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Sonic vs Ultrasonic Toothbrush: Comparison & Infographic

sonic vs ultrasonic electric toothbrush

What’s the difference between a sonic and ultrasonic electric toothbrush?

Most of the brushes we review here at Electric Teeth are sonic, such as those from Oral-B and Philips. However, there is another type of brush to consider: the ultrasonic brush.

These are rarer to come across, but they do exist.

In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the key differences between the two types of brush, and there’s an infographic further down showing the two side by side.

Sonic Electric Toothbrush

To be classified as a sonic toothbrush, the motion or vibration from the brush has to be quick enough to produce a ‘humming’  sound that is within the audible range of the human ear (20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). Sonic brushes typically offer 12,000-24,000 oscillations or 24,000-48,000 movements per minute.

Sonic vs Ultrasonic Toothbrush: Comparison & Infographic 1

Sonic brushes rely on a sweeping motion alone to clean the teeth, the movement that they provide is often high in amplitude which means they offer larger sweeping brush stroke motions.

It is the bristles on the brush head that move at this speed to essentially brush away food particles and bacteria that sit on the teeth and gum line.

Sonic toothbrushes should not be confused with ultrasonic toothbrushes which operate at a much higher frequency and use ultrasound rather than the motion of the brush head to remove debris and bacteria.

Examples of a sonic brush include Oral-B’s range of electric brushes as well as Philips Sonicare range. You can see some of our reviews here.

Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush

Ultrasonic toothbrushes, unlike sonic ones, do not rely on a physical motion to clean the teeth.

An ultrasonic toothbrush is one that uses a very high frequency of vibration referred to as ultrasound to remove plaque and bacteria from the teeth.

To be classified as such, the brush has to emit a wave of at least 20,000Hz or 2,400,000 movements per minute, considerably more than the very popular sonic technology.

Within the USA, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) actually specifies a minimum of 1.6MHz or 192,000,000 movements per minute.

Sonic vs Ultrasonic Toothbrush: Comparison & Infographic 2

The high frequency waves, but low in amplitude means the bacterial chains found in the mouth that make up plaque are broken up by the vibrations and can work as far as 5mm below the gumline. Essentially speaking the brush can clean the teeth simply by resting the brush on it.

An ultrasonic brush compared to the more commonly seen and used sonic brushes does not need a physical motion to clean the teeth surfaces and gumline.

However many ultrasonic brushes do also provide additional sonic vibration ranging from 9,000 to 40,000 movements per minute, in order to provide additional sweeping motion which removes food particles and bacterial chain remnants.

An example of an ultrasonic brush is the Megasonex (pictured above).

This video from YouTube gives a good explanation of what an ultrasonic toothbrush is and how it works:

What Is An Ultrasonic Toothbrush 1080p

A brief buying guide: who makes the best ultrasonic toothbrush?

Whilst ultrasonic toothbrushes have been shown on a limited scale to be effective (1 & 2) the reality is that few such toothbrushes are made and are available to buy today.

The market is dominated by sonic toothbrushes, notably those from the largest household brands.

There are several toothbrushes that suggest they are ultrasonic, using such words in the product title and description, but in fact they are just standard sonic toothbrushes, operating at up to 48,000 movements per minute rather than using ultrasound to achieve the cleaning.

It is my understanding that at the time of writing, the brands who do make true ultrasonic brushes are MegasonexSmilex, and Emmi-Dent, so you’ll be best off choosing between these.

At the time of writing we couldn’t find any of these brushes available with US retailers, but we did see them all on eBay — you can check them out on the following links

So at this moment in time it looks like this is your best bet if you want an ultrasonic toothbrush.

If you’re not specifically looking for ultrasonic, but rather a ‘standard’ electric toothbrush, check out our post that looks at the best sonic toothbrushes.

Best Ultrasonic toothbrush

Many people ask what is the best ultrasonic toothbrush?

I have not had hands-on with any ultrasonic brushes to date.  Yet, despite this, for me, there isn’t a ‘best’ brush.

This is because your options are extremely limited and in reality, sonic toothbrushes tend to a more logical purchase.

They are more readily available, generally cheaper and provide noticeable brushing enhancement over a manual brush, therefore making the need or justification for an ultrasonic toothbrush much more difficult.

Comparison Infographic

To help summarise the key differences of sonic vs ultrasonic toothbrushes, we’ve put together the infographic below.

Sonic vs Ultrasonic Toothbrush: Comparison & Infographic 3

About Jon Love

Jon is a leading voice on electric toothbrushes and has been quoted by mainstream media publications for his opinions and expertise.

Having handled & tested hundreds of products there really is very little he does not know about them.

Passionate about business and helping others, Jon has been involved in various online enterprises since the early 2000s.

After spending 12 years in consumer technology, it was in 2014 that he focused his attention on dental health, having experienced first-hand the challenge of choosing a new toothbrush.

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29 thoughts on “Sonic vs Ultrasonic Toothbrush: Comparison & Infographic”

  1. I generally see the Dentist every four months (due to plaque buildup and gum disease.) I got a Smilex through Amazon about six years ago…But, they seem to have gone Under. The brush heads are supposed to last three months. Brushing 4x/day, however, it’s more like two months (at Most.) I can still find replacement heads on eBay, but they are Expensive. I had a Great checkup after I started using the product, but, then, I changed several different parameters. I began using a special Chlorine mouthwash, and Livioniex (a Dental gel that chelates calcium.) I still use the gel, and started the mouthwash again.

  2. Ah, at last, an intelligent, hype-free explanation of the “ultrasonic” toothbrush market. Having spent my career in the ultrasonic cleaning industry, I still only knew enough about this teeth cleaning stuff to not get it (most people don’t know enough about the tech to face that challenge). So I get it, and I will take your objective advice and replace my oscillating toothbrush with a “sonic” rather than ultrasonic one. Twice daily with an ultrasonic implement at a “cavitational” (sub-100kHz) frequency seems like it might be a bit harsh on thin enamel over time. At “megasonic” frequencies it should be alright – then again, cleaning efficacy at that frequency comes into question. So, anyway, thank you Jon.

  3. Do you have any knowledge as to whether the ultra sound technology is safe to use every day. How does it compare to ultrasound used for example in the hospital for pregnancies etc.
    Also could this be used instead of going for a full under the gum cleaning/planing where they have to freeze you in order to get the plaque below the gum line. How long would it take to accomplish what a 3 hours session of deep cleaning /planing would take?

    • Esther. I have to admit my lack of knowledge here. I can’t give you a precise answer without taking time to research this in detail and consult with dental professionals.

      This is not medical/dental advice, but as I understand it they are safe to use every day.
      I do not believe this could replace any deep cleaning that you would have done at a dentist’s office.

      • Thank you. Someone on your thread did mentioned the concern about ultra sound so that is why i asked about safety so wondering if there was any way to find information to understand how this ultrasound technology is different from what is used in the hospitals. I guess it would have to be FDA approved so then we wouldn’t need to worry?
        I guess it would be a good preventative to not have to go through a deep cleaning again!

  4. Have you heard of CariPRO toothbrushes? It claims to be an ultrasonic toothbrush, but I am not sure based on the description. Do you have any experience with those?

    • I have heard of them, but have yet to test. I am sceptical as to whether they are ultrasonic. As far as I can tell (without going hands-on) they are Sonic toothbrushes, like Sonicare. I cant help but think the lack of detail on their product page explaining their technology is a clear sign that they might not be what they claim.

  5. Are these ultrasonic toothbrushes (Megasonex, Smilex, and Emmi-Dent) foreign electric toothbrushes (european/asian) requiring a different frequency (electrical connection) for operation or charging?

    • Potential Thomas. It depends on which brand and where you buy it from. All being well the seller should state if this is the case. Some will support the voltage, just require a plug adapter.

  6. I absolutely love this article. I have an electric toothbrush and was looking around for something better. I heard a bit about ultrasonic toothbrushes and was close to being suckered into buying a high powered electric toothbrush that was simply titled “ultrasonic” instead of being a true ultrasonic toothbrush.

    If someone else reading this is looking for some more clinical study information about the benefits of ultrasonic toothbrushes…
    “It is challenging to assess the efficiency of different toothbrushes, as there are so many factors contributing to the removal of plaque and the maintenance of oral hygiene. Nevertheless, published data indicate that ultrasonic, as well as electric toothbrushes, maintain better oral hygiene than manual counterparts. By direct comparison of different toothbrushing systems, most clinical trials show that the sonic/ultrasonic toothbrushes perform better than purely non-acoustic powered brushes. Sonic/ultrasonic toothbrushes may have the potential to reduce more dental biofilm by stimulating more hydrodynamic effects and also by forcing more efficient brushing motions.”

    The article further goes into a lot of meticulous detail and clinical findings, with cited sources.

    Thank you again for writing such an informative article.

  7. I am desperately looking for a NON ULTRA SONIC ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH.
    I want a old first kind they came out with that didn’t BUZZ . It just went up and down very rapidly and recharged back up each day in its holder. Can’t use a high pitch Buzzing Sonic . Can you help me find this kind.

    I already bought two different brands with multi speeds, pulse, massage but the SONIC Vibration still hurt. Threw them away. Mine was dropped in the bath room ink with water that went down too slow. Now it is real slow on a full charge. Can you direct me somewhere? Is thee companies who may hac
    Be older stock left over? Thank you. please reply ASAP

    Pat Boyd.

    • Hi Pat.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Sonicare electric toothbrushes are not ultrasonic, but from what you say this too might not be suitable. What brands of brush have you actually tried?

      What toothbrush did you use before?

      I do not know your sinus problems and am not trained in this field to make a qualified comment, but perhaps a manual toothbrush might be appropriate, given that all toothbrushes produce some form of vibration and buzzing sound.

      Do you have a consultant/doctor you are in contact with about your sinus issues that could advise based on your personal circumstances?

  8. Do you know anything about the Mira Pet toothbrush for dogs? They advertise their product as an ultrasound brush which also includes a vibration setting. I would like to know if it is a true ultrasound toothbrush. Thank you.

    • Hi Karen.

      We have not investigated pet toothbrushes, so I have not come across or used the Mira Pet toothbrush.

      A quick look at their website doesn’t reveal much useful information. However, it does say 60 million oscillations per minute which would imply it was actually ultrasonic.

  9. I too want to purchase one but am not finding any in the US
    However I am pretty sure that a US type charger will work well maybe

  10. Thank you sooo much for this information, I was searching just for this for at least 2 years now.
    If I would buy one, I’d definitely go for sonic. Ultrasound destroys also beneficial bacteria in mouth, which is bad for health – long term. Also Russian researchers have recently experimented with ultrasound a little bit. Ultrasound actually silence our DNA and we have actually not even a remote idea what would this mean for future generations (especially coz it’s used for watching the vulnerable fetus in womb, not to mention using it every day in our head / mouth).

  11. I wonder if there are any studies that determined if there is a higher risk of brain tumors with the ultrasonic machines?

    • I am not aware of such studies specifically in relation to brain tumors. I believe some studies have looked at the effects of the electromagnetic fields of such devices.

  12. Hello Jon,
    thank you for the great overview and toothbrush technology comparison.
    Please allow a couple comments.

    At least for one Ultrasonic toothbrush Emmi-dent, there is ample evidence of the effectiveness. Several clinical studies conducted in Germany by the University of Witten-Herdecke confirm the effectiveness of Emmi-dent in cleaning away harmful bacterial plaque. Different to other Ultrasonic devices, Emmi-dent’s patented Ultrasound piezo-chip is embedded right behind the bristles, closest to teeth and gums to maximum cleaning effectiveness. Importantly, and not mentioned in the article, are the fundamental technology advantages of Ultrasound vs. ordinary cleaning by brushing:
    1) Zero abrasion and most gentle cleaning – because there is not brushing action and ultrasound toothpastes do not contain abrasive particles. Hence, teeth and gums are cleaned most gentle. Abrasion is a serious dental care challenge – often driven by wrong brushing techniques, and leading to receding gums and exposed tooth rootshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrasion_(dental) . Cleaning with Ultrasound eliminates this risk.
    2) The 2nd big advantage over bristle cleaning is reach. Ultrasound generates millions of nano-size cleaning bubbles that reach into the tiniest crevices, gum pockets, fissures, behind braces and ultrasound waves are even penetrating the gums. Thereby, Ultrasound kills and cleans away bacteria in areas bristles cannot reach.
    Last not least the good news that Emmi-dent is now available in the USA, with USA specification (110 Volt and power plug) – and I know this because I am the new distributor for Emmi-dent products in the US and Canada. 🙂
    I hope this clarifies a bit the differences between abrasive mechanical brushing and gentle ultrasound cleaning. If you need any more information, I’d be happy to provide it to you.
    Frank Dreier

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