Pediatric dentists say that taking care of your child’s oral health should start early on: As soon as baby teeth start to come in, parents should brush their child’s teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled, age-appropriate toothbrush, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists. Once a child turns 3, parents have the option of introducing a powered or electric toothbrush to their child’s daily routine, and experts told us electric toothbrushes can be a fun and effective way to teach children how to appropriately brush their teeth.
We spoke to pediatric dentists about the benefits of electric toothbrushes for kids and how to safely use one. We also highlighted some highly rated and expert-recommended electric toothbrushes for kids that have been approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
What types of electric toothbrushes are available?
Just like adult electric toothbrushes, powered toothbrushes for kids come in varying types depending on how the bristles and brush head move. Kimberly K. Patterson, program director of the advanced education program in pediatric dentistry at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, mentioned there are three main types of electric toothbrushes: Oscillating, rotating and sonic.
- A rotating electric toothbrush features a brush head that spins continuously in one direction
- An oscillating toothbrush moves back and forth (combination oscillating-rotating electric toothbrushes are popular options)
- A sonic toothbrush equips a brush head that vibrates at a high speed
Generally, all types of electric toothbrushes increase the number of brush strokes per minute and can therefore increase efficiency compared to manual toothbrushes, according to Travis Nelson, associate professor and chair of the department of pediatric dentistry at the University of Washington.
While some studies suggest that sonic and ultrasonic toothbrushes — which vibrate at an even higher frequency — can be better at removing dental plaque than rotating brushes in adults, there isn’t enough data to suggest that one type of movement is more effective than the other for children, said Vineet K. Dhar, clinical professor and chair of orthodontics and pediatric dentistry at the University of Maryland. Ultimately, the choice comes down to what a child feels most comfortable with, experts said.
Powered brushes for kids come in varying sizes and with multiple power modes and intensity levels — most brands will indicate the age groups they’re designed for, ranging from toothbrushes for infants to brushes for kids 7 years and older. Generally, experts recommend using manual brushes with children until they are at least 3 years old.
ADA-approved kids electric toothbrushes to shop
The pediatric dentists we spoke to recommended shopping for children's electric toothbrushes that sport the ADA Seal of Approval. Below, we list some highly rated options that align with our research, all of which are ADA-approved.
This sonic electric toothbrush by Quip features a rubber grip handle, a cover to help take it on the go and a two-minute timer with 30-second pulses. The toothbrush equips a replaceable battery that the brand says can last up to three months — Quip offers a replacement brush head with a free battery refill for $5, which can be purchased separately or through a 3-month subscription plan. The electric toothbrush is available in four colors — Purple, Green, Pink and Blue — and is designed for kids 3 and older, according to Quip.
BriteBrush offers several sonic electric toothbrushes for kids with fun designs, including “Sesame Street,” “Baby Shark” and GameBrush. All of the toothbrushes let kids play games and music. They also feature a replacement brush head and a Parent Check Light that shows a red, yellow or green light to indicate how well your child brushes, according to the brand. The Sesame Street and Baby Shark brushes are recommended for children 3 and older, while the GameBrush, which features up to 7 games, is designed for kids 5 and older.
This budget-friendly oscillating-rotating toothbrush from Arm & Hammer features a combination of manual and electric — it has fixed lower bristles and oscillating upper bristles to clean dental plaque between teeth, according to the brand. The brush uses two replaceable AAA batteries and comes in a variety of kid-friendly designs, including superheroes, Super Mario and Paw Patrol. The Spinbrush is designed for kids 3 and older, according to the brand.
Other expert-recommended kids electric toothbrushes
The ADA’s list isn’t exhaustive, and Nelson noted that some products from high-quality brands don’t boast the ADA Seal of Approval. He recommends brands like Philips and Oral-B to his patients, he said, “because they have been around the longest and produce good quality products.” Nelson recommended the below highly rated electric toothbrushes for kids because, he said, they are durable, high-performing and boast expert-recommended features like built-in timers and kid-friendly designs.
Nelson recommended this sonic toothbrush from Philips due to its easy-to-hold handle, kid-friendly cartoon design and interactive smartphone app that the brand says coaches kids on how to brush with fun animations and rewards. The brush features a rubber grip on the handle, a slim ergonomic design and two power modes to control intensity, according to Philips. The brand says this electric toothbrush is safe for children 4 and older.
Oral-B offers a variety of kids electric toothbrushes —which Nelson also recommended — that include animated characters in popular kids films, ranging from Spider-Man and Star Wars to “Moana” and “Frozen.” The brand says this rotating brush features a rotating brush head and a soft grip handle, along with a built-in timer to help kids reach the recommended two minutes. Oral-B says the sensitive brush head is suitable for kids 3 and older.
What are the benefits of electric toothbrushes for kids?
As experts previously told us in our electric toothbrush guide, powered brushing creates microbubbles that gently remove bacteria. A recent small clinical study showed powered brushes were more effective at removing plaque than manual brushes both when parents brushed for children ages 3 to 6 and when children ages 7 to 9 brushed themselves — however, Patterson told us that both a manual and powered toothbrush can ultimately get the job done.
Electric toothbrushes can also add a little more excitement to the often mundane brushing process with features like music and blinking lights, according to Patterson.
While there are few limitations to electric toothbrushes, they can be slightly more intimidating, especially for younger children. Both Patterson and Nelson noted children with sensory sensitivity, those on the autism spectrum and those who experience migraines or have cochlear implants may find powered toothbrushes too stimulating.
How can children best use an electric toothbrush?
Much like a manual toothbrush, electric brushes are only beneficial if they’re used correctly. Patterson noted that parents or guardians should help a child with brushing until age 7, typically around the time their adult molars have erupted.
The experts we spoke to emphasized that children who use either a manual or electric toothbrush with a fluoridated toothpaste twice a day are less likely to develop tooth decay and cavities (the AAPD suggests children under the age of 3 use a “smear” of toothpaste smaller than a grain of rice). Breno Reboucas, clinical associate professor of pediatric dentistry at Boston University, recommended “positioning the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle [and] not putting too much pressure” to ensure efficacy.
It’s also important to note that brush heads should be changed out regularly. Parents should replace the brush head of their child’s electric toothbrush after about three months of use since bristles can wear down and become “less effective in removing dental plaque,” said Patterson.
How to shop for an electric toothbrush for kids
Our experts told us factors like an ADA Seal of Approval, interactive features, cost and ease of use can all influence a parent’s shopping choice.
ADA Seal of Approval
Many of the experts we spoke to recommended looking out for electric toothbrushes that boast an ADA Seal of Approval, which is “an indication that the toothbrush has demonstrated safety and efficacy,” according to Reboucas. The Seal is awarded for a period of five years and products must meet standards evaluated by a team of scientists in fields like microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology and chemistry, according to the ADA.
However, Nelson noted that he doesn’t worry too much about the ADA Seal of Approval when it comes to long-standing, high-quality brands like Philips and Oral-B due to their durability and performance — several adult toothbrushes from both brands are ADA-approved, but not all.
Interactive features and kid-friendly designs
To encourage kids to brush their teeth, many brands offer kid-friendly designs with popular animated characters, animals and more. Experts also recommended looking out for interactive features to engage children while brushing, including music, timers, built-in rewards and app-controlled settings.
The experts we spoke to all recommended electric toothbrushes with timers, which allow kids to best reach the recommended two minutes of brushing. Cristina Perez, associate professor and chief of the division of pediatric dentistry at the University of Kentucky, noted some brushes will pulsate to “tell kids when to go to the other side of the mouth,” while others will play music or simply shut off when two minutes have passed. For older children, Dhar recommended brushes with a pressure sensor to ensure “they aren’t putting too much pressure on their teeth while brushing.”
Ease of use
In general, “any electric toothbrush with a small head, soft bristles and an easy grip may help with better control and reach within the mouth especially while cleaning the back teeth,” said Dhar. To figure out the right head size, Perez recommended parents pay close attention to the toothbrush’s age recommendations.
If you want the bristles to be even softer, she advised running the brush head under hot water before each use.
Experts agreed that the more interactive an electric toothbrush is, the more expensive it’ll likely be — Nelson, who recommended rechargeable toothbrushes with built-in timers, said good quality electric toothbrushes with these features, as well as those that can connect to a smartphone app, will typically cost around $30 to $50. However, some of the ADA-approved kids electric toothbrushes are under $20 and come with basic features like musical timers and kid-friendly designs.