Good home care is absolutely essential to maintaining oral health. Many people swear by their electric toothbrushes. But, are they really more effective than manual brushes?
When I was in dental school, we were taught that electric toothbrushes were clinically shown to help those who struggled with manual dexterity. For example, children, the elderly, or those who had a physical disability impacting their fine motor skills would likely benefit from an electric toothbrush. But, for everyone else, a manual brush works just as well.
However, I graduated in 2002 and electric toothbrush designs have changed.
What is the General Consensus Today?
According to the American Dental Association, nothing has changed. Dr. Richard Price addresses this topic on the ADA website. He says that it’s more about the brusher than the brush.
But a 2019 study concluded that electric toothbrushes are better. Electric toothbrush users followed over the course of 11 years had better periodontal health and retained more teeth.
I’m not sure if these results are due to correlation or causation. Perhaps those who are inclined to buy and use their electric toothbrush regularly have a little more commitment to good home care. Is it the commitment that matters or the brush used?
Sounds like the jury is still out on this debate. My hunch is that some features of modern electric toothbrushes really help. But, they’re certainly not the be-all-end-all if you prefer your manual brush.
Electric Toothbrush Overview
There are some pretty cool features in electric toothbrushes these days. They can keep us accountable, offer feedback on our brushing technique, prevent you from applying too much pressure, and even add a little fun to this daily chore.
There are so many different styles, brands, features, and accessories of electric toothbrushes. This post reviews the most relevant and basic information to help you make an informed decision.
If you really want to get granular and learn every single attribute of every single toothbrush, check out Electric Teeth. Wow! They offer an impressively comprehensive guide on every toothbrush out there.
The Key Three
To get the most benefit from an electric toothbrush, the most important features are:
1.) Sonic or oscillating brush head – You don’t have to do the work. Let the brush do it for you. The rapid movement of the brush head will break up the plaque more easily than you can manually.
Of course, this is the defining feature of an electric brush. So, they’ll all have it. But different brands vary in style of movement – oscillating vs. sonic. They also vary in frequency of movement and the number of modes.
2.) The timer – We are all tempted to finish up our brushing routine quickly and get out the door or go to bed. But, the timer won’t let you off the hook.
It will keep you accountable to the 2-minute rule to help you do a thorough job. Some will even make sure you pace yourself so that you’re spending the appropriate amount of time in each area of your mouth. Thorough brushing is the name of the game.
3.) The pressure sensor – Many people brush way too hard. They scrub their gums away and expose root surfaces. Don’t do that. Exposed roots cause sensitivity and are more vulnerable to further erosion and cavities.
Plaque is soft. You don’t need a heavy hand to remove it. The pressure sensor on an electric toothbrush will make sure you’re not applying too much force.
Some of the lower-end options do not have the timer and pressure sensor. The high-end options have many more bells and whistles.
In addition to the key three features described above, other possible features and accessories that come with electric brushes include:
- Bluetooth connectivity and App offering real-time feedback and/or review feedback
- Multiple pressure and vibration modes
- UV light to sanitize brush heads
- Wall mount
- Travel case
- Tongue scraper
- Multiple styles of brush heads
- Attached water flosser
- Subscription service for brush head replacement
You’re going to be spending a reasonable chunk of your lifetime brushing your teeth, so you might as well take some time to consider the best brush for you. Here are a few noteworthy options…
Quick interruption for my affiliate disclaimer – I strive to offer a fair assessment of each product. I do have affiliate links on some of the products I describe below. If you purchase an item, I may earn a small commission.
Sonicare and Oral B are probably the most recognized and trusted names in the electric toothbrush industry. They each carry many different styles of electric toothbrushes. Sonicare brushes use a sonic vibration while Oral B uses an oscillating and rotating head. Their highest-end models are
- Oral B IO Series 9
- Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige – NEWEST and most feature-rich
- Philips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9700
These are great choices for those who want a top-of-the-line electric toothbrush and are committed to improving their technique.
Pros common to all three
- Multiple cleaning modes
- Timing and feedback on brushing technique – sensors alert if you’re brushing too hard and tell you when to move to the next area of your mouth
- Each comes with an app and Bluetooth connectivity. The apps have smart features that offer feedback in real time and collect data as you brush. Later you can review your technique and identify potential areas of concern. They will also alert you when you need a new brush head.
- 14-day + battery life
Cons common to all three
- Complicated – confusing icons and modes. May be too feature-rich for those who like to keep it simple.
- Must be connected to the app while you’re using it to get the full benefit.
- Does not include a UV light sanitizer – a UV light feature comes with some lower-end models, so I was surprised it was not included. Oral B does not make UV lights, and Sonicare sells them separately.
After an extensive review of subtle differences between Sonicare Prestige or Diamond and Oral B IO – all things being equal – I slightly prefer the Oral B IO. Its oscillating and rotating head may be a little more effective at removing plaque than the sonic style. But the differences are so minimal, I would choose the one on sale.
Basic Models that Include the Key Three Features
These two don’t have Bluetooth connectivity or an app, but they’re still made by these reputable brands. They get the job done and they’re much more affordable. They each have both the timer and pressure feedback features.
Water Flosser Combo
Waterpik is mainly known for its water flossers. But, they do offer an electric toothbrush-water flosser combo.
If you have a bridge, braces, or other dental work that makes traditional flossing more difficult, or you just hate to floss, consider this all-in-one option:
- The water spray can remove plaque in between teeth and in hard-to-access areas that neither floss nor a toothbrush can easily reach, such as around orthodontic brackets or under bridges.
- One tool does both the brushing and the flossing.
- It must be plugged in while using it.
- It gets messy – you must be right over the sink when you’re using it.
- Water flossing is not quite as effective as traditional flossing.
- The water might wash away the toothpaste so you don’t get the full benefit of the therapeutic ingredients in toothpaste.
- It does not have a pressure sensor, so you can still inadvertently brush too hard.
If you want the upsides of the water spray without the downsides, I recommend that you buy a separate cordless Waterpik. I prefer this option because you can use it in the shower and avoid the mess!
Other Notable Mentions
A Quirky Choice – O’smiler
O’smiler is new to the electric toothbrush industry. Its unique feature is that it will play music of your choice while you’re brushing. The vibrations of the toothbrush are synced to the music you are listening to.
You can either upload your music to the brush or connect it via Bluetooth. They claim that bone conduction allows your teeth to enjoy the music too. I’m not sure about that!
But, hey… if it makes the experience more enjoyable and encourages you to spend the time to brush well, I’m all for it. Or, if you’re struggling to get your kid to brush at all, O’smiler could be just the ticket. Just upload his/her favorite tunes! It might be the perfect stocking stuffer this year.
The O’smiler is not yet available on Amazon. You must order from them directly.
But if you’re really looking for a high-quality electric toothbrush, you probably want to stick with the tried-and-true, reputable brands.
An Eco-friendly Choice – Suri Sustainable Sonic Toothbrush
The Suri electric toothbrush is nothing fancy in the realm of electronic toothbrushes. It has a timer but not a pressure sensor. Though it does have a nice wall mount and a handy UV light travel case.
If you want the cleaning power of an electric brush, without the negative environmental impact of a typical electric toothbrush, consider Suri.
- It’s made with plant-based materials and packaged with fully recyclable materials.
- Suri offers a brush head recycling program.
- After a one-year warranty, if the brush malfunctions, Suri will repair it for a reasonable price.
The Suri Sustainable Sonic Toothbrush is currently not available on Amazon. You must buy direct.
If you’re not buying the electric toothbrush hype, and you’re just looking for a good manual brush, the choice that stood out to me is Dr. Plotka’s manual brush.
The bristles are embedded with nano-silver. Silver is making a resurgence in health care as a non-toxic disinfectant. Why not use it to make our toothbrushes an inhospitable place for pathogenic bacteria!? If you don’t mind a highly technical article by the National Institutes of Health, click here to learn more about the disinfection benefits of silver.
Use what you like best! Just use it regularly for two minutes twice per day, and change out the brush or brush head every three months. And, finally – no matter how well you brush and floss – you still need to see a dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups.
I hope this was informative! Let me know if you have any comments or questions by posting below.