Want a clean, healthy mouth? Start with a good toothbrush.
“Yes, of course,” you say. “But what constitutes a good toothbrush?”
At BestReviews, we wondered the same thing. So we set out to do some research. We began by asking a lot of questions:
Is an electric toothbrush better than a manual one? (Answer: Yes. Studies confirm that an electric toothbrush can eradicate plaque far more effectively than a manual one.)
What are the different types of electric toothbrushes, and how are they different?
What kind of electric toothbrush is best for dentures and braces?
First, we spoke with dental professionals to get their advice. Then, we purchased an assortment of top electric toothbrushes from leading manufacturers and put them through their paces.
At the end of our lengthy testing process, we narrowed our long list of products down to the following five finalists:
We consulted Dr. Steve McConnell, owner of the Marin Center for Restorative and Cosmetic Dentistry in Novato, CA and Courtney Casper, a registered dental hygienist at the same practice.
McConnell and Casper agreed that electric toothbrushes are better instruments, in large part because they're less “technique sensitive” than manual brushes. In essence, electric toothbrushes provide more consistent results because they clean teeth in a more consistent manner.
We asked the pros which type of electric toothbrush they recommend: the oscillating type that mimics human brushing action (though much faster) or the sonic type that creates tiny, rapid vibrations.
Both McConnell and Casper said that sonic toothbrushes tend to work better because they're similar to the microsonic scaler equipment used in a professional clinic. Microsonic scaler technology removes both the biofilm (goo) and calculus (hard deposits) on teeth.
That being said, it's not a hard and fast rule that sonic electric toothbrushes are better than their oscillating counterparts. In fact, with modern operating modes and brush head technology, some oscillating electric toothbrushes are equally efficient.
As each electric toothbrush arrived at the BestReviews lab, we checked packaging, instructions, and whether or not an initial charging period was required before we could use it.
We noted whether each toothbrush was oscillating or sonic.
We also took into consideration the number and kind of brush heads supplied and how long they are expected to last.
How an electric toothbrush feels in your hand is highly subjective, but each manufacturer strives for the most ergonomic design possible. In this review, we tell you whether they succeeded or not.
We also look at battery recharging times and any “extras” that make a product stand out from the crowd.
Price factors into any buying decision. All of the electric toothbrushes on our elite list are stellar products. To help you determine which is best for you, we examine feedback from existing owners and evaluate each package as a whole.
Dr. Sun is an MIT graduate who also holds a master's degree from Harvard in public health and an MD from Harvard Medical School. She completed her internship and residency at UCLA. Her area of focus is internal medicine.
Philips boasts that the Sonicare DiamondClean will whiten teeth within a week of use while simultaneously removing seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush with its diamond-shaped, medium-firm bristles.
Indeed, owners rave that using this sonic brush has changed their life for the better. A rate of 31,000 strokes per minute tends to have that effect! And Philips is an established name in the industry, to be sure. We think so highly of this manufacturer, in fact, that the DiamondClean's little sibling — the Sonicare 2 — appears as our Best Bang for Your Buck product in the above matrix.
You can get a customized cleaning for your particular needs by choosing between five modes: Clean, Polish, Sensitive, Gum Care, and White. Philips recommends about two minutes of "White" mode brushing to remove surface stains and restore the sparkle to your smile.
In addition to its five cleaning modes, this brush offers some outstanding features, not the least of which is the DiamondClean's charging glass. Uniquely, this glass can serve as a cup for water when it's not resting in its base. Say goodbye to the unsightly wires of a traditional charging station and hello to a less-busy bathroom counter.
The brush also comes with a two-year warranty and a carrying case that doubles as a charging dock (via USB) if you prefer to charge your brush that way. A few owners have commented that the brush loses strength as the battery depletes, but this is to be expected with any battery-charged tool. We've encountered different reports on how long it takes to charge the DiamondClean. Suffice it to say that if you rest the brush in its charger when not in use, you shouldn't run into problems.
With a finish that looks like shiny black ceramic, owners tell us they are proud to display this sonic toothbrush in their bathrooms. But what's even better is the finish the DiamondCare will give your teeth and gums. Yes, it sits on the higher end of the pricing spectrum at a cost of $139. But with a name like Philips and results like these, we find the investment to be entirely worth it.
The Oral-B Pro 1000 is a simple model compared to some of the other products in our matrix. For many, it serves as an economical entry into the world of electric brushing.
There's nothing complex about this toothbrush. It's an oscillating model that comes with just one brush head. You could interchange it with the more complex heads from other Oral-B models (and the Pro 1000 has the same multi-angled “3D” action), but there's only one mode, so we doubt you'd get the same degree of effectiveness.
That said, a lot of people like this toothbrush for its simplicity. It's light (4.25 ounces) with a slender, rubberized handle. In the lab, we felt it was just a small step up from the thin handle of a manual toothbrush rather than a big leap to something like the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean or the Waterpik.
In spite of its entry-level status, the Oral-B does offer some nice features:
The Oral-B 1000's first charge should be for 24 hours, which is standard. If you don't keep it plugged in, it will run for about a week. The warranty lasts for two years.
At a cost of just $39, it would be easy to say this is a popular electric toothbrush because it's cheap. But that would be unfair. Oral-B is a renowned brand, and the Pro 1000 does a much better job than a manual brush. In fact, many first-time electric brush owners think it's absolutely superb.
For a lot of people, Philips Sonicare is the standard in electric toothbrushes — the brand every other manufacturer is compared to.
We chose to evaluate the Sonicare 2 because it's a close rival to the Oral-B Pro 1000, yet it bears some important differences.
Like the Oral-B Pro 1000, the Philips Sonicare 2 is easy to set up and use. But it's a sonic toothbrush rather than an oscillating one, and it pulsates at an amazing 31,000 brush strokes per minute.
At about 4.5 ounces, the Sonicare 2 is easy to use and comfortable to hold. It arrived with a bit of a charge, but the manufacturer still recommends an overnight charge before use. At full charge, it will run for two weeks. As with most of its rivals, its warranty lasts two years.
While there are many brush heads in the Philips range, only one is supplied with the Sonicare 2. Blue “reminder bristles” change to white as they wear down; this color change serves as a reminder to replace the head. We think this is an excellent feature.
Other notable features include the following:
At $39, the Sonicare 2 resides in the same general price bracket as the Oral-B Pro 1000. Both are popular with consumers. If you're trying to decide between the two, the big question is whether you want oscillating or sonic technology. That's quite a personal choice.
As you might guess from its name, the Pursonic High Power toothbrush boasts a rapid sonic technology — 40,000 strokes per minute, to be exact.
The brush comes with 12 heads (all the same type, but in a variety of colors) and a charging base that can hold six brushes at a time. This makes it a good choice for families. Whether you'd want to display the base or not depends on how much space you have on your bathroom counter, though.
The Pursonic offers three operating modes: one for “power cleaning,” one for “gentle cleaning” (of special interest to those with dentures or braces), and one for “massage.”
Our testers found the toothbrush to be very light (it weighs just 4.5 ounces) and easy to maneuver. For people with weaker arms, these ergonomics could be quite useful. However, a small number of owners reported that the high-speed vibration took some getting used to, and that if they weren't careful, they sprayed toothpaste everywhere! We also ran into occasional complaints about the Pursonic's durability during the course of our consumer research.
In addition, one of our testers noted occasional brush strokes that felt "unusual." We weren't able identify a cause or replicate the problem reliably.
The brush arrived with enough charge to be used immediately. With a full overnight charge, it can run for about two weeks.
Other features include:
The popular Pursonic High Power is a viable alternative to big-name sonic toothbrushes, but it will still cost you $39. That's pricier than some competitors, but the manufacturer argues that the extra replacement brush heads compensate for the discrepancy and will last most owners up to three years. We at BestReviews, however, would prefer to have a choice.
According to Waterpik, the Sensonic isn't just a sonic toothbrush; it's “state of the art” technology. The focus here is on how it cleans powerfully yet gently. Although we didn't test it in the lab, we can't help but wonder if it's specifically targeted at people with orthodontic work.
In keeping with this focus, the Waterpik's brush heads have rounded bristles (instead of angular or flat ones). Although the Waterpik operates in only one mode, three brush heads come with the package: one for “general” cleaning, one for “precision,” and one for “trouble spots.”
The brush weighs 6.8 ounces, placing it on the heavier side of the scale. Our testers thought the sculpted body did much to make it ergonomic, though some owners find it too big to hold comfortably.
The Waterpik's feature set includes the following:
The brush was ready to go when we unpacked it, but as with most electric toothbrushes, it requires a proper charging. Once the battery is full, it will last for about two weeks.
Priced at $72, the Waterpik Sensonic sits in the middle of our finalists in terms of both cost and specifications. User complaints are negligible, and our consumer research indicates that owner satisfaction is as high as anything on the market.
You could spend a few bucks on a manual toothbrush and get a "two-buck" clean. Or, you could spend $139 on the Philips Sonicare DiamondCare and get a sparkling smile that astounds both you and those around you.
We love the fact that this sonic technology removes biofilm and surface stains at a rate of up to 31,000 brush strokes per minute. This cleanliness, combined with the brush's sleek black look and cutting-edge glass tumbler/charger, make for an amazing product.
Many owners are people who have purchased Philips Sonicare electric brushes in the past. The upgraded DiamondCare continues the tradition of excellence created by Philips. Dentists endorse this toothbrush as a valuable oral hygiene tool, and we do, too. It's the Best of the Best.
If you're looking for a cheap electric toothbrush, you can't do better than our Best Bang for Your Buck winner, the quality-made Philips Sonicare 2.
You could choose any of the others and not be disappointed, but in terms of monetary value, the Sonicare 2 takes the honors. Incorporating the sonic technology recommended by professionals, it's a definite step up from a manual toothbrush.
The Sonicare 2 would be especially suited to newbie electric toothbrush users who are just getting into the technology and aren't sure how much they want to spend.
In a nutshell, this is a small, risk-free investment with a big return. What more could you ask for?