Every electric toothbrush will clean your teeth, but some come with features and accessories that can enhance the brushing experience – and add to the price.
Here you can read about the best electric toothbrush features on offer, and discover whether they're worth paying more for. Our round-up of some of the best electric toothbrushes to pass our tough lab tests will also help make the most of your budget.
When buying an electric toothbrush, important factors to think about include:
Battery life Some electric toothbrushes have a battery that can hold a charge for six weeks, while the worst we’ve tested will provide just over a week of brushing time. Recharging times vary massively, too. The fastest will go from empty to full charge in less than 10 hours, but the slowest will have you waiting over a day-and-a-half before they’re fully charged.
Price Electric toothbrush prices range from less than £10 to over £300. Our reviews can help you save money by showing you the models worth paying more for and the ones that will leave you frustrated and out of pocket. We’ve found Best Buy electric toothbrushes for less than £50.
Brush head There is a wide range of brush heads available, especially among the leading brands Oral-B and Philips Sonicare. They’re each designed to offer a specific type of clean.
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.
Best electric toothbrush features to consider
Basic models have a standard brush head and one cleaning program. 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 sensor – Brushing too hard can damage your gums and tooth enamel and 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.
Two-minute timer - This is a useful feature that will help you stick to the dentist-recommended two minute brushing time. Some models will also include an interval timer, which beeps every 30 seconds, to remind you to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth and achieve a more even clean.
How much should I spend on an electric toothbrush?
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 £50 or less.
How long will my electric toothbrush battery last?
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.
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.
We carry out a set of ease-of-use assessments to find the electric toothbrushes that will make cleaning your teeth as stress-free as possible. We look at how easy the brush head is to attach and detach, how comfortable the toothbrush feels in the mouth, how clear the instructions are, and how it feels in the hand.
We take our testing seriously and each electric toothbrush we review goes through a full gamut of thorough tests at an independent lab. We focus on how good a toothbrush is at cleaning, how long the battery lasts and how easy it is to use.
We have a panel of triallists clean their teeth multiple times with every electric toothbrush we review, and we collect more than 2,200 before and after plaque readings to find out which toothbrushes get rid of the most.
Ever experienced the slightly ridiculous feeling you get when manual brushing with an electric toothbrush that has no charge? Well then, you’ll appreciate the importance of finding a model with a reliable battery. We test to see how many two-minute brushes you’ll get from a fully charged battery and check exactly how long each battery takes to recharge, too.
Only after all this, and more, are we fully confident about giving it a Best Buy status.