If you want to limit your time in the dentist’s chair, investing in an electric toothbrush is one of the best things you can do.
Electric toothbrushes are much better at keeping control of plaque build-up, whitening teeth and freshening breath compared to a quick scrub with a traditional toothbrush. Not only that, but by improving your oral hygiene, not only do you feel, smell and look better, but it can also have a profound effect on your general health. Research has revealed that it can lower the risk of a heart attack and cancer, as well as reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
The best electric toothbrush doesn’t have to be the most expensive either. While you can pay upwards of more than $300, you should be able to find an excellent toothbrush under $100.
1. Philips Sonicare 2 (HX6211/04): best overall
Deep sonic wave clean without cleaning out your wallet
Cleaning tech: Sonic, 31,000 strokes per min. | Battery life: 14 days | Recharge time: 24 hours Timer: 2 minutes, resume memory, auto shut-off | Cleaning mode: 1 mode - daily clean | Warranty: 2 years
The Sonicare 2 features a head that vibrates at up to 31,000 brush strokes per minute, and thanks to its fluid dynamics, helps clean between your teeth. It also sports an angled brush head design that helps you easily access your back teeth.
Those making the switch to an electric toothbrush for the first time will like the Sonicare 2’s exclusive easy-start feature. This is designed to help you transition to using an electric toothbrush over the course of two weeks by gradually increasing its power, and we found this to work very well in use.
Along with the slim, ergonomic handle, the Sonicare 2 comes with a ProResults brush head, a protective travel cap and a travel charger, while it’s also available in a choice of 5 colors. There’s also a built-in Smartimer that automatically stops your toothbrush after you’ve brushed for the dentist-recommended two minutes, and if you need to pause mid-brush, to rinse or add more toothpaste, it resumes right where you left off.
- Read the review: Philips Sonicare 2 (HX6211/04)
2. Oral-B Genius Pro 8000: best oscillating brush
Lots of cleaning modes, loads of power and a great price
Cleaning tech: Oscillating, rotating and pulsing | Timer: 2 minutes, 30 seconds stutter | Cleaning mode: 5 modes - pro clean, diamond white, sensitive, gum care, tongue | Warranty: 2 years
Overall, it’s hard to beat the combination of power, cleaning performance and accessories that the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 delivers, making it excellent value. The worst things we can find to say about this brush are that the app’s not that much use once you’ve had a go, and that it’s comparatively noisy and takes a few days to get used to.
Once you do get used to this powerful brush, the combination of cleaning modes and provided brush heads make it easy to clean all parts of your mouth and end up with fresh-feeling teeth. If you prefer a sonic toothbrush, the Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 5100 is great value, but if you have no real preference for toothbrush technology or prefer oscillating models, the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 is the best that you can buy.
- Read the review: Oral-B Genius Pro 8000
3. Oral-B Pro 1000: best value
Uses oscillating, rotating and pulsing movements to clean your teeth thoroughly
Cleaning tech: Oscillating, rotating and pulsing | Timer: 2 minutes, 30 seconds stutter | Cleaning mode: 1 mode - daily clean | Warranty: 2 years
The Pro 1000 features a 2-minute timer that stutters every 30 seconds to help you focus on each quadrant of your mouth, while there’s a handy built-in pressure sensor that automatically stops the brush’s pulsation if you’re pressing too hard. These are two key features most recommended by dentists, and the Oral-B Pro 1000 is the most affordable electric toothbrush we’ve seen to offer this.
The Oral-B Pro 1000 uses oscillating, rotating and pulsing movements to clean your teeth thoroughly, while a round CrossAction head has bristles angled at 16 degrees. Because all nine of Oral-B’s brush heads are compatible with the Pro 1000’s handle, you have a variety of brush head options to choose from when it’s time to replace the original.
- Read the review: Oral-B Pro 1000
4. Philips Sonicare Protective Clean 5100: most powerful sonic brush
A powerful sonic toothbrush that lets you know when it’s time to change the brush
Cleaning tech: Sonic, 62,000 strokes per min. | Battery life: 2 weeks | Recharge time: 12 hours | Timer: 3 minutes, 30 seconds notifications | Cleaning mode: 3 modes - clean, white and gum | Warranty: 2 years
The Philips Sonicare Protective Clean 5100 is the joint top most powerful sonic electric toothbrush with the more expensive 6100. That means that the cleaning performance is just as good between the two brushes. The choice comes down to features.
It’s a bit of shame that the 5100’s BrushSync technology doesn’t automatically select the mode, although doing this manually is easy enough. The biggest departure between the two is that the 5100 doesn’t have adjustable intensity, so those with more delicate mouths and sensitive teeth may prefer the 6100. We love the BrushSync Notification to let us know when it’s time to change the brush head, as it removes the guesswork.
The array of accessories in the box is a little stingy, particularly not having a decent travel case with charging, but this is something that applies to all of Philips’ range.
Provided that you’re happy to run the brush at full power, the Philips Sonicare Protective Clean 5100 is a top brush and better value than the 6100. If you want a sonic brush, it’s a great choice. If you prefer an oscillating model (or have no preference), the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 is an excellent choice: it cleans as well, ships with more brush heads and has a travel case that charges.
- Read the review: Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100
5. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart: best premium model
Not short of brushing modes
Cleaning tech: Sonic, 31,000 strokes per min. | Battery life: 14 days | Recharge time: 24 hours | Timer: 2 minutes, resume memory, auto shut-off | Cleaning mode: 4 modes - clean, white+, deep clean+ and gum health | Warranty: 2 years
The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean features four cleaning modes (clean, white+, deep clean+ and gum health), with each offering three different settings. As well as this there’s Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to connect to a free interactive app to help you maintain proper technique, track your brushing habits and even order replacement heads.
The DiamondClean’s brushing pressure sensor includes a light ring on the end of the handle, with the light flashing and the handle vibrating if you press too hard, and there’s also a built-in scrubbing sensor to alert you if you’re brushing improperly. The toothbrush comes with three brush heads and a tongue brush, along with a charging travel case and a charging glass that doubles as a rinsing glass.
- Read the review: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart
6. Foreo ISSA 2
The longest battery life of any electric toothbrush
Cleaning tech: Sonic, 11,000 pulsations per minute | Battery: Up to 1 year | Timer: 2 minutes | Cleaning mode: 16 modes | Warranty: 2 years
There’s no denying that the Foreo ISSA 2 is something quite different to the other electric toothbrushes, with its smart design making it stand out. While the brush looks fantastic, it’s the longevity of the battery that really makes the brush impress, lasting for up to a year on a single charge. That’s a feature that other manufacturers should be paying close attention to.
Brush head longevity is great, too, although this would be more impressive if the brush heads were cheaper to replace.
For all the good points, the ISSA 2 is slightly let down by the controls on the side, which give no indication of the power level you’re on. And, as there are 16 settings to choose from, each a minor change from the previous one, it’s hard to work out what you actually have the brush set to.
Cleaning performance is very good with the standard brush, although its large head can make getting to those hard to reach areas of your mouth quite hard: a smaller, more nimble brush would fix this.
Ultimately, the Foreo ISSA 2 might not quite be the brush of the future that its looks promise, but it’s a step in the right direction battery-life wise and a few tweaks would make the performance better.
- Read the review: Foreo ISSA 2
The best electric toothbrush doesn’t have to be the most expensive
The least expensive electric toothbrush we tested costs just under $25, and prices jump very quickly from there to more than $300. However, most people can find an excellent toothbrush with all the features and accessories they need from $50 to $90.
The consensus among our testers was that if we were given a $300 toothbrush as a gift, we’d love it – but we wouldn’t spend so much money on our own. While the more expensive models may be tempting, people don’t consistently use the premium brushes’ higher-end features and specialty cleaning modes. Keep in mind that the price of your toothbrush over time also includes the price of replacement brush heads. Dentists recommend swapping out old brush heads at least every three months, and the cost can add up. Most companies offer value packs to help you save money, and there are several compatible knock-off brands available.
The electric toothbrush market is dominated by two brands, Philips Sonicare and Oral-B, with each have a growing line of toothbrushes available in value, midrange and premium price tiers.
Getting started using an electric toothbrush
When you’re making your choice, you’ll want to decide which cleaning technology you prefer. If you’ve never used an electric toothbrush before, it might take a week or two to get used to its cleaning movements, and you’ll want to avoid scrubbing motions because they can irritate your gums. Look for a toothbrush handle that feels comfortable in your hand and has a nice grip. You might also want to think about the ease of changing brush heads, especially if you’ll be sharing a single handle with multiple members of your household.
It’s a good idea to think ahead about the features and accessories most important to you. If you have specific cleaning goals, dental or orthodontic hardware in your mouth, or sensitive gums, multiple cleaning modes might be helpful. If not, a single cleaning mode will likely work just fine. If the idea of Bluetooth technology and a downloadable app is appealing, go in to your purchase knowing that these features come at a premium price. Other add-ons to consider include interdental brush heads, tongue cleaners, flossers, smartphone integrated travel cases and rinsing glasses.
The benefits of using an electric toothbrush
Toothbrushes with rotary movements clean your teeth as a motor-driven toothbrush head oscillates, rotates and pulsates. Sonic wave toothbrushes, by contrast, use a brushing mechanism powered by high-frequency vibrations to clean your teeth. A resulting fluid dynamics process drives liquid between your teeth to clean beyond where the toothbrush heads’ bristles actually touch.
The American Dental Association has given specific toothbrushes using either technology its seal of acceptance. This designation means a product has passed lab tests and met standards to demonstrate that, based on the ADA’s guidelines, it "is safe and has shown efficacy in removing plaque and helping to prevent and reduce gingivitis, when used as directed."
As a result, you can feel confident that a choice between rotating, oscillating and pulsating and sonic wave technologies is based more on personal preference than on effectiveness in cleaning your teeth. Manufacturers of both kinds of electric toothbrush make bold claims about how well their products work, and they back those claims with data gathered during clinical trials.
Things to consider when buying an electric toothbrush
Beyond the research and testing we conducted in our lab, we reached out to dentists and dental hygienists to learn what’s important to consider when you’re looking for an electric toothbrush. Dr. James Doll, a graduate of Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, gave us great advice.
"Talk to your dentist about your particular situation," he said. "If you’re more prone to gum recession, I’d suggest something that cleans well but is ultra-gentle to the gums. At the same time, some people may build up plaque or debris that is thicker or more difficult to remove, and a different brush may work better to get between the teeth or to remove difficult types of build-up. There are a number of excellent choices out there and a number of excellent brush heads. Asking your dentist or hygienist is always an excellent way to go."
Subscription toothbrush options
Because electric toothbrushes range widely in price and features, we evaluated basic, mid-range and higher-end units. We chose models using either sonic wave technology or rotating, oscillating and pulsing movements to clean your teeth. We tested a total of twelve models, with five making our recommended list below.
Not chosen in the end were two products that get a lot of attention online. They are the popular Quip and Goby toothbrushes. The distinguishing feature for each is its subscription service for brush head replacement and, in the case of Quip, toothpaste as well. If that’s appealing to you or you tend to forget to buy replacement heads, one of these might be a good choice for you.
The Quip brush, in our preliminary testing, failed to impress based on the quality of teeth cleaning it offered. It seems that it’s intended to work like the sonic devices we recommend. Regrettably, we found that it does little more than buzz. While that feels pleasant on the teeth, there was little evidence that teeth were being cleaned properly. Juxtaposed against that was the performance of the Goby. Its oscillating brush head cleaned well but was uncomfortable to use. On its lower setting it was more tolerable but still was not the sort of product we’d be likely to use on a continuing basis.