Our main recommendation
We rate the Oral-B Pro 3 3500 as the best electric toothbrush, all things considered.
In this post we explain how we came to this decision, and offer some alternative options should you be looking for something slightly different.
Our in-house dentist Dr. Gemma Wheeler explains the evidence for using an electric toothbrush, and our buyer’s guide includes further advice to help you decide.
Video — key things to know before buying
In this video our in-house dentist Dr. Chhaya Chauhan quickly runs through the main things you need to know before buying an electric toothbrush.
In this post
Dr. Gemma Wheeler, BDS (Hons)
Can an electric toothbrush replace a manual toothbrush?
Plaque contains the bacteria that cause dental decay and gum disease.
That being said, a manual toothbrush is adequate if used correctly.
Can an electric toothbrush improve your oral health?
Yes, it can.
An 11 year study found that electric toothbrush usage has a long-term protective effect on oral health.
A 2014 review of many different studies found that an electric toothbrush removes more plaque than a manual toothbrush.
Electric toothbrushes improve gum disease and reduce the progression to more severe gum disease (periodontitis).
People who use electric toothbrushes keep more teeth in the long term.
Do dentists recommend electric toothbrushes?
Whilst not everyone needs an electric toothbrush, many will benefit from using one.
Electric toothbrushes make good plaque removal easier for you to achieve at home. They improve your technique.
I have also found that patients are more likely to clean their teeth for longer because the timers built into the brushes encourage this.
And because they are proven to remove more plaque they help keep the gums and teeth healthy.
It would seem I am not alone, with 27% of people switching to electric, based on advice from their dentist.
Is Oral-B better than Sonicare?
Whether this will make much difference in the mouth is unclear and the most recent review by El-Chami et al suggests you won’t see more benefits with one type over the other.
In reality, more research is needed. Our Sonicare vs Oral-B article explores this in more detail.
Useful things to know before buying
Below are the three main bits of advice we would give to someone considering a new electric toothbrush.
1. You don’t need to buy an expensive toothbrush
Spending more on a toothbrush doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting a better product. Often you are paying for extra features and functions you will not use. An expensive toothbrush does not clean the teeth better. Many of the best electric toothbrushes come in at under £50.
2. Smart toothbrushes are generally not worth it
They can help to encourage better technique and habit formation, but they are not more effective at cleaning your teeth.
3. Routine and technique are important
Your toothbrushing technique and routine have more impact on your oral health than the toothbrush itself. It’s no use having the best electric toothbrush if you don’t use it properly.
What to look for in an electric toothbrush
Toothbrushes can come with all manner of features at different prices.
From our testing, the most essential features to look for in an electric toothbrush are:
2 minute timer
A timer helps to ensure that you brush your teeth for 2 minutes each time, which is recommended by dentist and governing bodies around the world.
A pacer helps you to spread your brushing time evenly across all parts of the mouth.
Frequently brushing too hard will severely damage your teeth. A pressure sensor alerts you when you are brushing too hard so you can adjust your technique.
How we chose
Our selection process
Our team is made up of dental professionals and experienced product testers. We specialise in oral health and abide by a strong code of ethics.
We buy and test every product we recommend. In most instances, we have detailed written and video reviews for each product.
We consult the clinical evidence, the feedback from consumers and industry leaders.
Together, we ensure our recommendations include only the very best choices.
We regularly review our recommendations based on newly released products and clinical evidence.
Best electric toothbrush 2022 — our recommendations
In the sections below we go into detail about the brushes we have tested and explain our recommendations.
Dr. Gemma Wheeler answers common pre-purchase questions and explains the evidence for electric toothbrushes.
Oral-B Pro 3 3500
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why we chose it:
Containing all of the essential features our in-house dentists recommend, the Pro 3 3500 is the best Oral-B electric toothbrush, all things considered.
The small round brush head is easy to move around the mouth and get into the tightest of spaces.
Clinically proven, the oscillating, rotating and pulsating head does a great job of cleaning the teeth. It sounds cliche, but you do really get that dentist clean feeling.
Power the brush on and you have the choice of 3 cleaning modes. Daily Clean is your everyday option whilst sensitive suits those who want a more gentle brushing experience. You have the option of whitening mode too.
All the modes last for 2 minutes, during which time the 30 second pacer is active to encourage you to brush all the teeth in the mouth evenly.
There are no rubber grips like some other Oral-B models. It might not feel quite as secure in hand for some, but the benefit is that it is easy to wipe clean.
In use, it is a little noisier (78dB) than models from competing brands. The built-in rechargeable battery lasts a little over 2 weeks on a full charge.
You also get a travel case included which isn’t all that common for brushes at this price.
There is little not to like about the Pro 3 3500. It has the essential features you need, whilst being affordable.
The Pro 3 3000 is an equally good choice. The 3500 is a variant of the Pro 3 Technically they are the same. The 3500 comes with the travel case included. They are usually about the same price making the 3500 a better buy.
If you prefer Philips Sonicare, the ProtectiveClean 4300 is equivalent to the Pro 3 3500.
What we like
- Timer and pacer encourage brushing for the recommended time
- Visible pressure sensor – alerts you when brushing too hard
- 2 weeks use on a single charge
- Travel case included
- Good value for money
What we dislike
- No icons on the handle to show which cleaning mode is selected
- Defaults to the daily clean mode
Sonicare 9900 Prestige
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why we chose it:
The Prestige has more features than you need, but it is the best smart toothbrush on the market today.
It looks fantastic and feels great in hand. The smooth touch materials are good quality and easy to keep clean.
We rate it as the best top of the range brush in our Best Sonicare Toothbrush post.
The A3 brush head included in the box gives a really thorough clean — there’s no need to switch out different heads for different modes.
The Sonicare app can tell you precisely where you have and haven’t brushed. It will tell you if you brushed with too much pressure and if you scrubbed the teeth. You get visible alerts for these things too.
Despite the complex technology, Sonicare has simplified daily use. During our testing, we didn’t find the smart features to be annoying, but we stopped checking the app for feedback after a while.
The compact USB-C enabled charging case is every bit as stylish as the toothbrush itself. The strap on the case is a little impractical though.
One downside is that the power and intensity buttons require a firm push. They don’t give a lot of feedback.
You do pay a premium price for this brush.
If you prefer Oral-B, the iO Series is the equivalent to the 9900 Prestige.
What we like
- Timer and pacer encourage brushing for the recommended time
- Visible pressure sensor alerts you when brushing too hard
- 4 weeks use on a single charge
- Premium charging travel case included
- Premium materials & design
- Reminds you when to replace the brush head
- Tracks & monitors your brushing
What we dislike
- No place to store the detachable USB cable
- Bluetooth isn’t essential
† Get £10 off with the code ET10
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why we chose it:
Electric toothbrushes don’t fare well in their impact on the environment. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use one.
You need to balance effective cleaning and disease prevention against the environmental impact. If you suffer from gum disease or tooth decay, you should prioritise effective cleaning.
Sustainable Rituals (SURI) electric toothbrush is the most environmentally conscious brush that we have seen and used to date.
It isn’t perfect and SURI doesn’t claim to be, but other leading brands don’t come anywhere as close in their environmental pledges.
Slim and stylish, this metal handled sonic toothbrush cleans the teeth well.
It does lack the pressure sensor dentists recommend, but the all important 2 minute timer and 30 second pacer to encourage even cleaning of the teeth are present.
The brush heads are made from plant based plastic (castor oil and cornstarch) rather than the usual petroleum based plastic. SURI does too offer a free recycling programme to help prevent them from going to landfill.
A carbon neutral company, pending B corporation certification, SURI breaks the mould somewhat by having designed this toothbrush to be easily repaired, should it be required. Many modern brushes are not able to be repaired or it is uneconomical to do so.
A premium travel case is included. It not only allows the brush to be charged whilst inside, using the provided USB C cable, but it has a UV-C light to sanitise the bristles.
It also includes a magnetic charging stand that doubles up as a really useful wall mount.
SURI isn’t cheap but is priced fairly for the features on offer and the company credentials.
What we like
- Environmentally considerate materials and design
- Slim handle
- The timer and pacer encourage brushing for the recommended time
- USB charging stand
- A magnetic wall mount
- USB C powered travel charging case with UV-C cleaning
- Free brush head recycling programme
What we dislike
- No pressure sensor to alert you when brushing too hard
- The cleaning action isn’t as satisfying as other electric brushes
- USB charger makes it less convenient for some
- Availability – Not widely stocked
*Prices correct at time of writing
Why we chose it:
It might not be perfect, but the Vitality 100 is a very good toothbrush considering the affordable price.
Those looking for their first electric brush, or with a limited budget, will be pleased with this brush.
It has a 2 minute timer and 30 second pacer as recommended by our dentists. Sadly, it does lack a pressure sensor. This means that there are no alerts when you brush too hard. Just remember bristles need only skim the teeth.
This shortcoming is somewhat made up for by how incredibly grippy the handle is. It is suitable for children, adults and seniors.
Do be aware though, the pitted texture can result in a buildup of toothpaste residue, so be sure to give it a good clean regularly.
Use the correct brushing technique and the small round brush head gives a more than satisfactory clean of the teeth. The head shape allows it to be easily moved from tooth to tooth and into the tightest spaces of the mouth with relative ease.
The Vitality uses Oral-B’s 2D cleaning action. It isn’t as intense a clean as premium models that include a 3D action, but is more than good enough.
Built-in is a rechargeable battery which offers 8+ days of use on a full charge. Unfortunately, you get no feedback from it when the power is low. There is no LED notification light to let you know when the battery has almost run out.
If you’re shopping within this price bracket, you may find our post on the best affordable electric toothbrushes useful.
What we like
- Easy to use single cleaning mode
- The grip on the handle helps to securely hold the brush
- The timer and pacer encourage brushing for the recommended time
What we dislike
- No pressure sensor
- No battery status feedback
- Battery life
- 2D cleaning action rather than 3D found in other models
Our choices explained
The range of electric toothbrushes available is so vast that it can be overwhelming to choose one. To keep things simple, we have narrowed down the options to the choices you see listed above, and will now explain why we recommend them.
Our choice for the best electric toothbrush, the Oral-B Pro 3 3500, is based on the best value for money. It has the features we regard as essential, as well as a few more. It strikes a good balance between features and cost.
It’s worth mentioning that prior to the Pro 3 3500, the Oral-B Pro 2 2500 was our top pick. However, we have noticed it now tends to be more expensive than the 3500, whilst being lower in the product range, making the 3500 the more logical choice.
The very best brush you can buy is the Sonicare Prestige 9900, which is a top of the line smart toothbrush. We don’t recommend this as the top choice because it has far more features than the average user needs. Additional features inflate the price, and you can clean your teeth just as well with the Pro 3 3500 and other cheaper models.
The Sonicare equivalent to the Pro 3 3500 is the ProtectiveClean 4300. Both models do a great job, but we do find Oral-B’s small round brush heads a little easier to move around the teeth and reach the tighter spaces at the back of the mouth.
The cost of replacing Oral-B heads is also cheaper compared to Sonicare.
The Pro 3 3500 doesn’t have a rubber grip running the length of the handle like some other models. It makes the handle a little more slippy to the touch because it is primarily smooth plastic rather than a textured surface. The benefit of no rubber grips is that the handle is easier to rinse and wipe clean.
The built-in timer and pacer encourage you to brush for the right amount of time, evenly across the mouth.
The pressure sensor alerts you if you are brushing too hard, which is a cause of gum recession.
The Pro 3 3500 also comes with a travel case included, which is useful for protecting the toothbrush during transport.
All in all the Pro 3 3500 has everything you need in an electric toothbrush and is approved by the Oral Health Foundation. We explain this certification in more detail below.
In terms of design, the 3500 isn’t as refined as top of the line models like the Sonicare 9900 Prestige and the Oral-B iO Series 9, but it is far cheaper.
You don’t need a smart toothbrush. But, if you want the most advanced and interesting toothbrush, then this is the 9900 Prestige.
It is very expensive, but you do get some nice extras. For example, the travel case is slimmer and more stylish than the basic plastic case Oral-B offers. You can even charge the toothbrush inside it.
Sensors in the handle track your brushing and find areas for improvement. It relays this information to charts and other visuals within the application.
In certain circumstances, the brush automatically adapts to prevent you from doing damage to your teeth.
None of these extras are necessary. And nothing about this brush actually cleans your teeth better.
What the Prestige can potentially do is educate and encourage you to take better care of your teeth.
If your preference is Oral-B, the iO is the most feature rich model they offer. It isn’t as refined as the 9900, but it offers some unique elements. These include a colour display and sensor that confirms when you are using the correct pressure. We compare them to one another in our Oral-B iO vs Sonicare Prestige 9900 comparison.
There is little difference between them, but the Prestige just edges the Oral-B iO9 in our opinion.
The Oral-B Vitality is one of the most affordable options.
Yes, technically there are even more budget-friendly options, but for us their compromises stop them from being strong considerations.
You may pay a couple of pounds extra for the Vitality than for the really cheap brushes, but you do get a toothbrush from a premium brand, Oral-B. It has good support and its replacement brush heads are easy to find online or in shops.
It actually uses the same brush heads as the Pro 3 3500, but you benefit from the lower initial purchase price of the brush handle itself.
The cleaning action isn’t quite as intense and thorough as the more expensive Oral-B brushes, but it is a big step up from a manual toothbrush with most of the benefits.
The most recent addition to our recommendations is SURI, which we have put in as our environmental pick.
Electric toothbrushes don’t fare well in their impact on the environment, but for some people they are still a necessary choice. We explain this more in our post on how to make your dental health eco-friendly.
SURI is one of the first electric toothbrushes we have come across that has taken genuine steps to reduce its impact on the planet. It’s not perfect, but it’s at least pushing harder in the right direction than other brands.
It’s also a delight to use and comes with a slick design and travel case.
Newly tested products + those we are currently testing
Oral-B has just added two new iO models to their range. They are the iO Series 4 and the iO5. Both are slightly more affordable models compared to the existing Series 6, 7, 8 and 9. The major difference is the 4 and 5 lack the display in the handle.
Both the iO4 and Series 5 clean the teeth well. They look good and bring some benefits as smart brushes, but neither are must have models.
We have recently completed testing of SURI. As you may have noted, it is featured above as the most environmentally considerate electric toothbrush to date.
Although the 2100 Series lacks the essential feature of a pressure sensor, it packs quite a punch for the price. The 3100 is almost identical to the 2100 and has the pressure sensor included. They are both slim handled and are certainly satisfactory brushes, but our advice is to go for the Pro 3 3500 or Sonicare 4300 instead.
Sonicare is due to launch the 1100 Series in the UK very soon. Virtually identical to the 2100, it is an entry-level model, ideal for those with a strict budget.
If Oral-B didn’t already have enough models, the iO Series 10 is still due to launch this year. We hope to go hands-on within the next couple of months. It should be the next brush we test from Oral-B.
Other electric toothbrushes we have tested
While only a handful of brushes make it into our list of the best electric toothbrushes, we’ve put many more to the test.
We’ve explained our recommendations in detail above. That being said, we know there will be interest in the other brushes we have tested, so we’ve included a quick overview of them below.
Recent years have seen an increase in the appeal and offering of smart toothbrushes. As you will have learnt, we don’t typically recommend them. They are expensive, and you don’t need one to clean your teeth well. But, inevitably, the top of the line models come with smart features built-in, out of the box.
The Oral-B iO 9 and the Sonicare 9900 Prestige are the two leading smart toothbrushes. They are truly the best in terms of technology. But, we encourage our readers to consider the cheaper options, such as the Pro 3 3500, as these can do the job as well.
It should be noted that whilst none of the major brands make their ranges particularly easy to understand, Oral-B’s iO Series has expanded rapidly over the last couple of years. In addition to our recommended iO Series 9, there is the iO8, iO7, iO6 and the newest iO5 and iO4. Upon quick glance, they look very similar, but there are subtle differences. Our iO comparison explains them all.
The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean 9000 is another one of the premium options. It is an upgrade over the DiamondClean 3rd generation. You now have a pressure sensor. This is not a visible sensor, but the handle vibrates when it is activated to alert you.
It has a brush head replacement reminder system. An orange light shines on the brush handle when it is time to change your brush head. This is very useful. The negative consequence is the higher price of the brush heads.
The brush also has 3 different pressure settings and 4 cleaning modes. They don’t clean the teeth any better. Nor are they essential, but they offer choice.
The 9000 has Bluetooth Smart features. It does not have the position detection and tracking facilities like the 9900 Prestige or DiamondClean Smart. If the app is used in real-time, you get an on-screen timer only. Data is synced post brushing. It is displayed on the screen in the form of coloured charts. This data shows performance for the last 7 days only. It doesn’t allow brushing history and learning as you might expect.
It is a similar story for the ExpertClean from Sonicare. It cleans the teeth well and has a good box contents. But, unless you can commit to using the smart features, there are better value options. Otherwise it feels similar to the 9000, but cheaper.
They fundamentally work the same. But the unique element to the Prestige is that even if you don’t use the app in real-time, the handle stores and syncs this data in the background. You get a mouth map for cleaning, pressure, and scrubbing, something the DiamondClean Smart does not offer. This means you get more meaningful data over time, irrespective of real-time app use or not.
The 9900 is also focused on simplification. It sounds odd given the brush offers so many features. It’s more about getting the job done. Learning good habits will help you and your oral health in the long term.
It was Oral-B that really pushed smart technology into the toothbrush some years ago. The iO is the latest iteration with even more tech, including a display in the handle, previously only seen on the Oclean X before now.
With the Oclean X, the cleaning performance was great. The display was touch-sensitive and horrible to use. The iO’s display is not touch-sensitive. Despite this, the X has a lot going for it. It has a magnetic wall mount, great colour choices and it is affordable.
With the introduction of the Oclean X Pro Elite there is little reason to opt for the older X variant. The touchscreen has been radically improved and is a delight to use. It might not be essential, but it adds something to the experience. The Elite is also super quiet. In fact, it is the quietest electric toothbrush that we have ever tested, by quite some margin. Oh, and it is a smart toothbrush too. It sends data back to your smartphone to help you track and improve your oral care habits.
Oclean is affiliated with Chinese technology giant Xiaomi. Their Mi toothbrush is another good value option. It comes complete with, yes you guessed it, Bluetooth technology. Yet again the implementation of this tech was not great. You need to be quite forgiving to get the value from it. The Mi and Oclean models are not widely stocked, giving favour to those household names when it comes to availability.
Older models like the Oral-B Genius X are extremely capable. It has more features than you need, but it is more affordable than the iO. It does away with the clunky position detection technology used by the Genius 9000. The sensors are built into the handle of the Genius X so there is no need to stand in front of a smartphone camera to track the movements, unlike with the Genius 9000.
Oral-B’s app has evolved over the years. But it can be a little confusing. Particularly when there are different configurations for different models.
The Oral-B Smart 6 6000 is a solid mid-range toothbrush. It cleans the teeth well, has extra cleaning modes, a pressure sensor and 2 weeks battery life. It is neither cheap, nor extortionately expensive. It is somewhat lost in the range though. Particularly when you consider the slimmer handled Smart 4 4000. The 4 4000 offers multiple modes, nigh on identical cleaning performance and comparable battery life. All for less money.
Oral-B has always underperformed in the battery department. Sacrifices might be expected for entry-level models. But, around 1 week on a single charge isn’t good enough from the Pro 1 680 and Pro 1 750. For a little extra, you can own the more capable Pro 3 3500. It comes with twice the battery life, 2 cleaning does and a visible pressure sensor.
Colgate has offered good value brushes for many years. They haven’t been must-buy products, but they do what they need to. Oral-B and Sonicare have been better in product quality and cleaning power. The sonic cleaning action has always felt weaker in the Colgate brushes, and this still applies to the Colgate 250R. It is cheap, but the battery life and box contents are worse than the 250+ it replaced. The design is a bit more stylish though.
No electric toothbrush, cheap or expensive, can ultimately clean your teeth perfectly unless you use it correctly. Proper technique and enough brushing time are key to good oral health.
Mouthpiece style toothbrushes like AutoBrush are trying to help with this. They have a brush head that positions the bristles at the perfect 45 degree angle. But, in addition, it attempts to clean all tooth surfaces at the same time. Conceptually it is a great idea. However, in practice, it does not work. It fails to reach all the tooth and gum surfaces, leaving lots of plaque behind. And despite being designed to correct technique issues, there is still a technique to use it. Worryingly, there is a kids version. The engaging characters on the brush handle are fun. But it is no replacement to regular toothbrushing.
Y-Brush is better, but only by a little bit. It still isn’t a suitable replacement for a regular toothbrush. It’s the first of this type to show real promise. Using nylon bristles found on regular toothbrushes, it manages to lift more plaque from the teeth and gums compared to other mouthpiece brushes. It is easy to use and has a good battery life. But revisions are needed. It looks and feels a bit homemade at the moment. Refinement in the materials and production process is needed. As are different sized mouthpieces. The one size fits all approach means brushing can feel awkward and uncomfortable.
SymplBrush, is a newer automatic toothbrush that is arguably better than Y-Brush. It is more refined and well thought out. Interestingly though, there is a lot of similarity between them. SymplBrush uses nylon bristles and focuses on just one arch of teeth at a time. The cleaning results are the most impressive we have seen to date. Still not perfect, but it is most definitely the best mouthpiece toothbrush we have tested to date. Unfortunately, it is currently exclusive to the USA.
We are all for innovation if done well. On paper the Waterpik Sonic-Fusion reads like a great idea. It is a combination of water flosser and sonic toothbrush. 2 in 1 products can take up less countertop space, whilst delivering multiple benefits. In reality, it is expensive and impractical. You don’t get the choice of different tips like you do with a normal water flosser. Water is fed through the brush head, making angling and positioning more difficult. The battery life of the toothbrush itself is poor. And the noise it makes is quite irritating. It is a shame as Waterpik’s Complete Care range is pretty good. It’s also proof that a separate water flosser and toothbrush is the answer.
We rate the Ordo Sonic+ as the UK’s best toothbrush subscription toothbrush. You can buy it outright or subscribe. It is pretty good value. Although it is a little more expensive than our best electric toothbrush. We recommend you opt for our best choice, unless you want the convenience of regular brush head deliveries.
New products coming soon
There are always new products coming through. Manufacturers regularly update their models.
Adding smart technology is popular at the moment. There are now various smart toothbrushes, which we run through in our guide here.
However, there is no product we would recommend waiting for.
There are some interesting developments happening around toothbrush technology. “Automatic” or “mouthpiece” toothbrushes are one such example.
We don’t deem any to be a suitable replacement for the traditional manual or electric toothbrush. That said, SymplBrush is the best mouthpiece toothbrush we have tested so far.
A few companies are attempting to perfect the approach. Some new models due in the coming months and years include:
This technology and approach is very new and has limited clinical testing.
Based on the products we have tested, don’t delay the purchase of a regular toothbrush. It is far more important to pick a brush and use it correctly than to find that perfect toothbrush.
Useful pre-purchase advice
Dr. Gemma Wheeler, BDS (Hons)
With the help of our in-house dentist Dr. Gemma Wheeler, we’ve added useful notes and tips from our research and testing.
No doubt you’ll have one or two particular questions before buying, as did we.
Browse the sections below, and if you can’t find the information you need, please leave a comment at the bottom of this page and we’ll get back to you.
Key tips for looking after your teeth
When it comes to looking after your teeth, the most important thing is to create a regular cleaning habit following these steps:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. See our list of dentist recommended toothpastes
- Brush for 2 minutes each time, using an electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush
- Use the correct brushing technique
- Spit after brushing, don’t rinse with mouthwash or water
- Clean between the teeth once a day, with interdental brushes, floss or a water flosser
How much should you spend on an electric toothbrush?
There are a number of types of electric toothbrush, including side to side movements, sonic, and rotation oscillation.
Oral-B brushes use rotation oscillation technology, whereas Sonicare brushes use sonic technology.
There is a small amount of evidence showing that rotation oscillation brushes are better than other types. They reduce levels of plaque and gum disease.
But one review rightly points out that the difference is small. It is unknown whether these clinical trials actually translate into day to day use.
The good news is that rotation oscillation toothbrushes tend to be cheaper.
Apart from this, there is almost no evidence supporting one type of brush over the others.
However, key characteristics which may benefit you in an electric toothbrush are:
- a pressure sensor to prevent scrub brushing.
- a timer to help ensure you are brushing for the full two minutes.
- a good quality toothbrush head which is changed every three months or when you can see them fraying.
Our number 1 pick in the list above, the Oral-B Pro 3 3500, includes all of these. Many of the best electric toothbrushes come in at under £50.
Spending more money on a toothbrush may provide things like travel cases and better battery life, but these aren’t going to actually help brush your teeth better!
Is a smart toothbrush worth the money?
No, not in my opinion.
A smart toothbrush is one with Bluetooth technology, which is developing all the time. In the last few years it has evolved from just connecting to a timer to being able to connect to an app on your phone.
Some smart toothbrushes also send reminders when you should change your toothbrush head.
There is no evidence currently available to support the use of a smart toothbrush over a normal electric toothbrush.
As a dentist, I would point out that many of the benefits advertised by a smart toothbrush can be gained more affordably elsewhere, such as by setting a calendar reminder on your phone, or by learning proper techniques from our videos and your own dental professional.
This topic is discussed in more detail in our article: is a smart toothbrush worth it?
What are the pros and cons of an electric toothbrush?
We have already explained the evidence about how an electric toothbrush can improve your dental health. We have explained why they can replace a manual toothbrush.
But what are the other pros and cons of using an electric toothbrush? This list is a combination of evidence we have already discussed and the professional experience of our in house dentists.
|Less technique sensitive||More expensive than a manual toothbrush|
|Remove more plaque||Need a power supply to recharge (or access to new batteries)|
|Easier if you have limited hand movements||Need to buy matching replacement brush heads|
|Easier for people with braces||Not as travel friendly because they are bigger and can turn on in transit|
|More likely to brush for 2 minutes||More susceptible to damage|
|Tracking technology guides you in real-time to ensure you cover all teeth||Some people don’t like the intensity and sensation of the cleaning action they provide|
|Bluetooth technology teaches better habits and help track brushing progress||Negative impact on the environment|
|Gadgets and apps give brushing reminders every day||Need to be disposed of as electrical waste|
|Smart toothbrush heads give digital reminders to replace your brush head.|
|Variety of modes can adapt for sore teeth and gums|
|Pressure sensors prevent brushing too hard and potentially damaging teeth and gums|
Is it better to choose an electric toothbrush instead of a manual toothbrush?
Some people will see benefits when using an electric toothbrush instead of a manual toothbrush.
The purpose to toothbrushing is to:
- remove plaque, which contributes to dental decay and gum disease.
- remove food debris from the teeth to reduce the risk of dental decay.
- introduce a fluoride containing toothpaste to reduce the risk of decay.
When asking whether an electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush is better, the question is really “which one removes more plaque and food debris, without harming the teeth and gums”.
Despite the clear evidence in reducing plaque, there is no evidence to support the use of electric toothbrushes when it comes to reducing decay.
For people wearing braces, a review of the evidence concluded that there is no reason to support the use of electric toothbrushes for reducing plaque on teeth and avoiding gum disease (although this evidence only covered a period of 8 weeks).
When thinking about the safety of your brush, know that both manual and electric toothbrushes have the potential to cause harm when used incorrectly. An example is causing wear on the outside of the tooth by scrubbing too hard. Evidence has shown that electric toothbrushes are of no greater concern to teeth and gums than a manual toothbrush, and some studies even support the use of electric toothbrushes to prevent worsening tooth wear caused by over brushing.
One other consideration is which one are you more likely to use? A toothbrush that encourages you to brush twice a day for two minutes each time, is always going to be better than one you can’t use.
Finally, when thinking about whether an electric toothbrush is better than a manual toothbrush, you will also want to think about the environment. This recent study discussed the greater impact of electric toothbrushes on the environment.
The take home message?
It is a personal choice.
If you are good at cleaning with a manual toothbrush and have no gum disease or tooth wear, then a manual toothbrush is satisfactory. It also has less impact on the environment.
If you struggle getting your teeth clean enough with a manual toothbrush, or if you suffer from gum disease, then an electric toothbrush is a better option for you.
Will an electric toothbrush help with gum disease?
Yes, electric toothbrushes help with gum disease.
Managing gum disease is all about reducing the amount of plaque on the teeth and under the gums. An important part of this is physical removal by toothbrushing and interdental cleaning.
Multiple reviews (Van der Weijden Niederman and Yaacob et al) support the fact that electric toothbrushes help with gum disease. More recently, an 11 year long study by Pitchika et al has examined long term successes of electric toothbrush users. These papers have found:
- electric toothbrushes remove more plaque than manual toothbrushes, in both the short and long term.
- electric toothbrushes provide a benefit in reducing levels of gum disease (compared to manual toothbrushes) both in the short term (6%) and long term (11%).
- electric toothbrushes reduce the progression of advanced gum disease, with users having less bone loss.
- users of electric toothbrushes, and who have gum disease, are less likely to lose teeth.
Can I use an electric brush with braces, crowns, veneers, bridges or an implant?
It is safe to use electric toothbrushes with dental restorations such as crowns, veneers, bridges and implants.
You can also use an electric toothbrush with fixed braces — we cover this in more detail in our post on the best toothbrush for braces.
An explanation of the different toothbrush features
There are lots of features that can be built into electric toothbrushes today.
Not all of them are necessary.
We have grouped the most common features by their importance.
For the high and medium importance features, we have included a brief description. We explain what they do and why they might be helpful.
High importance — essential in any electric toothbrush
2 minute timer
We cannot stress the importance of a timer enough.
Dentists, hygienists and governing dental bodies around the world are in unison that brushing your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes is important.
When brushing your teeth, it is all too easy to get distracted and misjudge time. You can think you have been brushing for longer than you have.
A timer keeps track of how long the toothbrush has been switched on for.
At the end of 2 minutes (120) seconds, the toothbrush will power off or briefly pause the brush motor.
If the timer hasn’t gone off, you haven’t brushed for long enough.
2 minutes spent cleaning your front or back teeth is no good. To maintain good oral hygiene you need to clean all the teeth.
A pacer is linked to the 2 minute timer.
It is designed to encourage you to brush the teeth in the mouth evenly during the 2 minute brushing cycle.
Most pacers work by pausing the brush motor at 30 second intervals. The pause in the sound and motion of the toothbrush is your cue to move from 1 section of the mouth to another.
Imagine your mouth split up into 4 sections:
- Upper right
- Upper left
- Lower right
- Lower left
Spend 30 seconds cleaning the surfaces of the teeth in each quadrant. By the end of the 2 minute cleaning cycle all teeth will have had equal attention.
Some brushes (notably Sonicare) have a pacer set to 20 second intervals. This results in 6 sections of the mouth. They are as follows:
- Upper right back teeth
- Upper front teeth
- Upper left back teeth
- Lower left back teeth
- Lower front teeth
- Lower right back teeth
We believe a pressure sensor is an underrated feature, particularly for a first time user.
Brushing too hard can damage the gums. Bristles of the brush need only skim the surface of the teeth and gums.
Brushing too hard will also wear away the outermost surface of the tooth. This is what dentists call abrasion. Abrasion itself can cause sensitivity to hot and cold.
Scrubbing harder is not an effective way to remove plaque and debris from the teeth. You and many others may not have known this, because you have never been told or shown how to brush correctly.
A pressure sensor alerts you when you are applying too much force as you brush.
It is a gentle reminder to use a little less force and help you maintain a healthy smile.
Sensors are implemented differently.
In many instances when pressure is detected, the motor will slow down. This limits the bristle movement and potential damage.
A visible pressure sensor will illuminate to act as a visual alert. This is common in Oral-B brushes. Usually, a red light is emitted around the neck of the toothbrush.
Some models, notably Sonicare, will vibrate the brush handle to alert you.
Avoid activating the pressure sensor if you can.
Once the pressure is relieved, the sensor is deactivated and normal brushing resumes.
Medium importance — worth considering, but not critical
Good battery life
Most electric brushes have built-in rechargeable batteries.
Over recent years performance and usage time of batteries have gotten better. Most brushes are on par with each other, with an average of around 2-3 weeks use between charges.
The vast majority of batteries in toothbrushes use Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion). Some are Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH).
Some brushes will have removable AA or AAA. They can last months. They are not that common and tend to be the cheaper models at less than £20.
Rechargeable toothbrushes typically perform better and are more cost effective.
Even if you are not a regular traveller, a case makes it much easier to transport the toothbrush and brush heads.
When in the case, the likelihood of damage, particularly to the bristles on the brush head is reduced. There is also less chance of the brush accidentally being switched on. Any excess moisture and toothpaste remains in the case and not on anything else that might be in your bag. Nobody likes toothpaste stains on their clothes!
There are certain models that come with travel cases that allow charging whilst in the case. They do not need to be placed on a separate charging stand.
Only ever spend what you are comfortable with.
For some spending £30 will be a lot whilst to others £200 will be cheap.
You do not have to spend a fortune.
A more expensive brush does not mean it is any better at cleaning your teeth.
For less than £50 you can buy an excellent electric toothbrush.
The act of regular brushing, with the correct technique, is more important than what you pay.
Additional cleaning modes
There is little need for extra cleaning modes. The default cleaning mode on a toothbrush is suitable for most users.
If we were to pick an additional mode it would be sensitive.
A sensitive cleaning mode uses less power from the brush motor. It is more gentle on the teeth and gums.
Model dependent, there can be up to 6 or 7 different brushing modes.
What differs is the power/intensity of the mode and the brushing time. Very often the likes of a ‘deep clean’ mode will last for 3 minutes.
Being able to control the amount of power the motor delivers can be useful.
Some models offer the choice of low, medium and high power settings.
If the brush has 1 cleaning mode, it may default to the high setting.
You could change it to the low setting for a less intense clean.
Although the brush motion does not change, the speed of the motion does.
These act as alternatives to cleaning modes.
A brush with 1 mode but 3 intensity settings is in many respects equivalent to a brush with 3 modes.
Cost of replacement brush heads
The cost of replacement heads affects the long term ownership cost. It is worth factoring into your decision. Oral-B brush heads are cheaper than Sonicare.
It’s recommended that you replace your brush head every 3 months. If you follow that advice you’ll need 4 brush heads a year.
Official brush heads cost anywhere from about £3-10+ per brush head. This can be a lot of money when they will only be thrown away 3 months later.
You can save money by buying when there’s a deal on or by buying in bulk.
In most instances, you have the choice of opting for a third party brush head. There may not be the same range and the quality may be different. But there are some great options at very good prices.
Do be aware of fakes/counterfeit brush heads which pose as genuine but are often not the real deal. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Low importance — not a big consideration
- Brush handle shape, size and colour
- Brush head shape and size
- Cleaning mode notification lights
- Battery charging/status icon
- Smart features
- Motion tracking
- Smart guides
- UV sanitisers
- Automatic power off
- Charging stands/USB charging
- Water resistance
- LEDs/cleaning mode display
- Storage compartments
- Dual handles
An explanation of the different brush heads
The brush heads available vary depending on the brand of toothbrush and the model that you choose.
Oral-B, Sonicare and Colgate all offer a range of different types of brush heads.
Each head is, in theory, designed to do a different job.
Sonic brush heads tend to be larger than the small round brush heads found on oscillating-rotating toothbrushes. Sonic heads have an oval shape to them.
The ranges are unnecessarily complicated. There is no definitive evidence to say one head is better than another.
It is best to pick and stick to one style of brush head and use it, rather than to worry about the particular type.
We have dedicated guides for brush heads:
How does dental association approval work?
There are many dental bodies and organisations around the globe.
In fact, each country will usually have a panel of leading experts. They usually guide oral health within that country.
These organisations have similar goals and approaches. For example, producing advice for the general public on how to look after their teeth and gums. Or the recommended fluoride doses.
People look to these for advice on what products they should and should not be using.
The American Dental Association (USA) and the Oral Health Foundation (UK) are 2 examples.
Each has programmes that verify the safety and effectiveness of consumer products.
Consumer oral health care products are independently evaluated. This is to ensure they are safe and that the claims made are proven and not exaggerated. Reliable scientific evidence is usually required.
The programmes are designed to give consumers peace of mind and reassurance.
Each programme is run independently. A manufacturer must apply and submit the relevant data to each organisation. Only once this process has been completed will a product be awarded the ‘approved’ status of the relevant body.
Although they are separate programmes, they operate with similar policies. A product awarded the ADA seal would likely be approved by the Oral Health Foundation.
Warranty & Guarantee
2 years (24 months) tends to be the standard warranty period from the manufacturers.
Products that stop working as a result of poor workmanship or failure of parts are covered.
Manufacturer warranties do not cover damage and faults that are a result of user damage.
Some brands do offer warranty extensions of anywhere between 3-12 months. These are usually promoted at the time of sale, or in the box.
If the brush does develop a fault, you can send the brush in for a free of charge for assessment and repair or replacement as necessary.
In the video below our chief product tester Jon Love explains the advice from our buyer’s guide and runs through our choices for the best electric toothbrush.
Our in-house dentist Dr. Chhaya Chauhan also explains the key things to consider before you buy a toothbrush.
Below you can find some other common questions about electric toothbrushes. We’ve answered them briefly and then linked off to our dedicated articles on the topic.
- Do electric toothbrushes damage teeth?
- When used correctly, an electric toothbrush does not damage the teeth or gums.
- Do electric toothbrushes cause gum recession?
- No, the toothbrush itself does not cause gum recession.
- It can exaggerate or accelerate recession. But this is as a result of user (human) error rather than the action of the brush.
- Do electric toothbrushes whiten teeth?
- No, electric toothbrushes do not whiten teeth.
- Electric toothbrushes can help with stain removal from the tooth surface.
- How long do electric toothbrushes last?
- The average lifespan of an electric toothbrush is around 5 years.
- Manufacturers normally offer a 2 year warranty should the brush fail sooner.
- Some brushes will last a lot longer. We know of people still using electric toothbrushes that are 10+ years old.
- Can you share an electric toothbrush?
- Yes, you can share a toothbrush handle.
- But do not share a toothbrush head.
- It is not advised. Yet, almost one in ten (9.7 percent) said they had shared a toothbrush (Oral Health Foundation, 2014).
- Bristles of the brush head can harbour bacteria and germs. These can have a negative consequence on your health when shared.
- The interchangeable heads do allow for brush handles to be shared.
- Can electric toothbrushes get wet?
- With few exceptions, electric toothbrushes are designed to be water resistant.
- Vulnerable electronics are sealed inside the brush handle.
- Different manufacturers have different guidelines on using in the shower. At no point should the brush be submerged in water.