electric toothbrush bad for gums

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Electric Toothbrush Bad For Gums

The best electric toothbrushes

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.

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2. Oral-B Pro 2 2000N

Why we like it: affordable and no-nonsense

£34.99, Amazon

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.

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3. Colgate Pro Clinical 250+

Why we like it: cheap, simple, effective

£22.94, Amazon

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.

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4. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Black HX9924/14

£225.99, Amazon

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.

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5. Sonic Chic Urban travel toothbrush

£19.99, Ocado

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.

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And the best for kids: Brush Baby KidzSonic 6+

£12.95, Amazon

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).

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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.

electric toothbrush side effects

When to replace your toothbrush

All toothbrushes need to be replaced every three to four months according to the ADA. Replace your toothbrush sooner if it looks frayed or if you used it when you were sick. With a manual toothbrush, the whole thing needs to be

replaced. With an electric toothbrush, you may only need to replace the removable head.


  • Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three to four months.
How to brush your teeth

The most important parts of brushing your teeth are using proper technique, and doing it twice per day, every day. The best way to brush your teeth is to:

  • Pick a toothbrush that’s the right size for your mouth.
  • Avoid hard bristles that can irritate your gums. The ADA recommends soft-bristle brushes. Also, look for brushes with multi-level or angled bristles. One study found this type of bristle to be more effects than flat, one-level bristles.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gums.
  • Gently brush all tooth surfaces (front, back, chewing) for two minutes.
  • Rinse your toothbrush and store it upright to air dry — and keep it out of range of the toilet which can spray germs when flushing.
  • Floss once per day, either after or brushing.
  • Mouth rinses are optional and shouldn’t replace flossing or brushing.

If you experience any bleeding, talk with your dentist. A number of things can cause bleeding when you brush and floss, such as:

  • gum disease
  • vitamin deficiencies
  • pregnancy

Sometimes people have bleeding gums when they’ve gone too long between brushing and flossing, and the plaque really starts to build up. So long as you are gentle, brushing and flossing should not actually cause bleeding.


  • Brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time and floss daily.

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