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Updated: 11 Apr 2022

Electric toothbrush brush heads explained

Electric toothbrush brush heads can be pricey, so it's worth knowing what you're getting when you part with your cash.
Patrick Gallagher

What's the difference between an Oral B Cross Action electric toothbrush head and an Oral B Sensi Ultrathin brush head? If you have a Philips Sonicare, when should you choose ProResults brush heads and when would DiamondClean brush heads be a better option? 

Most electric toothbrushes work with a range of specialist brush heads. These are designed to offer a more specific type of clean. 

If you just want to know which are the best electric toothbrushes, read our electric toothbrush reviews

Oral B electric toothbrush heads

Oral B logo with Oral B electric toothbrush

Oral B has the largest selection of specialist brush heads which it claims will whiten, floss and give a more thorough clean. Below are some of the most popular brush heads you're likely to see in the shops.

With the exception of Pulsonic models, all Oral B brush heads work with all Oral B toothbrushes so you can interchange different heads. This means you can build multiple heads into your cleaning routine, depending on the type of cleaning action you want.

Oral B electric toothbrush heads
Oral B brush head typeWhat you need to know




Precision Clean

Precision Clean is the original Oral B brush head. It is supplied with most Oral B electric toothbrushes as standard.

This head rotates around each tooth to clean away plaque. Most move with a rotating-oscillation action - it rotates in one direction and then in the other.

Some brushes also make this head pulsate to help dislodge plaque.




Dual Clean

The Dual Clean essentially offers a two-in-one approach to cleaning away plaque.

The round, top part of the head cleans each tooth with a rotating-oscillating action while the lower section sweeps from side to side.

We've tested how well the Oral B Vitality Dual Clean cleans teeth. You can find out how its cleaning action compares to other brush heads by checking out our electric toothbrush reviews.




Floss Action

This brush head has four flat, rubber-edged flossing strips among the bristles. These are designed to slip between teeth while the bristles are cleaning the tooth surface.

Our expert dentist is sceptical that brushing alone would drive these strips between teeth to clean effectively. We wouldn't recommend using this brush instead of regular flossing.




3D Whitening

This brush head has a rubber cap at its centre which polishes teeth surfaces as the outer bristles clean away plaque.

The cap helps to buff teeth in a similar way to a hygienist's polishing tool. But it's unlikely to move fast enough to create similar results.

If you want to whiten your teeth as you brush our dentist recommends using a whitening toothpaste - its active ingredient is likely to have more of an effect than the action of a brush head can. 





The Trizone is shaped like the head of a manual toothbrush and is designed to clean in a similar way.

The dark blue bristles remain static to clean teeth surfaces, while the longer white bristles sweep from side to side to clean between teeth. The bristles at the tip are angled to sweep into hard-to-reach areas.

We've pitted the Oral B Trizone brush head against Oral B's rotating heads in our latest tests - see how it compares by reading our electric toothbrush reviews.

Philips Sonicare brush heads

Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush

There are fewer brush heads in the Philips Sonicare range. Below are the heads you're likely to find on the most popular models.

Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush heads
Philips Sonicare brush head typeWhat you need to know





This is the standard Sonicare brush head and comes with most brushes in the range. It will work with all Sonicare models except for e-Series brushes.

Its bristles are trimmed to different lengths - from the tip to the bottom and side-to-side - which gives it a curved look. The bristles are shaped this way to fit to the surface of each tooth as you're brushing.

This head comes in standard and compact size.





Sonicare DiamondClean brush heads have more bristles than ProResults heads. According to its makers it sweeps away more plaque and removes more stains.

This brush head might help to buff teeth to a whiter shine, but if you want to whiten try using a whitening toothpaste - its active ingredient is likely to have more of an effect.

You can see whether the DiamondClean head removed more plaque than the standard ProResults head in our tests by reading our electric toothbrush reviews.




Standard vs compact Sonicare heads

All of these Sonicare brush heads come in standard and compact sizes (see picture, left).

Standard-sized heads clean a larger area in one go, while the compact heads are easier to manoeuvre around hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.

The best electric toothbrushes

We have reviews of 25 electric toothbrushes, and we've found that you don't need to fork out for great quality.

Best Buy electric toothbrushes don't only do a great job of helping keep your teeth clean and gums healthy - they're also easy to use and won't run their batteries down too quickly.