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:
NOTE: The Oral-B Pro we tested is no longer available and has been replaced by the 8000 series. The 8000 series has the same features as the 7000 series, plus some enhancements.
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.
The noise the comes from most of the products on the market today is nominal. However, we decided to test this factor as well given an overly loud brushing early in the morning or late at night is annoying at the least. Testing for noise levels around 6 inches from the products allowed us to objectively build an opinion on the loud, and the quiet.
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.
The Good: Rotates, pulses, and oscillates. Comfortable and easy to use. User benefits from "smart" technology.
The Bad: Expensive. Bluetooth connectivity diminishes battery power.
The Bottom Line: A pricey, high-end toothbrush that delivers top-notch oral hygiene and health tips.
The Oral-B Pro 7000 is an oscillating toothbrush, but if you're thinking that makes it inferior to sonics, think again. This one employs “3D action." It doesn't just oscillate; it also rotates and pulses.
Users can choose between task-specific modes (“sensitive,” “deep cleaning,” etc.) and brush heads (three heads are supplied; six more are available for an extra cost). Like most manufacturers, Oral-B recommends replacing the brush heads every three months.
At a fraction under six ounces, BestReviews lab testers thought it comfortable to hold and easy to control, but some owners say they would prefer a softer grip.
Oral-B recommends 24 hours for the first full charge, but we were able to use it after it was plugged in for just a few minutes. (Ours arrived uncharged.) Tests show that one full charge will carry it for a week or more, but the Bluetooth feature could possibly put a dent in that time estimate. Since most people keep their base permanently plugged in, however, charging the Oral-B Pro 7000 shouldn't typically be an issue.
The Oral-B Pro 7000 offers plenty of great features, including the following:
Two buttons: one for on/off and one for mode selection.
Battery indicator that shows charge levels.
Timer (tells you how long you should brush).
Travel case (with room for two brush heads).
Bluetooth function (connects to a smart phone to monitor brushing and offer oral health tips).
Some consumers may be skeptical of a “smart” electric toothbrush such as this, but it's actually quite engaging. The feedback made our testers feel like they were active participants in their dental hygiene.
Of course, there's a price to pay for this clever technology. The Oral-B Pro 7000 currently costs $108. When you can get a very good electric toothbrush for under fifty bucks, this high price might seem difficult to justify.
But the Oral-B Pro 7000 is more than just a toothbrush; it's a complete cleaning system for your mouth. Many say it's the best toothbrush they've ever used.
The Good: Delightfully simple and affordable.
The Bad: Only one brush head and one cleaning mode.
The Bottom Line: A simple, inexpensive electric toothbrush. You get better results than a manual brush but not the pristine results of a high-end product.
At the other end of Oral-B's product range is the Pro 1000. It's a basic model that, for many, serves as an economical entry into the world of electric brushing.
Unlike its sibling, the Pro 7000, 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 Pro 7000 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 $34, 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.
The Good: Ergonomic design. Sonic technology. 31,000 brush strokes per minute.
The Bad: Only one brush head. Automatic shutoff bothers some users.
The Bottom Line: An affordable, entry-level sonic toothbrush with plenty of user-friendly features.
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. (Its grip is similar to that of the Oral-B 7000.) 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.
The Good: Rapid sonic technology. 12 heads included in package. Advantageous for those with dentures or braces.
The Bad: High-speed vibration is hard for some people to adjust to. Occasional durability complaints. Short warranty (12 months).
The Bottom Line: Great for family members young and old, this popular sonic brush is less expensive than some higher-end systems, yet it does an excellent job.
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.
The Good: Ergonomically designed. Gentle sonic cleaning action may be suitable for those with orthodontic work.
The Bad: Costly, and you don't get all of the bells and whistles that you would with some other expensive electric toothbrushes.
The Bottom Line: A well-received sonic toothbrush from a reputable brand, this product is known for its gentle-yet-thorough cleansing.
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 $64, the Waterpik Sensonic sits in the middle of our finalists in terms of both cost and specifications. We find that to be something of a conundrum.
It's not a cheap electric toothbrush, but it doesn't have the bells and whistles of the Oral-B Pro 7000. That said, user complaints are negligible, and our consumer research indicates that owner satisfaction is as high as anything on the market.
A product must really shine to reach our top five, but one model stands out above all the others: the Oral-B Pro 7000. It has so much going for it, there's no question it's the Best of the Best.
You could argue that it's not a sonic toothbrush, but the Oral-B 7000 has multiple modes and brush types that more than compensate. The Bluetooth system and associated app help users monitor their brushing regimen and suggest smart ways to improve upon it, too.
On top of that, Oral-B is one of the top names in the industry. We think your mouth and body will thank you for using this incredible electric toothbrush–as well as your dentist.
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?