How to buy the best electric toothbrush
By Patrick Gallagher
Expert tips on how to buy the very best electric toothbrush for your budget.
Brushing with an electric toothbrush can help you keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, but with models costing from around £10 to upwards of £200, it can be hard to know which to buy.
We look at the various types of electric toothbrush available to help you decide, along with what features you should look for and how to maintain one.
Already know what you're looking for? Browse our best electric toothbrush recommendations.
In this article:
- How much should I spend on an electric toothbrush?
- Which type of electric toothbrush should I buy?
- How long will the electric toothbrush battery last for?
- How often do I need to replace the electric toothbrush brush head?
- Top electric toothbrush features to look out for
- Which are the best electric toothbrushes?
With such a wide range of toothbrushes available at different prices, it can be difficult to decide how much to spend. But don't be fooled into thinking a higher price means better cleaning. Our reviews reveal that there’s no direct link between price and quality – you can pay less than £50 for a Best Buy, or over £100 for an electric toothbrush that doesn’t reach that level.
Unless you find these brushes on offer, the price can be eye watering. But what benefits are there to paying more?
- Brushing modes and heads – varied modes and heads can give you a tailored brushing experience. From those designed for whitening or sensitive teeth, to those aimed at people wearing braces, high-end brushes often come with a choice.
- Smart functionality – connect the toothbrush with a smartphone app that allows you to see exactly where you’re brushing, and get real-time guidance to achieve better brushing results.
- Accessories – travel cases or glass tumblers that double as chargers are just two of the fancy accessories available when you pay more.
If you’re not interested in these sorts of features, and just want something simple but effective, we’ve found plenty of good toothbrushes for £40 or less.
Rotating, sonic, pulsating, oscillating, counter-rotating… there are all sorts of electric toothbrushes available and they all work in slightly different ways.
- Rotating – These have a set of bristles that turn. Bristles can be arranged in a circle that rotates, or individual tufts of bristles can spin. Rotating-only brushes are usually the cheapest type of brush you can buy.
- Rotating-oscillating – These electric toothbrushes have small, round heads and are one of the most popular brushes in the Oral B range. The head oscillates – rotates in one direction and then the other – around one tooth at a time to sweep away plaque.
- Pulsing – Some rotating and rotating-oscillating electric toothbrushes pulsate to make the head move backwards and forwards against teeth while it’s spinning. This helps dislodge plaque and is a technology that’s typically found on pricier rotating brushes.
- Counter-oscillating – These electric toothbrushes have the same head shape as oscillating brushes, but the tufts of bristles rotate in different directions simultaneously – with each tuft rotating in the opposite direction to those next to it.
- Dual head – As the name implies, these electric toothbrushes combine two heads in one – one part rotates and the other sweeps from side to side.
- Side to side – Rather than spinning, these toothbrushes sweep from side to side at such high speeds that they vibrate against your teeth. Philips Sonicare electric toothbrushes clean in this way.
- Sonic and ultrasonic – These are brushes that vibrate at certain high speeds and frequencies to help break down plaque. Manufacturers of sonic brushes claim that they also drive cleaning fluid (a mixture of toothpaste, water and saliva) between teeth to help dislodge plaque. Vibrating brushes are generally more expensive than rotating models.
There’s a big difference in how long rechargeable batteries last. In our tests we found the best lasted for more than 184 minutes – that’s about six and a half weeks of brushing twice a day for two minutes before you’d need to top up the power.
But others won’t last as long – we found the least powerful brush needed recharging after just 16 brushes.
Before you buy your electric toothbrush it’s worth considering how often you’re likely to charge it. If you plan to keep the charger readily to hand and the battery constantly topped up then it’s less important to choose a model with a powerful battery. But if you prefer to keep the charger packed away, or you want to take your brush with you on long trips without the charger, look for a toothbrush with a long-lasting battery.
Find a toothbrush that excelled in our battery performance tests by heading to our expert and independent electric toothbrush reviews.
You will need to replace electric toothbrush heads once the bristles are worn. Replacements are pricey and worth buying in multi-packs to keep the cost down.
Most Oral B and Philips Sonicare brushes can be used with a range of different brush heads. These are designed to give a more specific clean, ie. whitening, flossing or multi-directional cleaning. They’re almost always more expensive than a standard brush head.
You can read more about the various brush heads available in our guide to electric toothbrush brush heads.
Basic models have a standard brush head and one cleaning programme. Higher-spec models, on the other hand, often come with a raft of features and accessories that tot up the price.
Here are the features we think are worth paying more for:
- Brushing timer – This helps ensure you brush for a full two minutes, which is the amount of time dentists recommend we spend cleaning our teeth. Some are auto-programmed to only brush for two minutes so you don’t need to think about the time. Others will beep or stutter when it’s time to stop.
- Pressure sensors – Harsh scrubbing to remove plaque is not necessary – in fact, pushing too hard against your teeth can do more harm than good. Pressure sensors let you know if you’re pressing too hard, with either a light or beeping sound. Some Oral B models will stop pulsing and just rotate if you’re putting too much pressure on your teeth.
- Soft-grip handles – The best electric toothbrushes have a soft grip which can make them more comfy to hold and use. Soft-grip handles also lessen the vibrations you feel in your hand while brushing.
Find out more about the various features available by heading to our page on the top electric toothbrush features.
Best Electric Toothbrushes
If you're considering a 'smart' electric toothbrush but don't want to spend a fortune, this could be a great place to start. It cleans well, offers a range of modes and heads, and the supplied app has a number of useful features to help improve your brushing.
This easy-to-use toothbrush matches the plaque removal abilities of much higher-scoring rivals, and also has a couple of useful features that should help ensure you’re brushing for long enough. The battery isn't the best – you’ll need to fully recharge it every week or so – but all in all this is a good electric toothbrush for a bargain price.
Find the perfect electric toothbrush for you by checking out our electric toothbrush reviews.