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In between your bi-annual teeth cleanings, experts say you should regularly brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss your teeth at least once a day. And the type of toothbrush you employ can impact your overall oral hygiene.
SKIP AHEAD Best electric toothbrushes of 2021
Electric toothbrushes, which typically vibrate or automate the brushing process to some degree and assist your brushing, might help you in that regard. But given the various options and models of electric toothbrushes available, how should you decide which is the best electric toothbrush? To help guide your shopping, we consulted dentists on what you should know before buying an electric toothbrush and their picks for the best electric toothbrushes on the market.
Should you get an electric toothbrush?
If you're handed a manual toothbrush after a cleaning at the dentist, you may not think twice about buying a different brush. However, there are benefits and drawbacks to electric toothbrushes. Does using an electric toothbrush versus a manual toothbrush mean cleaner or better teeth? Not at all, said Sheri Doniger, DDS, who noted the type of toothbrush isn't as important as your brushing techniques.
"If brushing is performed properly, either toothbrush is great,” she said. Doniger mentioned that her goal is getting her patients to regularly brush and floss to get rid of decay- and dental disease-causing biofilm. She explained that power brushes may be a good option for those with arthritis or any other manual dexterity issue, while a manual toothbrush may be good if you're looking for a more cost effective option.
While Doniger uses both a manual brush and an electric brush at home, she noted that an electric brush may be helpful for tackling gingivitis, an inflammation caused by plaque on the tooth. “The plaque buildup may cause bad breath and have a larger build-up in hard to reach places,” she added, explaining that all electric toothbrushes should help reduce this plaque as long as they're used according to the instructions.
Electric toothbrushes: Benefits
"Electric brushes have come quite a ways away from their original days,” said Lawrence Fung, DDS, of Silicon Beach Dental. He always prefers an electric toothbrush over a manual one, echoing that electric toothbrushes are great at removing bacteria.
“The brushes are much better than manual brushing since they either have a spinning head or utilize sonic vibrations,” Fung explained. This movement creates micro bubbles that gently remove bacteria biofilm — a cause of bad breath, staining, gum disease and bleeding gums.
Doniger added that she recommends an electric brush to patients with periodontal disease, bacterial plaque or a history of dental decay. "Angling the brush into the gum line and slowly moving from one tooth to the other — while the power brush is actually doing the movement to break up the biofilm — is so simple,” she said. “It is easier to focus on cleaning the entire mouth with a power brush."
Electric toothbrushes are also readily available at Shopping reader-favorite retailers, including Target, Amazon and Walmart. They start as low as $5 with the likes of the Oral-B 3D White Action Powered model and higher-end models like the Philips Sonicare 9700 can cost as much as $300.
Electric toothbrushes: Limitations
If you decide to invest in an electric toothbrush, Doniger advised using the electric version every day to make it worthwhile. "Also, patients may feel they are doing a great job, but may only be cleaning one area of their mouth,” she said. Though the brush does a lot of the work for you, she stressed the importance of equally brushing all sections of your mouth.
And an electric toothbrush might cause issues for an aggressive brusher, said Joseph Field, DDS of Peninsula Center of Cosmetic Dentistry. Most electric toothbrushes are “designed to do the scrubbing for you, so let it do the work,” Field advised. If you scrub your teeth with an electric brush the same way you do a manual brush, he explained, it can be too aggressive and potentially lead to gum recession. Doniger added that “pressing too hard on the delicate oral tissues may cause gingival tissue to prematurely wear away, which can affect the underlying tooth structure.”
How to shop for electric toothbrushes
Similar to manual toothbrushes, all electric toothbrushes aren't created equal. Some options are better at tackling hard-to-reach places and others are preferable for specific types of dental issues. Doniger notes that the type of brush you purchase should reflect the issues you deal with, pertaining to tooth and gum health.
Fung recommended finding a brush with safeguards if you deal with oral issues. “For those who have severe periodontal disease and gum recession, most of these brushes have safeguards built in to warn users if they are using too much pressure when brushing that can cause more harm than good.”
Best electric toothbrushes
We asked the pros to recommend the best electric toothbrushes on the market and at different price points, as well as electric toothbrushes for kids and those best for travel (once that's a reality again).
Best all-around electric toothbrushes
The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean comes with three brush heads — each designed to tackle hard-to-reach areas — a brush body and a traveling case for convenient packing. You can pair the brush with an app on your tablet or phone and it will show you real-time feedback on your brushing and an automated progress report. "This brush gives you personalized coaching to show you not only how to brush properly, but what surfaces of the teeth you are missing,” said Doniger. “It has sensors in the brush head to let you know if you are brushing too hard and potentially causing damage to your teeth."
Fung recommended using the Oral-B Pro 7000 SmartSeries brush. Through app pairing, the brush tracks your habits over time, provides you with helpful oral care tips and instructs you to focus on the most important areas in your mouth. It includes six modes: daily clean, gum care, sensitive, whitening, deep clean and tongue cleaner, so that you can brush your teeth in alignment with your oral health goals. This top-rated model is available in three colors: Black, Rose Gold and White.
Ian Handschuh, DDS, uses the Rotadent electric toothbrush at home because it sports a 360-degree rotating head “for efficient cleaning” that gets under the gumline. Beyond the two-minute timer, you can customize your brushing experience with various brush heads, like the hollow-tip for veneers and crowns, short-tip for general everyday use and long-tip bristles for wider spaces between teeth.
Best electric toothbrush for travel
The Oral-B 9600 brush is Doniger's recommendation for the best travel toothbrush. She notes that it comes with a convenient travel case and that the body of the brush isn't bulky. It comes with "position detection technology," which uses Bluetooth and facial recognition to help you improve your daily brushing habits. The brush also includes a built-in pressure sensor that will warn you if you're brushing too hard, helping you minimize the chance of damaging your gums.
Best high-end electric toothbrush
Both Doniger and Fung agreedsay the DiamondClean toothbrush is the best high-end electric brush. "The brush will automatically adjust to what Sonicare technology considers that head's corresponding optimal brushing mode,” said Doniger. “With five brushing modes and three different intensities, you are covered for many different brushing needs, such as whitening, gum issues or polishing.”
Best affordable electric toothbrushes
Fung also recommended the Oral-B Pro 1000 as the best affordable electric toothbrush. It has pressure sensors that let you know if you're brushing too hard and an oscillating brush head that breaks up plaque. The Oral-B Pro 1000 is also highly-rated and sports a self-timer that buzzes every 30 seconds to let you know when it’s time to brush a different section of your mouth.
"I recommend this brush to my patients who want to try power before they commit to a higher priced brush," said Doniger. The Arm & Hammer Spinbrush features dual-action technology that combines a side-to-side bristle movement in addition to a spinning movement.
"For patients who want to make a larger investment in affordable power brushes, the Oral-B 500 or Oral-B 1000 are great. All these brushes have timers. Also, they have the ability to replace their brush heads after 3 months," she added.
Best electric toothbrush subscription
Doniger recommended using Quip if you're looking for the convenience of an electric toothbrush subscription service. She likes that the company provides multiple brush options and that they also provide options to add floss and toothpaste to their order. The company offers a bundle kit that includes an electric brush, a mint anticavity toothpaste and a refillable gum dispenser and floss pick. You can opt into a quarterly delivery of brush heads, batteries and toothpaste for $25, as well. "This is definitely a good idea to keep us all on track to replace that head every three months," Doniger added.
Best electric toothbrushes for kids
Kevin J. Donly, DDS, also recommended buying kids the Oral-B electric brush. “Some companies make smaller toothbrush heads for their children's electric toothbrushes, such as Oral-B, which is easier to fit into a child's mouth,” he said. “We know electric toothbrushes are better than manuals, but I’m not aware of any published research that compares electric toothbrushes effectiveness in children.”
Fung also agreed that this brush is ideal for smaller mouths. "They come with fun colors and with a spinning head — it's very similar to the [brushes] that dentists and hygienists use to clean their teeth in the office."
The Colgate Magik Smart Toothbrush is app-enabled and specifically designed to make brushing fun. By navigating fun games and tasks on the smartphone app, kids can learn to more effectively brush their teeth. This pack comes with a toothbrush holder, a phone holder and a kids' toothbrush with extra soft bristles.