The average life span of an electric toothbrush is around 5 years.
Manufacturers normally offer a 2 year warranty should the brush fail sooner.
But some brushes will last a lot longer — we know of people still using electric toothbrushes that are 10 years old.
The factors that affect how long a toothbrush lasts
There are several factors that can affect how long a toothbrush remains operational.
Built-in battery and charging routine
One of the biggest factors that affects the life of a brush is the battery and the associated charging routine.
Manufacturers say it is fine to leave a brush constantly on charge for most of the time and, in my experience, it is.
This is because most now have technology built-in that stops the battery accepting more charge, once the battery is fully charged.
It is less common with newer models, but in the past batteries were often less tolerant of the repeated charging cycles they went through before they began to deteriorate or wear out. Some users would find they failed in just over a year whilst others got 3+ years from them.
This for the most part has been resolved with many electric toothbrushes using a newer battery technology known as Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. This is the same type found in your smartphone. Older brushes used Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries.
Whilst newer batteries will not last indefinitely, they tend to be more reliable and able to withstand daily use and repeated charges better.
Differences in opinion do exist, and there are many advocates for NiMH over Li-Ion.
We are not aware of evidence that conclusively says one type is better than another, like many things there are pros and cons to either. But, most manufacturers have now made the switch to Li-Ion and they would not do this without good reason.
Although it might be perfectly safe to keep topping up the battery by leaving it on the charger, it is not necessarily the best or most efficient thing to do.
Discharging your brush can help
Of course, you need to do what suits you and your lifestyle. But, using your toothbrush and placing it back on the stand to recharge after every use is not particularly efficient or great for the environment.
Batteries do ultimately have a number of charging cycles that they are designed to last for. The older the battery is and the more times it has been recharged and discharged, typically the less efficient it becomes.
Previously it was advised to completely discharge and fully recharge your toothbrush battery. Nowadays there is little need for this.
However, it is likely better for your toothbrush battery if you charge it fully, and then use it until the battery is low (not flat/empty) and in need of a charge.
If you can, leave it off the charging stand between uses and only recharge it when the battery is down to approximately 20% you should be helping to prolong the life of your battery and toothbrush.
Many brushes will have a battery status light on the handle that will flash (normally red) to indicate a recharge is required. Look out for this. This is a great time to plug it in for a recharge.
In an ideal world you want to avoid constantly "topping up" the battery, aiming to use the majority of the remaining power before recharging.
There are many variables and it is not possible to say that your brush will last X months or years longer by taking this approach over constantly topping up. But, a small change like this may well result in many more months of use.
Most brushes come with a 2 year warranty
Most electric toothbrushes will come with a 12 month, if not 24 month warranty.
Some retailers/sellers will also offer extended warranties that will cover you when the toothbrush is outside of the manufacturer's warranty period. These do come at a cost and not all are equal, but it could be something to consider.
In many cases, the internal battery is covered as part of this warranty period, but do check the specific terms for your brush.
If it then fails within the warranty period, more often than not the brush will be repaired or replaced.
Even if the brush fails outside the warranty period, it is always worth contacting the manufacturer to check if there is a repair process for out of warranty products.
Some will repair the toothbrush for a small fee.
Sadly, in many cases, it will not be economically viable to do so based on the age of the brush and the labour required.
But, you might find you can replace the battery for $30 for example rather than paying $50+ for a brand new toothbrush.
You can fix some brushes yourself
If a battery fails outside of the warranty period and there is no out of warranty support available, it may well be possible to replace the battery yourself (or with the help of others) on some models.
If you fancy having a go, check out https://toothbrushbattery.com/, which sells replacement batteries and has excellent guides for fitting them.
We also suggest you check within your local community. There are often repair cafes and similar schemes whereby others help repair faulty products.
A battery fault might not be the only reason for a brush to stop working but it is one of the most common.
It may well be possible to fix other faults yourself by opening the brush up. But, you should only do this, if it is outside of the warranty period (otherwise the brush may be repaired under warranty) and you are aware of the associated risks of attempting a DIY repair.
Some models are easier to mend that others
It's worth noting though that some models are easier to mend than others, whether you're replacing the battery or making another kind of repair.
We cannot say definitively which brushes are easiest to repair, but if this is important to you then you may like to do some more research before buying to see which brushes have good repair guides available
Many toothbrushes are designed in a way that they are not easily repairable, partly intentionally for commercial reasons, but also for safety reasons.
Electrics and water don't tend to mix well. So, if a toothbrush is more easily repairable a manufacturer has to ensure that the user will be kept safe once that repair is completed.
Many repairs will impede or remove any water resistance the internal electronics might once have had.
There is a growing awareness for products like this to be made repairable. We hope that in time manufacturers take greater strides to improve the ease with which this can be done by users like you and me.
Expect a brush to last 5 years
Because an electric toothbrush has moving parts within it, these can wear out too. They are generally tried and tested, but everything has a life to it. Motors can burn out or fail and connections of cables etc can become loose, particularly if a handle takes a few knocks and falls.
It is by no means an exact science, but our own hands-on experience, as well as feedback from hundreds of site readers, suggest that you can expect on average to achieve 5 years of use from most electric toothbrushes.
In many instances, it will last longer. In some instances, sadly and frustratingly, it will fail sooner.
Don't buy a brush and expect it to last 10 years. Don’t get us wrong it would be great if they lasted this long, but most would agree for 5 or so years of use, the brush typically works out as very good value.
Taking good care of your brush can help to prolong its life
If you are keen to get the most life from a brush, taking good care of it with regular charging cycles, cleaning it and avoiding it being damaged all help prolong the life.
Even if you take care of it and follow some of the guidance we have provided, there is no guarantee that it will last longer, but there is a higher likelihood.
Sharing a brush handle may give you more warranty cover
You can also share the brush handle with other users. You must still use your own brush head whilst sharing a handle, but sharing the handle allows potentially more use out of that brush whilst under warranty.
Do some brushes last longer than others?
This is a question we are asked occasionally and the truth is there is no definitive answer to this. There is no publically accessible data that we can refer to.
Some might say that Sonicare brushes fail quicker and more often than Oral-B, whilst others will say the opposite.
Needless to say we have received complaints about all brands.
Some models of brush can be more prone to failure than others. But, this is not necessarily known until months after the brush has begun shipping.
Even then, those brushes that might have had potential issues affecting their long term reliability might have been modified by the manufacturer to correct such issues.
Therefore if the first production run of brushes of a model had an issue, by production run three, this may have been resolved.
Sometimes the product that looks and feels the cheapest and that you expect to fail sooner outlasts the premium models.
Anecdotal evidence would suggest that major brands like Oral-B and Sonicare tend to be more reliable than lesser known brands, particularly those from the far east.
We appear to have at least gotten more complaints about the more budget brand toothbrushes sooner into their working life than better known alternatives.
The length of the supplied warranty can potentially be an indicator of the likely time period the brush might last. If a manufacturer believes their product is built to last why not offer a 2 year warranty instead of 1 year? Those that trust their product will often show it.
Price is by no means a definitive factor, but a brush costing less than $20 is less likely to last 5+ years because more often than not there isn't the same ability to build in the quality and durability at such a cheap price.
Typically, though, once you start spending around $50 or more the durability goes up. There is little to suggest that a $200 toothbrush is built to last any better than the $50 model.
How long should you keep an electric toothbrush for?
Provided that your electric toothbrush is clean and functioning safely, you can use it indefinitely.
We don't recommend upgrading purely because there is a new model or because you have had yours 3 years. If it works, keep using it.
It is very rare that a 'new' toothbrush will provide any significant benefit to you or your oral health over an older functioning brush.
However, in the following scenarios it may be time to consider replacing your brush:
- Your brush is defective in some way, for instance, the brush head doesn't attach as securely to the handle
- The strength of the motor has deteriorated and the brush head doesn't operate with as much power
- An unclean-able amount of grime has built up on the brush, making it unhygienic.
If you do replace your brush, please look at environmentally considerate ways to dispose of it.
How long can you keep using the brush head on an electric toothbrush?
Brush heads should be changed every 3 months.
If using a manual toothbrush, you should replace that every 3 months.
You can use for longer but it is strongly advised to replace the head on or around the 3 month time frame.
Continuing to do so, could be doing more damage to your teeth and gums than good.
It is not a case of waiting until the brush head looks worn out, the wear on the bristles is not always noticeable.