additional cleaning modes
All toothbrushes come with at least 1 cleaning mode.
Often referred to as ‘Clean’ or ‘Daily Clean, this is the default mode, that for the most part is perfectly acceptable for all.
This is normally the first mode that is accessed on the brush, even if it offers additional cleaning modes.
Often the more you pay, the more modes you get.
Modes offered, include:
- Clean/Daily Clean
- Gum Care
- Deep/Pro Clean
- Tongue Cleaner
How each cleaning mode differs is generally though the power delivered to thee brush head and the amount of time you brush for.
Deep clean and whitening modes often last for longer (3 minutes), as spending more time cleaning will often help get a better overall clean.
Sensitive and gum cleaning modes are normally lower powered modes, with less bristle movements. These offer a more gentle experience for those with sensitivity or looking to encourage better gum health.
The most commonly offered and desired are:
- Clean/Daily Clean
- Gum Care
Only buy the brush with multiple cleaning modes if you intend to use such or it makes sense to buy that model.
That said, having the additional sensitive or gum care mode can be beneficial when you desire the more gentle clean.
A tongue cleaning mode is just a shorter and lower powered mode that is more convenient than others available on the brush, but it is far from essential.
Remembering to clean your tongue is more important than a dedicated mode.
The tongue is home to lots of bacteria and is often one of the major causes behind bad breath. Cleaning the tongue after brushing, simply by dragging the brush head across it several times can really help freshen up the mouth.
Being able to control the amount of power the motor delivers can be useful.
Some models offer the choice of low, medium and high power settings.
If the brush has 1 cleaning mode, it may default to the high setting.
You could change it to the low setting for a less intense clean.
Although the brush motion does not change, the speed of the motion does.
These kind of act as alternatives to cleaning modes.
This, therefore, means that a brush with 1 mode but 3 intensity settings could be in many respects equivalent to a brush with 2 modes, clean and sensitive.
Cost of replacement brush heads
The cost of replacement heads can affect the long term ownership cost, but can also be much cheaper than the dental care required if you cut corners.
Manufacturer original brush heads typically cost anywhere from about £3.50-£8 per brush head. This can be a lot of money when they will only be thrown away 3 months later.
In most instances, you have the choice of opting for a third party brush head. There may not be the same range of choice and the quality may well be inferior, but there are some great options at very good prices. Saving £45 on a pack of Sonicare original brush heads, for a third party equivalent is very much an option.
Do be aware of fakes/counterfeit brush heads which pose as genuine but are often not the real deal. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Oral-B’s manufacturer original heads tend to be more cost effective than Sonicare.
With any of the major brands, buying larger packs, reduces the individual brush head cost.
Brush handle shape, size and colour
Most electric toothbrushes are similar in their shape and design.
The handle tends to be cylindrical in shape or a slight variation of this, and are generally a couple of centimetres thick and wide, up to about 25 cm tall (including brush head).
Few are uncomfortable to hold with most being easily usable by all, even if you have limited hand and finger movement. Some, like those designed for children, do have more grips on them, be that rubber or plastic, these can really help if the brush is wet.
Some brushes are smaller. These often have smaller batteries or less features, designed for a specific purpose, like travel.
More premium models do often boast subtle but noticeable design cues, more fitting of their price tag.
White is a popular colour option for brushes, with some design accents coming from soft pastel shades. Many have a fairly neutral or clinical look to them.
Colour variety has improved in recent years across all brands and price brackets.
Brush head shape and size
All toothbrushes come with at least 1 brush head supplied, usually the standard ‘go to’ brush head that a brand offers.
With few exceptions, these heads are interchangeable. This not only allows for replacement of the provided head at 3 month intervals, as dentists recommend. But, it does too potentially allow you to take advantage of the range of brush head styles manufacturers offer.
Each head is designed to achieve different results. One may be geared to general cleaning and plaque removal, whilst another may be focused on whitening or improving gum health.
The different heads will work on any cleaning mode, but certain heads are likely to achieve better results when used with specific cleaning modes. More premium models tend to come with extra heads in the box to encourage this.
Certain brush heads and handles can now even automatically select the appropriate cleaning mode.
The availability and variety of brush heads depends on the brand. The interchangeable design is specific to each brand to, so an Oral-B head will not work on a Colgate brush.
Most do too have something known as fading indicator or reminder bristles.
When new, certain bristles on the brush head will be a more vivid colour (often blue or green). Over time (3 months) these fade and when they are a very pale compared to when you started; at this point, it’s time to change.
It is a smart way of reminding you when it is time to change your brush head.
Different sized brush heads exist. Most notable is the difference between Oral-B’s round brush head and Sonicares larger rectangular/oval heads.
There has and will continue to be debate as to which is best. Studies have been presented by both brands to show their cleaning effectiveness.
Independent research by Cochrane suggests that there is some evidence oscillating technology used by Oral-B is more effective. However, the admission here is that the differences are small and clinically unclear with further studies required.
So, whilst you may have a preference, the reality is that the clean delivered is going to be great with no noticeable difference in results.
You can learn a lot more about brush heads, including the range available from each brand and the counterfeit heads that exist, by reading our toothbrush head buying guide.
Battery charging/status icon
On the front of the brush handle you will often have a colour changing LED or a series of colour changing LEDs to signal to you how much power is remaining in the internal batteries, be that 100, 60 or 30%.
Cheaper models tend to lack an indicator to keep costs down, but this means you can’t easily tell when it may need charging, meaning the brush suddenly stops or slows down.
As technology has advanced it has allowed brands to bring new innovative touches, to these already useful tools.
Sonicare’s BrushSync technology is perhaps one of the best examples of this. Their brush head replacement reminder system reminds you exactly when you need to replace the brush head by actually tracking the usage time of individual brush heads.
Oral-B have introduced a user controlled SmartRing that can be controlled via an app and set to 1 of 12 different colours.
There are too tracking technologies that make use of sensors within the brush handle to track the clean. Kolibree have been pioneers in this pace with their Artificial Intelligence (AI) brush, the Ara.
These features can add a certain level of convenience and can allow you to become better at cleaning your teeth and improve your oral healthcare routine.
Many brushes do command a slight premium for such. As the innovation continues, more brushes get such features and the cost of implementation is lower.
In 5 years time many of the smart features will be standard in a brush.
Useful, they are currently far from essential.
Bluetooth allows your toothbrush to communicate with your smartphone or tablet via an app.
It is a newer technology that is slowly making its way to more and more models.
Philips and Oral-B are leading the way here.
What features are available depends on the model of brush, but all Bluetooth enabled brushes will give a basic on-screen timer and diarised logging of your teeth cleaning habits.
Special sensors in the brush can fairly accurately understand your brushing approach and help you handle possible complications before they arise.
It is a bit like having a dentist by your side, encouraging and educating you.
It is not essential and we would not encourage you to spend a lot more to get a brush with Bluetooth technology.
You need to invest a little time to get the most from Bluetooth and that may include changing habits of a lifetime.
However, Bluetooth can be very helpful, particularly as an educational tool for adapting and improving a routine and your approach to looking after your teeth. Particularly when you can tailor the brush and cleaning modes to your personal needs. You or your dentist can programme in areas where you need to spend more time brushing.
Over weeks and months you can build up a profile of your cleaning and how you have improved. You can even share this with your dentist.
Those who know they are poor at keeping their teeth clean will benefit most from Bluetooth.
Motion tracking is found on the premium models like the Oral-B Genius 9000, Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected and DiamondClean Smart.
Using sensors built into the brush handle and for some models such as the Genius 9000 the front facing camera of your smartphone, the exact location of the brush in your mouth, during your clean is tracked and pictured on screen.
This, in turn, allows you to be shown where you need to pay more attention to your cleaning and improve over time your oral hygiene regime.
Predominantly seen with older Oral-B models, the Smart Wireless Guide is essentially a small clock like device that is designed to be positioned near you when cleaning your teeth.
When not in use it shows the time, but when you activate your brush, it begins showing on screen the time you have been cleaning for.
It rates your clean via a star system and an emotive face.
A sad face will show with maybe a 2 star rating if you clean for just 1 minute whilst a happy face with 4 stars will show if a full 2 minute clean has been achieved.
If you apply too much pressure when brushing, you may also get an angry face on-screen.
It does also have a guide as to what quadrant of the mouth you should be brushing as the timer counts too.
Designed to be an aid, it keeps you focused and motivated to achieve a good clean.
If you wish to read more about smart guides you can do so here.
A rarer find, some models (normally Philips Sonicare) come with an UltraViolet (UV) sanitiser.
The sanitiser itself is usually a small compartment on the charging stand that holds one or two brush heads and runs through a cycle by emitting UV light from a special bulb inside, killing off germs and bacteria.
It is not an essential when buying an electric toothbrush but certainly helps keep things clinical.
Automatic power off
As the name suggests, at the end of a cleaning cycle the brush will automatically power itself off.
This alerts you the clean is over and can save battery power.
Some models come with this option switched on as standard and you can turn it off if you like, whilst some models do not offer this auto power off at all.
If a brush does auto power off, you can restart the brush or end the clean early at any time if you choose.
Unless powered by AA or AAA batteries a brush will come with a charging stand or in some cases a charging cable.
The stand usually has a prong on it which fits into a recess in the base of the handle. The brush then charges over a period from 8-24 using a technology called inductive charging.
This technology offers a safe and convenient way or recharging the battery internally whilst helping maintain the water resistance of the handle. You can read our article how does an electric toothbrush work to learn more.
Most brushes can be left on charge permanently, but for optimum performance it is best to deplete the battery from time to time.
Select brushes are charged by plugging a cable directly into the brush handle. This has become more common as water resistance and sealing of electronic parts has improved. These brushes tend to connect to a universal USB port, rather than a country specific power adapter.
In the UK most charging stands have a 2 pin connector to be used with shaver sockets found in bathrooms. You can purchase adapters to use with 3 pin mains sockets in the UK.
Different stands will too support different voltages, something you need to be considerate of if you travel, particularly internationally. Read our 2 pin plug guide to learn more.
Whilst any brush is susceptible to failure, the removable caps required on a removable battery brush can be a weak point and affect the water resistance of the brush. Over time the seals can perish. This is not an issue on those with internal batteries.
Most electric toothbrushes be that Sonicare, Oral-B, Colgate etc with fixed internal or removable AA batteries tend to be water resistant.
By their very nature, they will come into contact with water and moisture. Therefore running the brush under a tap is fine.
Many choose to use their electric toothbrush in the shower, this is often fine too.*
Brushes are not designed to be submerged, so avoid this.
Those brushes with removable batteries tend to be more susceptible to failure as the seal will become worn over time.
It is also good practice to towel dry the brush off to prolong its life.
*Always check with the manufacturer or consult documentation before doing so to ensure it is safe.
An electric toothbrush needs an electric motor inside to be able to drive the cogs and gears to actually make the brush head move. A byproduct of this, is noise.
All electric toothbrushes we have seen and handled make some noise, but some are quieter than others.
Oral-B brushes tend to be the loudest in our opinion. It is a more mechanical sound. You can hear them when they are running and if you do not want to disturb others when cleaning your teeth, shutting the door is a must.
Philips Sonicare and Colgate brushes are much quieter. They tend to produce a different type of sound, a more prominent humming noise with a stronger and more obvious vibration through the handle.
LEDs/cleaning mode display
The best electric toothbrushes have LEDs or icons that light up to make it clear which of the cleaning modes available, is selected or is in use.
Sonicare and Colgate tend to offer such on their brushes, whilst Oral-B tend to reserve this for their more premium models.
Sonicare and Colgate do to have an LED above the name of the cleaning mode, whilst Oral-B have graphics that represent the mode. The name of the mode, rather than a graphic tends to be easier to comprehend.
When additional cleaning modes are available, a separate button that controls the cleaning mode is useful. Sonicare tend to offer this on most models, but Oral-B on a large number actually require the power button to be pressed multiple times to select the cleaning mode you desire. It is not a big issue, but a small difference that can really enhance your user experience.
Coming in a few different forms, we refer to a storage compartment as a tray or stand where spare/additional heads can be stored when not in use.
Some of the more premium models often come with spare or alternative heads and the storage compartment can be used to house them.
Some storage compartments have covers over them whilst others leave the heads exposed.
Particularly useful these are if you intend to make best use of the different cleaning modes on a brush and use a more suitable brush head, or if you wish to share the brush handle with another user.
If not supplied in the box, these can be purchased separately.
Becoming increasingly popular is the option of buying an electric toothbrush package that contains 2, rather than 1 brush handle in the box.
This is great for families or groups that require multiple handles and want to benefit from the cost savings that come with such.
Sonicare and Oral-B tend to lead in their product offerings, although they often take a different approach to what is included (subject to model).
Oral-B tends to offer an extra brush handle and brush head in the box with only 1 charging stand and travel case, to be shared by the handles.
Sonicare, on the other hand, provide 2 of everything. Thus each handle has a charging stand and travel case.
How does an electric toothbrush work?
You might well be wondering how all this technology comes together and what does an electric toothbrush really look like on the inside.
There is a lot of science and technological engineering that goes into making a brush.
Fundamentally, it is based on a power source (the battery) delivering current to a motor which uses a series of gears to turn and move the brush head.
We have taken a brush apart and explained (with no complicated science) how it works here.
Trial Periods/Try Before You Buy
Done your research and found the brush you want or at least think you want?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could now use it and actually get some time to decide whether it is the right brush for you?
Sadly, none really at this time have try in-store or at home before you buy scheme, but having the option of actually returning a brush a few weeks after buying and testing it would be great right?
The good news is leading brands like Oral-B and Colgate offer trial periods that last up to 30 days.
Sadly these are not marketed all that well.
Use the brush as much as you like within this time period and if you are then not satisfied and do not want to keep it, send the brush back for a refund.
This trial period is often marked on the side of the box and/or in the documentation that comes with the brush. Whilst the process will vary for each manufacturer, generally speaking an address will be provided for you to send the fully boxed brush back along with your proof of purchase. Once returned to them, they will issue a payment to you for the full price you paid for the brush.
Whilst the trial/test period will generally apply to all brushes within the Colgate and Oral-B range it is always worth double checking first if you feel this is an essential factor in your decision making process.
The electric toothbrush is not like a car, it does not need annual maintenance or servicing but there are small things you can do to prolong the life of the brush.
Keep your brush clean. Dental matter, water and residue toothpaste can build up on the toothbrush handle over time. Try and wipe this off and keep the brush in top condition. This post gives a bit more information on how to achieve that.
Optimise the battery. If the electric toothbrush has a built-in battery, it is good practice to put it through charging cycles that encourage the battery to perform at its best for longest. Always consult your instruction manual for you particular brush model for directions on how best to do this.
Warranty & Guarantee
2 years or 24 months tends to be the standard time that electric toothbrushes are covered under warranty.
This warranty or guarantee covers products that should stop working or functioning correctly as a result of poor workmanship or failure of parts.
Warranties do not cover damage and faults that are a result of user damage.
For example, if the brush no longer powers on or off, or the battery is lasting only one day rather than 7, such faults would normally be covered. However, if the brush was faulty because it had been dropped and the plastic housing shattered, this would not be.
Some brands, particularly Oral-B do offer extended guarantees. In Oral-B’s case this is a free extension that lasts a further 12 months, to take the total to 3 years or 36 months.
To obtain this all you need do is complete a registration process, within 24 months of purchasing your electric toothbrush.
If the inevitable happens and the brush fails thus requiring repair by the manufacturer, you can send the brush in for a free of charge assessment and repair.
As important as your electric toothbrush
Whether you have decided on your electric toothbrush or not, there are other factors that are almost, if not as important as the brush itself and the act of cleaning your teeth.
- Brush your teeth regularly and properly
- “The way you use your toothbrush is just as important as the one you choose” — British Dental Association spokeswoman — BBC
- Whether its a £5 or £500 toothbrush, just 4 minutes a day, or regular brushing, with the correct technique is a massive step forward in better oral hygiene.
- Floss once a day, it reaches the 40% of tooth surfaces that regular brushing doesn’t.
- Use a fluoride based paste and you are on the right track.
- Change your brush head/toothbrush every 3 months
- The use of the brush wears the bristles down and reduces the effectiveness, to the point the bristles may do more damage than good
Best deals electric toothbrushes
Looking for a new electric toothbrush? Perhaps you are already a big fan of using powered toothbrushes over manual ones. Or maybe you are interested in tossing out your old stick brush and giving an electric one a try. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), electric toothbrushes are great for people who have
difficulty using a manual one (for example, if a condition such as arthritis makes it a challenge to brush your teeth). They’re also great for children who might find the…
Best Overall: Oral-B Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
This product from Oral-B claims our top spot for best overall electric toothbrush thanks to its cleaning power and functionality. Simple and easy to use, the brush features a cross-action design, which lets it surround each tooth for 3D cleaning as it works. There’s an in-handle timer that pulses every 30 seconds to let you know when to switch to other areas of the mouth, and sensor lights come on if you brush too hard. Plus, this electric toothbrush can remove up to 300 percent more plaque along the gum line than a regular toothbrush.
Customers love this brush for its simplicity, reasonable price, and how well it cleans their teeth. One said they could feel the difference after just one week of using it. Another praised how easy it is to clean the toothbrush itself. Some reported issues with batteries not working well over time, but the majority would recommend it to others.
Runner Up, Best Overall: Philips Sonicare Essence Electric Toothbrush
A bestseller in its category, this electric toothbrush from Philips Sonicare is also a great option. It features soft contoured bristles that’ll get your pearly whites spick and span, plus patented sonic technology that helps you reach that tricky spot between your teeth and gum line where plaque can build up. There’s a two-minute timer to help keep you on track for the recommended brushing time, as well as reminder bristles that will fade away when it’s time to replace the brush head. The battery will last about two weeks between charges. There’s also a two-year warranty included with the purchase.
Dentists have recommended this particular toothbrush, and customers have seen positive effects on their teeth and gums since using it. Some even said it was like getting a professional cleaning every time they used it. It might be a little louder than pricier models — and word of warning, there have been reports of mold forming under the toothbrush head — but most people who bought it would recommend it to others.
Best Budget: Oral-B Vitality Floss Action Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Just because a toothbrush is electric doesn’t mean that it has to be expensive. You can still get a quality powered brush without breaking the bank. This one from Oral-B is a great choice for the budget-conscious. It features MicroPulse bristles that give your teeth a deep clean and remove plaque. It also has unique floss action bristles that help loosen plaque between your teeth. And there’s a two-minute timer which signals when it’s time to stop brushing.
Many of the reviewers who have used this product likened the effect of this toothbrush to one that a dentist would use. One said that after using this, their dentist was pleased with the condition of their teeth. People also seem mostly happy with the charger, pointing out that one full charge will last for about a week. Some, however, have reported issues with it not working well or dying over time. But overall, the majority of customers who have purchased it were pleased with the product.
Best for Kids: Philips Sonicare for Kids Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
An electric toothbrush is great for kids since it’ll help teach them good brushing habits. Plus, it’s much more fun to use an electric toothbrush than a manual one. This one from Philips features a timer that helps ensure they brush for the recommended two minutes. There’s also a KidPacer feature that alerts the user to move to a new quadrant of the mouth so that every part is thoroughly cleaned. And for the tech-savvy kid, it comes with a free interactive app that educates kids about brushing and gets them excited to brush thanks to rewards given for successful sessions.
Parents love this toothbrush for their kids, pointing out that it gets them excited about brushing—especially thanks to the associated app. One said it’s easy to use and another said that it’s so fun, her son actually reminds her when it’s time to brush his teeth. One adult even admitted that they use the kids version too. In terms of critical reviews, some pointed out issues with the head being too big for their child’s mouth, but most were happy with the product overall.
Best Design: Oral-B Black Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
Looking for a pretty electric toothbrush? We love this sleek black one from Oral-B. Not only is it a nice design, but it is also a great product. It has superior 3D cleaning that has been clinically proven to remove up to 300 percent more plaque along the gum line than a regular manual toothbrush. There’s an in-handle timer that pulses every 30 seconds to let you know when to switch areas in the mouth, and it also has cross action bristles that are perfectly angled for a precise clean.
Most of those who use this toothbrush seem to love it. One said they saw significant improvement after just one week. Another said it’s a great toothbrush for the price. In terms of critical reviews, a few have had issues with the battery life and charger wearing out over time. But the majority of those who have purchased said they were happy with the product.
Best High-Tech: Oral-B Pro 5000 SmartSeries Electric Toothbrush with Bluetooth
If you’re the type of person to always have the latest technology in your home, this toothbrush from Oral-B is probably for you. It features Bluetooth functionality that allows your brush to communicate with your smartphone for real-time feedback on your brushing habits. The round brush has MicroPulse bristles that help you get a better clean, and the 3D cleaning action oscillates, rotates, and pulsates to get rid of plaque. If you’re brushing too hard, the pressure sensor lights will alert you. And there are five modes you can choose from: Daily Clean, Gum Care, Sensitive, Whitening, and Deep Clean.
Those who purchased it seemed mostly happy with the product. One customer said it definitely helped keep track of and improve his brushing habits. Another called it the best toothbrush they ever had. Some people did have critical reviews of the toothbrush. One said it’s really loud and another pointed out that when it’s on the charger, the blue light is really bright. But the majority of customers would recommend it to others.