Fun fact: a healthy set of gnashers is 112% more popular than black teeth and root canal surgery. However, even if you’ve already been convinced to stump up for a battery-powered brush, it’s difficult to choose the best electric toothbrush when the brushes all look nigh-on identical, and the adverts bombard you with pseudo-science and marketing-speak. Rest assured, we’ve done our homework to help you pick the toothbrush that’s right for you.
All the models here will get your teeth squeaky clean but they vary widely in terms of brushing technology, battery life, accessories, extra functions and price. Do you want a toothbrush that gives detailed real-time feedback via your smartphone? Do you want a choice of brush heads? Do you need a charging travel case? Or do you just want a simple model that gets the job done? We’ve got them all covered, so read on to find your ideal model.
How To Buy The Best Electric Toothbrush For You
An electric toothbrush might cost many times more than a standard human-powered brush, but buying a good one can dramatically improve the quality of your brushing – and it’ll hopefully stop your dentist moaning everytime you visit, too. These are all the features and functions to look out for when buying a new brush.
Aren’t cheap electric toothbrushes just as good as pricier models?
While it might be tempting to opt for the cheapest electric toothbrush you can find, not all are created equal. The bottom-rung models often use AA batteries, and while being able to use your own replaceable rechargeable batteries may seem like a more practical choice, these low-end models have lower-powered motors which oscillate at a much slower rate than ones equipped with dedicated non-removable batteries – this means that their brushing performance is much worse than models with more powerful motors. And in some cases, you may be better off with a standard, unpowered toothbrush than a cheap electric one. Spending more on a model with a dedicated, and generally non-removable battery, will reward with much improved brushing abilities.
Is it worth spending more on a high-end electric toothbrush?
Regardless of the price, the most important issue is how well they brush. Oral-B and Philips are the market leaders, and we found that – at least amongst the brushes we’ve reviewed here, and at comparable price points – there’s no significant difference in the overall quality of the brushing experience between the two brands.
The feel of the two brands’ brushing technology couldn’t be more different, though. Philips using tiny, extremely fast vibrations that feel like they’re rattling food, stains and plaque off your teeth. Oral-B uses a slightly slower, larger movement, and the toothbrush head rotates rather than vibrates. Both systems do an excellent job and they’re more effective than manual brushing, especially for hard-to-reach areas where there’s not much room for manoeuvre.
More upmarket toothbrushes also include various extra modes such as whitening, gum care and sensitive, but most of these only vary the motor speed a little, or pulse the motor speed up and down to attempt to loosen hard to reach plaque and bits of food. We don’t see these as must-have features, though. On balance, we prefer Oral-B’s approach, particularly with its array of different brush-head types for different priorities – i.e reaching between teeth, or polishing more effectively – but that’s a subjective rather than scientific analysis.
Bundled extras such as travel cases do come in handy, and especially so if the toothbrush can be charged in the case using a USB cable — it’s one fewer charger to carry.
Does it matter what type of battery the brush uses?
Another important factor is whether your toothbrush is ready to use when you need it. It’s no use if the battery runs out regularly and without warning. The lithium-ion batteries found in pricier models are a step up from the nickel-metal hydride (often labelled Ni-MH) ones on cheaper brushes – this is because the lithium ion cells as they can be topped up at any time, whereas the Ni-MH ones need to be depleted fully before charging if you don’t want to reduce their lifespan and capacity.
What other benefits are there to going electric?
Electric toothbrushes encourage you to have good brushing habits, letting you know when you’ve completed two minutes of brushing. The Oral-B models also warn you when you’re pressing too hard and risking damage to your gums, thanks to LEDs which pulse and flash when you’re putting too much pressure on your gnashers.
Do I really need a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush?
The Bluetooth-enabled models go further still, by adding companion apps that time your brushes, keep a diary of your activity, provide oral hygiene tips and snippets of news, and make you feel guilty for missing brushes, not flossing enough and so on. These kind of features are fun, but they’re by no means essential and you can expect the novelty to wear off pretty quickly. It’s also highly reliant on the quality of the apps themselves – given that their more advanced features rely on your smartphone camera to track where and how you’re brushing, they might not be compatible with everyone’s brushing techniques. If you’re a head-down brusher, or just like to roam the bathroom while polishing your gnashers, you’ll get very little benefit from a Bluetooth-connected brush.
Which replacement heads should I buy?
This can be a confusing experience, but these days you’ll find that most modern Philips and Oral-B toothbrushes make buying replacement heads a relatively simple affair.
All of Oral-B’s current heads work on their entire range of brushes, except their sonic toothbrush range, which require dedicated sonic-compatible heads. As Oral-B makes several different designs of head, however, it’s worth buying smaller twin-packs to decide which you like best. Their CrossAction, FlossAction and PrecisionClean heads all feel quite different in use.
Philips also has a range of different types of brush head, each with their own specialist designs, but all the current range are interchangeable. One thing worth mentioning is that you can also find ‘Mini’-sized versions of the various heads for smaller mouths, or for more accurate cleaning around braces and other orthodontic treatments.
We’ve included links to the various types of heads below, so you can stock up when you run out, or just have a look at the alternative brush head types.
The Best Electric Toothbrushes To Buy
1. Philips Sonicare EasyClean HX6511/50: The best electric toothbrush under £50
This is the entry-level model in Philips’ Sonicare range, but you still get the same high-speed 500 brushes per second as per pricier models. It’s a strange sensation, but clearly effective, and teeth feel clean and smooth after brushing. The battery lasted for an astonishing 114 brushes between charges, although this was tested over a short period of time — expect less when used twice daily. There was plenty of notice when it came close to running out of charge, so you’re unlikely to be caught short. Because it has a lithium-ion battery, you can charge at any time rather than having to wait until it’s fully depleted before charging.
There’s only one brush head included, and sadly no travel case. You could pick up a case separately for around £15, but it won’t necessarily be a snug fit. That may be enough reason to reject this toothbrush. If you’re not put off by this, the Philips Sonicare EasyClean is a superb electric toothbrush at a great price. £39.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
2. Oral-B SmartSeries 6500: The most feature packed
This was Oral-B’s flagship electric toothbrush until the Genius 9000 came along, and it still has plenty to offer. The cleaning experience is top-notch, with a choice of rotating brush-head designs that make teeth feel really smooth and clean, and a warning indicator when there’s too much pressure. We got 31 brushes from a single charge, but the Ni-MH battery may not perform as well as the Genius 9000’s lithium-ion battery in the long run.
There’s lots of kit in the box, including four brush heads, a plain-looking travel case, a brush-head holder and a wireless SmartGuide module. This little waterproof unit sits on the bathroom shelf to provide a timer that advises you to brush each corner of the mouth for 30 seconds. At the end it rewards you with a smiley face. Connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth and you get all this and more, including brushing tips, usage history and a news feed – but not the face-tracking mode found in the Genius 9000. Then again, the Wireless SmartGuide is probably more practical than bringing your phone into the bathroom twice a day. £159.87, buy on amazon.co.uk
3. Oral-B Genius 9000: The best electric toothbrush – and it’s got Bluetooth
If you’re willing to spend £140 on a toothbrush, you can expect something pretty special. Fortunately, the Oral-B Genius 9000 delivers.
For starters, it gives a really thorough clean. We particularly like the 3D White brush head with its plastic “polishing cup”, and the FlossAction head that’s designed to give a deep clean between teeth. The handle gives a choice of six brush modes and warns when there’s too much pressure. Unlike other Oral-B toothbrushes, this one uses a Li-ion battery, so you can charge it at your convenience. It lasted for 31 brushes on a single charge.
It connects via Bluetooth to your phone, giving real-time feedback of brushing, an activity diary and gentle chastisement when you miss a brush or finish too early. It can even use the phone’s camera to make sure you’re brushing each area sufficiently. It’s quite entertaining and educational but we suspect the novelty will wear off.
If phone connectivity is less important to you than looks, then you’re in luck: the Genius 9000 comes in a palette of different colours. If your toothbrush simply has to match your phone, or you’re just keen to avoid picking up the wrong toothbrush in the mornings, then you can choose from black, white, silver and – the most recent addition – rose gold.
Helpfully, the box includes a suction-based phone holder, four brush heads and a sleek travel case that doubles as a charger. This uses a two-pin adapter; the integrated USB socket is for charging other devices, but you can’t charge the toothbrush via USB. Given that’s our only major complaint, it’s fair to say that the Genius 9000 is an otherwise outstanding electric toothbrush. £139.97, buy on amazon.co.uk
4. Philips Sonicare DiamondClean HX9331/04: Brilliant design and excellent brushing performance, at a price
Philips’ top-of-the-range electric toothbrush has a suggested price of £270, but even at £115 from Amazon it’s an expensive product. Replacement heads are relatively pricey, too, at £4 each. It looks like a premium product, with a snazzy travel case that can be charged via USB, and a glass tumbler that replaces the usual induction charger stand. Battery life is excellent, at 60 brushes in our tests.
Vibrating at 250Hz — that’s 500 brushes per second — some people may find the Sonicare system too tickly, but it makes teeth feel really clean without having to apply much pressure. The various extra brushing modes — white, polish, gum care, sensitive — are less convincing. The White mode is reminiscent of a hammer drill function, albeit thankfully less abrasive. I just stuck with Clean mode.
Essentially, then, you’re paying a lot for the elegant design and convenient charging options, but if that’s what you want, the DiamondClean won’t disappoint. £164.90, buy on amazon.co.uk
5. Oral-B Pro 2500: Great value, but battery life is behind the best
This keenly priced electric toothbrush is compatible with Oral-B’s CrossAction brush heads, so you can choose from the standard, 3D White, Sensitive, Precision and FlossAction heads. It includes a pressure sensor, and a red light warns when you’re pressing too hard. Rotating at 78Hz, it’s not as fast as the Philips Sonicare’s 250Hz motor, but the round brush heads do a great job of encircling teeth and getting into the gaps.
It feels sturdy and well made, but the small opening halfway up Oral-B’s brush heads is liable to getting clogged up with gunk. A simple travel case is included in the box.
The Pro 2500’s biggest drawback is its battery, which lasted for 20 brushes and didn’t give any prior warning before running out of charge. Charging took 18 hours. The battery is Ni-MH rather than lithium-ion, so needs to be fully depleted before charging to avoid losing capacity. £30, buy on amazon.co.uk