The Best Electric Toothbrushes, According to Dentists
Posted on June 27, 2019
This article was originally posted on nymag.com here.
With ads for Quip lining subway cars and celebrities endorsing other electric models on Instagram (Khloé Kardashian’s Burst comes to mind), there seem to be more options for getting a powerful at-home teeth cleaning than ever before. For the most part, though, dentists we spoke with aren’t impressed by these newcomers and instead still recommend classics, like Philips Sonicare and Oral-B, due to the years of scientific research behind them. (That’s not to say that your shiny new Kardashian-endorsed toothbrush won’t clean your teeth — in fact, dentist Jonathan Levinepointed out that in one independent study, all types of powered toothbrushes outperformed manual ones in reducing plaque and gingivitis.)
Still, any electric — or other — toothbrush you buy should feature the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. “The seal of acceptance says that a product does what it says and says what it does, and is safe and effective when used as directed,” according to dentist and ADA consumer adviser Matt Messina. But when it comes to picking among dentist-approved electric options, Sonya Krasilnikov, a dentist and co-founder of Dental House, admits, “Choosing between Sonicare and Oral-B is like picking between a Mercedes and BMW; it’s mostly personal preference. Their mechanism is different, but both achieve great results.” There are subtle differences, though, which Krasilnikov and five other dentists break down in their below picks for the best electric models on the market right now.
Best rotating, oscillating electric toothbrushes
Oral-B White Pro 1000 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush
$40 (was $50, now 20% off)
Identifiable by their small, round brush heads, Oral-B toothbrushes both rotate and vibrate (or oscillate). These brushes can rotate 44,000 times per minute — which Levine says causes “a lot of disruption of plaque” — and one study shows that rotating and oscillating toothbrushes have a small edge over comparable ones that simply oscillate. Orthodontist Janet Stoess-Allen, who is also a fan of this Oral-B brush, says that because teeth are curved in shape, “rotating heads are more effective in getting to all sides of them.”
This basic rechargeable model offers the three main features that dentists recommend: soft bristles, a pressure sensor, and a timer. “Hard-bristled toothbrushes are wonderful if you’re going to clean the grout from your bathroom tile, but they’re not for use in the mouth,” says Messina, who explains that harder bristles can damage gums and enamel. Brushing too hard can do the same, which is why dentist Inna Chern likes brushes with pressure sensors that beep or stop moving when you’re being too aggressive to “eliminate the possibility of overzealous brushing.” Finally, the two-minute timer, which vibrates every 30 seconds when it’s time to move to the next quadrant of your mouth, ensures you brush for enough time.
Oral-B 7000 SmartSeries Rechargeable Power Electric Toothbrush
$111 (was $130, now 15% off)
Oral-B’s version of a tricked-out toothbrush has all the standard features plus six cleaning modes (including one for your tongue), a light-up pressure sensor, and even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can track your brushing on your phone. Cosmetic dentist Lana Rozenberg likes that Oral-B brushes generally “have more features” and are “more advanced than the others.”
Because of their small brush heads, Chern says Oral-B brushes are a good pick “if your mouth is on the smaller side, or you have gagging issues.” A smaller brush head makes it easier for some people to reach their molars, too, she explains. If you have braces or other orthodontics, you also might prefer Oral-B, according to Stoess-Allen, who recommends the brand to her patients because it makes a brush head designed to navigate wires and bands in the mouth.
Best oscillating electric toothbrushes
Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 Plaque Control
$50 (was $70, now 29% off)
While they don’t rotate, Sonicare toothbrushes are known for their large, flat brush heads and oscillating motion. Levine says they “use more of an ultrasonic vibrational energy to disrupt the plaque,” and Chern likes that “the sonic power helps to shake off plaque and tartar, aiding in the removal of these gingivitis-causing, bacteria-holding compounds.” Even without rotating, this Sonicare brush will definitely give you a good cleaning, according to Krasilnikov, who explains that “while the bristles only sweep back and forth, the brush sends out vibrations that are designed to break up particles and debris and allow toothpaste and fluids to access hard-to-reach places. Some patients love the feeling of the vibrations, but others think they’re too ticklish.” This model also features a timer, pressure sensor, and dentist-recommended soft bristles.
Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean Classic Electric Toothbrush
If you know you like the feel of a Sonicare, this high-end version offers the same deep clean with more bells and whistles, like five different brushing modes to choose from, including “sensitive” and “gum care.” Plus it’s a longtime Strategist favorite — our senior editor Simone Kitchens says “it’s the closest approximation to that thorough, just-back-from-the-dentist squeaky clean,” and writer Stephen Haskell says, “brushing itself feels like a mouth massage, gentle while still providing adequate pressure.” You’re not necessarily getting a better cleaning experience with a more expensive brush, according to dentists, but Chern says pricier models offer more “creature comforts,” like the little glass that the Diamond Clean sits in to charge. Plus, at higher price points, “the internal mechanicals are better made and will hold up over time,” adds Messina.
Pro-Sys VarioSonic Electric Toothbrush
It doesn’t have the name recognition of some of the bigger brands, but the Pro-Sys oscillating brush is marketed to dentists and many sell it directly to patients in their offices, according to Levine. “[It’s] a very good brush, and half the price of the expensive ones,” he says. “It has very, very soft bristles [and] a very nice ovaline head, so it does a good job of getting way back into the mouth.”
Best drugstore electric toothbrush
Arm & Hammer Spinbrush PRO+ Deep Clean Powered Toothbrush
$8 (was $11, now 27% off)
If you want to try out an electric toothbrush without dropping a lot of cash — or want one to travel with that you won’t mind losing — this is one of the few ADA-approved models you’ll find in the drugstore. It has no timer or pressure sensor, but Levine says it’s “a good starting point, good for travel, and better than manual.” This brush oscillates and rotates, so you can get a feel for both styles. But if after trying it you find you love the electric feel, it might be worth it in the long run to buy a higher-quality model. Even though you can replace the Arm & Hammer’s brush heads and batteries, it and other low-cost brushes tend to be “disposable in the sense that you’ve got plastic mechanical parts … and those will wear out,” according to Messina.
Best start-up electric toothbrush
Although Quip is the first (and so far only) direct-to-consumer toothbrush to earn ADA acceptance, the sleek, heavily marketed brush is by far the most debated among dentists. Levine acknowledges that the very millennial-friendly brush has “raised awareness of the importance of oral health,” especially among young people, but says there’s been no testing that demonstrates “disruption of plaque, plaque control, [or] improvement of any type of gingival inflammation.” Still, Chern calls it “a great brush to test the waters with,” and she loves Quip’s brush-head-refill subscription program. Stoess-Allen, who hasn’t used one herself, says that as long as it has the ADA seal and soft bristles, this brush should be effective.